Jon Scourse: Does fundraising need a preference service after all?

Opt-in policies and more awaress of the Telephone and Mailing Preference Services make an FPS unnecessary, claims our columnist

Jon Scourse
Jon Scourse

In the storm over fundraising, there is one angle that has not been explored. Both the Telephone Preference Service and the Mailing Preference Service were set up to protect people from unwanted calls and mail respectively. How well are these two bodies working? In terms of their public awareness, have they actually reached the most vulnerable? Would Olive Cooke have known about them? The vulnerable are likely to be less well informed and are therefore less protected. The TPS, for example, depends on its own website and telephone directories for what little exposure it can get and, as a result, its reach has been limited.

The political response to the recent fundraising crisis is to regulate more and not to explore why existing mechanisms have failed. Properly resourced, both the MPS and the TPS could have protected this pool of vulnerable people and we might never have had to face the current problems. With the proposed Fundraising Preference Service, we have another, similar regulatory model that may well be starved of the financial resources required to build the awareness levels that will reach the vulnerable and elderly.

The strong likelihood is that opt-in will become the new norm, forming the key element in protecting donors from unwanted contact. So why do we also need the FPS? Surely a combination of the new opt-in approach with higher profiles for the TPS and the MPS would be far simpler, less diversionary and cheaper in the longer term. We need to reach the vulnerable with existing resources, not set up another expensive body that might fail to reach even its target audience.

Jon Scourse is a charity consultant and a former chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board

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