Q & A: How will the new telephone fundraising rules work in practice?

The Institute of Fundraising hopes to clear up confusion with its new code, published this week

Telephone fundraising
Telephone fundraising

The Institute of Fundraising's new code of practice on telephone fundraising, published this week, is intended to clear up confusion about the circumstances in which a charity can make fundraising calls to supporters who have asked not to be contacted.

The revised code has been produced by the institute's standards committee after consultation with practitioners and the Information Commissioner's Office. The Fundraising Standards Board polices the institute's codes and can expel any organisation that infringes it, provided that the organisation concerned is also a member of the FRSB.


- How will the new telephone fundraising rules work in practice?

Can I call a supporter who has told me they do not want to be phoned?

You can make an "administrative" call. As long as you can satisfy the Fundraising Standards Board, which enforces the code, that the main purpose of this call was not to solicit a donation, you're unlikely to get into trouble. The institute has no criteria for what constitutes an administrative call.

- When else can I call a supporter who has asked not to be called?

You can phone a supporter "to provide information" or to say thank you. During these calls you can ask the donor whether they are happy to receive fundraising calls in future.

- What if I routinely call supporters who make donations to say thank you, then ask them to receive fundraising calls in the future?

An institute spokeswoman says that if a call was made legitimately to say thanks for a donation, the caller could ask whether the donor was happy to receive fundraising calls. It does not have any guidelines for determining whether the primary purpose of a call is really to thank a donor.

- What about people registered with the Telephone Preference Service?

Charities must check numbers against the TPS register when intending to call 'cold' donors. But an institute spokeswoman said there was no fixed definition of a cold donor. Asked if there were circumstances in which a fundraiser could call an existing supporter with-out checking the TPS, she said this was a "judgement call" for the charity. The code says that if a charity has obtained a supporter's number, voluntarily or by using a telematching service, and that person then registers with the TPS, it can be legitimate to make fundraising calls to them.

- In what cases is this allowed?

The code says: "If the organisation considers that the relationship between the charity and the donor is sufficiently warm that the donor can be considered to have consented to receiving such calls, the organisation may call them, despite TPS registration." The code warns that this would be a breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, but says "no formal action will be taken unless a complaint is received by the Information Commissioner".

- What if I break these rules?

If your charity is a member of the FRSB, a complainant could use its three-stage complaints procedure. Its final sanction is to withdraw membership. If your charity is not a member of the FRSB, the board could publicise bad practice, including names. The FRSB is generally unwilling to penalise its members and prefers to help them find a solution.



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