The Fundraising Preference Service, which lets individuals opt out of communications from selected charities has launched in the UK earlier this month.
The Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) went live on 6 July. Available both online and by phone, it enables members of the public to block post, phone, email or text communications from named charities. The service is managed by the Fundraising Regulator, which contacts charities on behalf of the user and requests that the selected methods of communication are stopped.
Although the Fundraising Regulator has responsibility for regulating fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, different co-regulatory arrangements apply in Scotland and therefore charities operating only in Scotland are not bound by the FPS.
At launch, Stephen Dunmore, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said:
“The FPS will give individuals unprecedented control of their contact with charities and will enable members of the public to manage their consent. This service is crucial in an age when individuals can be contacted in far more ways, and with far more regularity, than ever before. The FPS will help further rebuild trust between members of the public and the charity sector.”
However, ahead of the launch, the Chair of the Fundraising Regulator, Lord Michael Grade came under fire for comments made in the Daily Telegraph newspaper and on TV. In an article written for the newspaper, Grade criticised charities, saying that the new system was required because “Too many charities are proving to be 'laggards’, and failing to change their fundraising practices."
Grade also attracted criticism for errors he made in describing how the service would work, highlighting for charities that ‘pester donors for cash’ in the Telegraph, and incorrectly explaining that that the service would allow individuals to opt-out of all communications from all charities in two BBC interviews.
In fact, the Fundraising Regulator itself does not have the powers to issue fines, which are the responsibility of the Information Commissioner’s Office. The service also only allows people to opt out of receiving communications via selected channels from up to three charities at a time.
The chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, Peter Lewis, issued a statement in response to Lord Grade’s comments in The Telegraph, saying he was frustrated and saddened by his words.
In his statement, Lewis said:
"Fundraisers are passionate people who work tirelessly to make a difference every day. That’s why I am deeply frustrated and saddened to again hear Lord Grade talking about the fundraising community in a negative way, misrepresenting how the overwhelming majority of charities communicate with and value their supporters.
“We fully support a strong regulatory system. However, for any non-statutory system to succeed, it is vital that clarity prevails over confusion. Only then can the regulator fully command the trust of both charities and the public.”
On its first day of operation, the FPS received over 1,300 suppression requests, from 614 individuals.