We believe that adopting the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) will fundamentally limit opportunities for responsible fundraising and therefore the ability of the UK's donors to respond to need. What is the FPS? It is, along with an opt-in recommendation for comms, the central plank of the recommendations laid out in report "Regulating Fundraising For The Future", designed to redeem the reputation of the UK charity sector.
The discussion paper gives the full picture, but in short the any consumer will be able to register with the FPS to opt out of all charity fundraising communications. Forever. From any charity (although there are provisions for allowing certain charities they are prepared to hear from). This is the infamous "reset" button proposed by the report.
It's not final, yet, but the consultation period ends on 31st March, so there's not much time left to add your voice.
Sure, some UK charities may have some reputational issues to deal with as you'll have spotted in the tabloids over the last year or so, but the FPS is absolutely the wrong tool to do it with on many levels. Here are a few:
1. Beneficiaries will suffer. The very reason that charities exist. If you can't ask for support from those on the FPS, even if they have given before, you'll raise less, have to cut your programme and the beneficiaries will suffer.
2. How can it be right to make it harder to invite people to support a good cause than, say, sell double-glazing or deodorant (with all respect)? It's hurried-through regulation that will damage the sector. Why is the charity sector singled out for this treatment?
3. As one of the world's most generous nations, FPS looks likely to cause us to slide down that list as it appeals to the knee-jerk "don't contact me" mentality, as opposed to the philanthropic instinct that naturally makes people want to give in the first place.
4. Charities will need to screen every fundraising campaign against FPS. We don't know how this will work technically, yet, but it's bound to add cost and hassle, not to mention reducing the audience for their campaign.
5. Beware of unintended consequences. FPS may end up damaging the reputation rather than repairing it. How? By encouraging charities to work around it by using other forms of fundraising such as unaddressed door drops, and face to face.
6. It ignores the reality that most charities have joint contacts in their databases - Mr & Mrs records for example. So if Mr J Smith had registered with FPS, screening Mr & Mrs J Smith would come back as "ok to fundraise". Which misses the point somewhat.
7. FPS comes from the standpoint that fundraising is impolite, invasive, transactional and unwanted. That's not true - when done properly it's part of the dialogue between cause and donor, and is a mutually beneficial relationship.
8. It makes membership-as-a-fundraising product tricky. For example, does a reminder to a member to renew his membership constitute an ask? Probably, so watch those retention rates plummet.
9. It gets complicated. For example, someone hits the FPS reset (you can't ask them again), they then make a donation and opt in to future asks (now you can ask them again but they're still on FPS...). So you need to keep a detailed history of consents and what the current situation is, regardless of what FPS says. Confused? Good news: Donorfy handles this for you!
It remains to be seen whether small charities are spared the FPS and the opt-in recommendations. While larger and let's face it richer charities report the negative effect they will have on income others are genuinely concerned about the effect it will have on their organisations' viability.
So it's the wrong tool for the job. Others in the sector are also passionately opposed.
To quote Adrian Sargent: "Philanthropy is a deep articulation of one’s love for others. That we would now be actively encouraging folks to abstain from it deeply sickens me."
The FPS working group is inviting feedback. Email them before 31st March at firstname.lastname@example.org
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