Small and medium-sized charities have had their concerns over the controversial Fundraising Preference Service rebuffed after the Fundraising Regulator finally revealed the scheme – which will be enshrined in UK law – will cover every single charity in the land.
It had been predicted that only charities with incomes over £100,000 would have to adhere to the FPS, which was the brainchild of NCVO and Cross Party Review chair Sir Stuart Etherington.
While it has been suggested that larger charities will be able to shoulder the reduction in income, many smaller charities operate on a knife edge. In its response to the consultation, the Small Charities Coalition even called for the FPS to be abandoned, arguing that it would be better to sort out the Mailing and Telephone Preference Services instead.
Estimates of how much the FPS will cost the sector vary wildly but according to a REaD Group survey, nearly half of the £10.6bn charities receive from the UK public each year is under threat. Charities themselves have predicted it will cost them £2bn hit by 2020.
There has been one concession, however; the FPS will not take an all or nothing approach to suppression, consumers will be able to opt-out of receiving marketing from named charities.
Announcing the scheme today (December 1) – which is pencilled in for launch in spring/early summer 2017 – the regulator insists the FPS will give members of the public greater control over the contact they receive from charities.
It claims this will provide a user-friendly and simple way for the public to manage their contacts with charities, although charities will be required to increase their compliance by seeking affirmative consent for contact on a regular basis from donors and supporters.
The opt-out from specified charities will apply to all charities and all forms of communication – including email, text, telephone and addressed mail – with a named individual.
The regulator will notify specified charities of those people opting out and monitor compliance, through a largely automated system, and there will be signposting to the TPS and MPS.
Any organisations which ignore the scheme will face legal action under a Data Protection Act Section 11 notice to cease direct marketing.
Fundraising Regulator chair Lord Michael Grade said: “The FPS will help give individuals control of their contacts with charities. In covering all charities and all forms of communication with a named individual, it will meet the aspirations for the FPS set out in the Cross-Party Review of fundraising practice.
“We will want to focus in particular on the needs of vulnerable donors and the support they require to opt out from unwanted contacts.
“There is a growing realisation in the sector that appropriate consents need to be put in place and that the wish to opt-out must be respected. We are committed to helping the sector work to the standards expected by the public. Once implemented, the FPS will be closely reviewed, including usage, value for money and donor feedback.”
The DMA has been one of the first to back the scheme. Head of Preference Services, Compliance and Legal John Mitchison said: “We have always advocated a customer-centric approach that doesn’t create a significant barrier to the great work charities do. In line with our focus on creating a sustainable future for fundraising, it seems to present an accessible solution for all charities. However, we would urge the Regulator to ensure the service is robust, easily accessible and in particular protects vulnerable consumers.
“The service will create a portal where consumers can easily exercise their right to opt-out of fundraising marketing. In addition, it is vital that charities work within the infrastructure that has long been in place to offer consumers protection through the mailing and telephone preference services, as well as follow the DMA code of conduct that the Etherington report highlighted as a standard all charities should aspire to.”
Etherington added: “The FPS will represent the final part of the puzzle of the new regulatory regime. The sector’s action in reforming fundraising regulation and communications will mean that no one can accuse us of not having done everything in our power to reassure the public that we take their concerns seriously and are willing and able to respond.”
The Fundraising Regulator is already in discussion with potential suppliers about the procurement of the database and telephone service through a tendering process.
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