Preference service 'only for charities spending £100k-plus on direct marketing', says John Mitchison

The head of preference services at the Direct Marketing Association, who sat on the Fundraising Preference Service working group, says it is likely to apply only to larger fundraising charities

John Mitchison
John Mitchison

The Fundraising Preference Service is likely to apply only to charities that spend more than £100,000 a year on direct marketing, according to a member of the working group that came up with the recommendations for how the service should work.

John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal at the Direct Marketing Association, said at a DMA event on responsible fundraising in London yesterday that the service would apply only to charities that spent more than this amount on their fundraising activity.

"It seemed a bit much to ask every little scout group or church fund to use the FPS, so there will be a threshold on the size of the organisation that is asked to use the service and it is likely to be larger charities, those with expenditure on direct marketing of over £100,000 a year," he said.

Mitchison said that the service was likely to give people the option to continue hearing from their favourite charities.

"Rather than opting out of all charity fundraising communications, people might want to say ‘all except my particular favourites’ – these animal charities, or whatever they might be," he said. "So there will be an allowance in the FPS for that kind of thing."

On the question of what constitutes a fundraising communication, Mitchison said the group had decided these would be communications whose primary purpose was fundraising.

It would be up to the Fundraising Regulator to draw up some more detailed guidance about which communications fell into that category, he said.

Mitchison also confirmed a number of details reported last week by Third Sector: that FPS registrations were likely to last for a limited amount of time; that where appropriate people would be signposted to the Telephone Preference Service or the Mailing Preference Service to deal with their problems; and that people would be able to sign up on behalf of someone else only if they had power of attorney.

But unlike Gerald Oppenheim, head of policy at the regulator, who is understood to have said at a conference last week that the FPS would apply only to direct mail and telephone fundraising, Mitchison said the service would also cover emails.

The Fundraising Regulator has said it will not comment on how the FPS will work until it has released a discussion paper outlining its final proposals in the coming weeks.

The regulator was due to make a decision on the proposals from the FPS working group at a meeting last week.

Mitchison also spoke about the impact of Brexit on fundraising, saying it was still necessary for the sector to keep preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation, which is due to come into force in 2018, because the UK would still be part of the European Union by then.

He said that if the UK decided to emulate countries such as Norway, which are members of the European Economic Area but outside the EU, it would have to be fully compliant with all EU laws including the GDPR. If it took a different route, it might end up putting in a form of "GDPR-lite", he said.

"At the moment the most likely outcome is that we will have to implement the GDPR in the way that we have been planning for the past few years," he added.

But he reassured charities that had not historically collected consent from their supporters that they could still send out marketing materials to these people as long as they offered them the ability to opt out from future communications.

They could do this despite the GDPR’s new requirements for consent, he said, because they could still use the criterion of "legitimate interest".

Yesterday’s event included the launch of a new white paper from a fundraising working group set up by the DMA earlier this year. An Ideal Future for One-to-One Fundraising is available here.

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