The investigation by the Fundraising Standards Board into the direct mail practices of charities using the services of Chris Stoddard took an unexpected turn last week: he announced that his two new companies would join the self-regulatory body.
"It will help our marketing and it will be good for our charity clients," he told Third Sector. Seven of the eight charities referred to the FRSB by the Institute of Fundraising because of concerns about poor direct mail have been clients of his companies.
Stoddard was chair of CSDM, which went into administration last week. He has set up two new agencies, CSDM Fundraising Directors and CSDM Strategic Fundraising, which employ the same staff and operate from the same office as the former agency.
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, who had a meeting with Stoddard in February, said he was unaware that the agency chief was planning to sign up to the FRSB, but welcomed the decision.
Direct mail packs sent out by CSDM have contained umbrellas, mugs and books as enclosures. The Institute of Fundraising's code of practice on direct mail, which is enforced by the FRSB, says fundraising organisations should not use enclosures that "generate a donation primarily because of financial guilt or to cause embarrassment" or that "might cause inconvenience in achieving delivery".
Stoddard said his firms would not use umbrellas again because feedback from a previous appeal showed donors felt the expenditure was not necessary to generate a donation.
He said he did not agree at the meeting with McLean to change any of the other enclosures, or to stop using them in future. "My meetings with Alistair were constructive and allowed me to feel comfortable about falling under the FRSB's regime," he said.
"Since meeting Alistair I've agreed to think twice about enclosures. I'll choose ones that have more to them than pure marketing success."
Stoddard said his agency would be sending a new mailing out soon containing mugs. "The mugs have a glaze on them so they change colour if they contain hot liquid," he said.
"It's for an appeal by the Age Related Diseases and Health Trust, many of whose supporters have been affected by dementia, so the enclosure is relevant to the cause."
Despite his plan to join the FRSB, Stoddard still has major reservations about the institute's code. "It is based on the assumption that gifts in a mailing neither increase nor decrease the likelihood of people making donations," he says. "It has failed to achieve proper buy-in from charities because it fails to take into account that enclosures can work."
McLean emphasised that he did not give Stoddard approval for the enclosures CSDM had previously used, and said he was keen to make sure enclosures were appropriate and relevant.