A fundraising preference service, not a charity preference service?
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