Institute slams 'celebrity' telephone fundraising

Marketing agency Feel is asking charity clients to sign up to a new celebrity fundraising technique which the Institute of Fundraising has branded illegal.

Feel pitched the idea to the RNID last Friday of an automated phone calling system that uses a pre-recorded message from a celebrity to request donations.

The agency predicts that Voice Give will be as controversial as face-to-face fundraising. "It is a nuisance medium that could be tarred with the same brush as chuggers," said Marcus Warry, a Feel strategist. "But it should work if charities use the right celebrity and say the right thing in the first five seconds."

Sales patter will last for about 20 seconds, after which listeners will be able to donate through a real phone operator.

But Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said the technique "flies in the face of best practice fundraising principles and is not appropriate". He said it would be illegal. He cited regulation 19 of the EU Guidance to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which demands that recipients of a recorded phone message can speak to a live person. This could not be guaranteed because not all telephones have 'touch tone'.

Warry admitted that this meant each call would have to provide an address or freephone number. "Feel will seek to subvert the regulations without flouting them," he said.

The RNID declined to comment on the idea.

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