Planned changes to fundraising code would 'shift the goalposts', says IoF policy chief

In a blog on the Institute of Fundraising website, Daniel Fluskey says proposed amendments to the Code of Fundraising Practice need a rethink

Daniel Fluskey
Daniel Fluskey

Proposed updates to the Code of Fundraising Practice could represent a "fundamental shift in goalposts" for the Mailing Preference Service, the Institute of Fundraising has said.

In a blog on the IoF website, Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, gave his initial thoughts on the draft version of the code, which the Fundraising Regulator has put out for consultation.

The new version of the code has been updated to include the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation, EU legislation due to come into force next year.

But in his blog Fluskey warned the proposals about the MPS, a service set up by the Direct Marketing Association to limit unsolicited mailing, needed a rethink.

The new version of the code says organisations must not send direct marketing materials to people registered with the MPS unless they have notified the organisation specifically that they consent to receiving mail from them. The existing version says simply that organisations have to check their databases against the MPS to ensure they are not contacting anyone who does not want to be.

Fluskey said: "The proposal would mean that unless individuals have provided consent to that charity, no direct marketing mailings can be sent. That is a fundamental shift of the goalposts as to what was in the code before and, indeed, significantly changes what the MPS was set up to do."

Fluskey wrote that the MPS told those signing up to it they would still receive mail from organisations they had done business with in the past, so organisations could still contact those on the MPS if they could demonstrate they had a legitimate interest in doing so.

But he said the changes to the code would exclude legitimate interest and would mean the relationship between a charity and someone who had been engaging with it for years could be wiped out.

"It also means that people signing up to the MPS are clearly told one thing, and sign up on that basis, but actually receive a different experience in reality," he said.

"I don’t believe that this builds clarity and transparency. This proposal needs a rethink and we’ll be looking at it carefully."

Fluskey said that other proposed changes needed more detail, such as the requirement that charities should keep up to date with and have regard to relevant guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

He said it would be useful to know whether "have regard to" should be taken to mean "follow". He questioned whether an organisation would be in breach of the code if it could show it had read the guidance, but decided to take a different, but still legally compliant approach.

He said clarification was needed on the section that dealt with legitimate interest, and there should be more guidance and examples of how charities could explain to donors, clearly but succinctly, their rationale for contacting them using legitimate interest.

But he welcomed the updates to the code overall, saying it was a good thing to ensure that fundraisers understood their responsibilities under the GDPR. He said the inclusion of both consent and legitimate interest as valid grounds for contacting potential donors was "very welcome".

The consultation will run until 8 December and can be found on the Fundraising Regulator’s website.

A spokeswoman for the Fundraising Regulator said: "As we are in the consultation process, we welcome the insight of the IoF, along with any charities, fundraisers and members of the public who wish to feed back on the proposed changes."

She urged those who wanted to offer feedback to take part in the consultation.

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