So here we are. Two years after fundraisers hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, and a subsequent cross party review redrew the boundaries of fundraising regulation, next week will see the last of the review’s major recommendations implemented: the Fundraising Preference Service.
It was always a big ask. To build a system funded by charities “where individuals can register if they no longer wish to be contacted for fundraising purposes” had huge cost and resource implications. By consulting widely and carefully considering what such a service could and should prioritise, we have managed to deliver a solution which does what was asked of it without the need to seek additional financial support from the sector.
We have spent the last 6 months consulting with systems developers, fundraisers from large and small charities and organisations working with vulnerable people to get it right. That process will continue beyond the launch phase. We will be reviewing the way the system works after a reasonable bedding-in period to check that it is working as intended.
But a much bigger challenge remains in ensuring that charities respect the new service as a way for individuals to express their wishes. However technically fit-for-purpose the new service may be, it will only succeed if charities act promptly to suppress donors who use it.
Given time, the FPS can be a real asset. With charity-wide support, the FPS can be a symbol of a sector growing in maturity and confidence, able to recognise that not every member of the public wants a relationship and big enough to act when it gets the balance wrong. More widely, charities will be able to cite FPS in evidence that they are subject to a strong regulatory system and hold themselves to a high standard of public accountability.
Many charities tell me that their own systems already work well in ensuring individuals have genuine choice in any communications and they anticipate that the new requirements on GDPR will strengthen donor control mechanisms further. That confidence is great to hear and we hope that FPS will largely be seen as a last resort for members of the public. Wherever possible, we will always encourage individuals to contact charities directly as the easiest way to tailor the communications they receive.
However there may be situations where that is not possible, such as when individual organisations do not make their opt-out process clear or where a member of the public simply feels unable to cope. In such circumstances, the FPS will be an important safeguard, ensuring that no one is made to feel that charity communications are unavoidable or a burden.
We are only asking those charities that do the most fundraising to register on the FPS system at this stage. For many charities, this means no action will be required until they get an FPS request. However, you should do the following before 6th July to make sure you are prepared:
1. Visit the Fundraising Regulator website to find out more about the FPS
2. Make sure you know how your organisation currently deals with requests to stop communications
3. If your organisation has paid the levy to fund the Fundraising Regulator ask your Chief Executive if they have received a letter about FPS sent on 8 May and 8 June
4. If you haven’t received one as a levy payer (and think you should have) email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Sign up to the Fundraising Regulator newsletter to make sure you are up to date on the latest FPS developments