A fundraising preference service, not a charity preference service?

Fundraising in a residential street

Daniel Fluskey | 30 March 2016

Over the months since the idea of a Fundraising Preference Service was first set out in the Etherington review of fundraising self-regulation*, a great deal of supposition and estimation has gone in to thinking about what it might do and how it could actually work.

With the release of the discussion paper a number of key propositions have been set out for comment and deliberation. Probably the key one from fundraisers’ perspective is the proposal that the FPS ”should apply to fundraising communications...[but]… should not prevent other forms of communication between organisations and individuals where the purpose of the communication clearly is not a solicitation.” 

Some inevitable questions arise from this: what counts as a fundraising communication? What does ‘wholly or primarily engaged’ in soliciting donations mean in practice? Is it possible to talk about the organisation’s activities and how to get involved, newsletters, sponsorship opportunities, without it being ‘fundraising’? 

These questions will of course need answering in due course – but for now we should take it in what we understand is the Working Group’s intention, that this is top-line thinking on how an FPS could work in principle, not the exact detail of how it would work in practice. 

Given that, I think we should be supportive of the concept and proposition that an FPS should apply to fundraising communications, but not wider communications about a charity’s activities and we should welcome the Working Group’s thinking.  If we go back to why the FPS has been thought of as a needed service it was a view that there are individuals who feel overwhelmed by financial requests and fundraising asks, and need the ability to easily and quickly stop those requests coming in. 

That objective, and therefore the proposed solution, is very different from a starting point of a service which any individual can use to stop all contact from all charities on every subject forever. The FPS, if established, should only do what the FPS was set up to do. It should not go further and manage all marketing and communications activities of all charities and donor preferences across the board. 

Our main objection over the FPS has been that a total reset will unnecessarily cut individuals and donors off from causes and charities that they have supported, volunteered with, or are a beneficiary of. While we still have real concerns about, and disagree with, a ‘total reset’ on fundraising asks due to the likely significant impact on the ability of supporters to donate to causes they care about – and therefore the impact on charitable services and beneficiaries – the proposition that communications about the organisation’s activities can continue is welcome and should be supported. It will go some way to mitigate the unintended impact of cutting donors off some causes they care about by allowing an individual to still hear about the work of a charity they have supported and opportunities to volunteer or participate in a cause they care about.

 

Daniel Fluskey, Head of Policy and Research, Institute of Fundraising

*Read the Etherington review of fundraising self-regulation

Comments

Paul Jackson-Clark, Parkinson's UK | 31 March 2016

The FPS, if established, should only do what the FPS was set up to do. It should not go further and manage all marketing and communications activities of all charities and donor preferences across the board.

I agree wholeheartedly with your statement, Daniel.

I share your concern that the FPS could start to stray into related, but separate areas that are clearly not in the spirit of FPS, but where the boundaries between supporters and beneficiaries become blurred.

FPS is being set up to help individuals regulate approaches by charities via ‘fundraising communications’.

But my worry is that other key areas of how we communicate with supporters and prospects and beneficiaries will be adversely affected, midst the many unintended consequences of the FPS, including:

• Membership Marketing and promotion, typically aimed at a specific beneficiary group, e.g. people living with Parkinson’s, and which typically comes with a cost-covering subscription, plus optional donation. Banned? And which typically carries promotion of fundraising events and activities. Banned? And/or a regular gift donation coupon insert…. Banned?
• The Marketing and promotion of service delivery changes or challenges to a beneficiary group e.g. recent E-news campaigns about PiP. Successful, critical, often time sensitive campaigns require a call to action… plus you can’t deliver a time sensitive critical campaign without an associated time sensitive funding call to action. Optional‘Donate now’ button embedded in campaigning emails…. Banned?
• Marketing and promotion of trading catalogues, including the promotion of daily living aids to a specific beneficiary group. Option to add a donation to an order…. Banned?

The devil is always in the detail, isn't it. Defining what is and what is not a fundraising solicitation communication is key to this.

I agree, that the FPS should only do what the FPS was set up to do. But if it goes beyond that remit the result will almost certainly be a loss of income and or a driving up of fundraising costs. Either way the very thing we fundraise to support, our beneficiaries, will be the losers.

We all need to work hardest to protect those interests most of all.

Teresa Forgione | 31 March 2016

I am truly worried that the FPS will be a poorly nuanced register that strays into related, but separate areas that are not in the spirit of FPS. The last thing we want is for boundaries between supporters and beneficiaries become blurred and for beneficiaries as a result to be disadvantaged.

FPS is being set up to help individuals regulate approaches by charities via ‘fundraising communications’.

Other key areas of how we communicate with supporters and prospects and beneficiaries could be adversely affected though, through a poorly defined 'fundraising communication' crackdown. Unintended consequences of the FPS could include:

· Membership Marketing and promotion, typically aimed at a specific beneficiary group, e.g. people living with Parkinson’s, and which typically comes with a cost-covering subscription. And which typically carries promotion of fundraising events and/or a donation coupon insert…. How would FPS treat this?
· The Marketing and promotion of service delivery changes or challenges to a beneficiary group e.g. recent we recently sent an e-news news about PiP. Successful, critical, often time sensitive campaigns require a call to action… plus you can’t deliver a time sensitive critical campaign without an associated time sensitive funding call to action. ‘Donate now’ button embedded in email…. How would FPS treat this?
· Marketing and promotion of trading catalogues, including the promotion of daily living aids to a specific beneficiary group. Option to add a donation to an order…. How would FPS treat this?

I agree, that the FPS should only do what the FPS was set up to do. But if it goes beyond that remit the result will almost certainly be a loss of income and or a driving up of fundraising costs. Either way the very thing we fundraise to support, our beneficiaries, will be the losers. And in an era where fundraising costs are being scrutinised, the additional cost of establishing the regulator plus all the additional regulatory requirements will inevitably make charities look less efficient. I can almost imagine the 'Fair and True Foundation' report and Daily Mail headlines already, and they won't make for balanced, or happy reading for both charities, or beneficiaries.

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