Fundraising Regulator unveils changes to the UK Fundraising Preference Service following independent review

Article 25 May 2022 Experience: Charities and non-profit

The Fundraising Regulator has responded to the nine recommendations for improving the Fundraising Preference Service (‘FPS’), made following an independent review in 2020.

The FPS is a service operated by the Fundraising Regulator that allows members of the public to stop direct marketing communications from any registered charity in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, by making a ‘suppression request’. It has operated since July 2017, following significant media coverage of concerning fundraising practice which impacted particularly on vulnerable members of society.

The Fundraising Regulator commissioned Action Planning, a specialist consultancy for charities and non-profit organisations, to conduct an independent review of the FPS in 2020. The review looked at whether the FPS meets its original purpose, the value and quality of the service, any recommendations for improving the service, and how the FPS works in conjunction with other statutory protections (such as GDPR and the Data Protection Act (2018).

The review set out nine recommendations for improving the FPS, and the Fundraising Regulator has recently released information on what actions have been taken to meet these recommendations, which we have summarised below.

In general, the repose has been to update, or add information to, the Fundraising Regulator’s website.

Reduce the cost of the service

  • The Fundraising Regulator has streamlined the online process, resulting in a 42.5% saving on the FPS budget.
  • Review of the FPS remains a priority for the Fundraising Regulator, and the value for money of the FPS will be reassessed in 2025.

Ensure that suppression requests made on someone else’s behalf are consistently managed, and consider implementing a feedback mechanism for charities as to why suppression requests are made

  • Charity users of the FPS can now see where a request has been made on behalf of someone else and can also see where that third-party may be a vulnerable person. This can help charities deal with the request appropriately.
  • The Fundraising Regulator has also introduced a way for third parties to submit a FPS request on behalf of someone who has died (which also tells the relevant charity that the person has died, allowing them to process the data appropriately).
  • The review made the recommendation that an optional ‘free type’ text box could be included in the FPS form so that users of the service can explain why the request has been made, allowing charities to evaluate their marketing approaches following this feedback.
  • The feedback recommendation is the only one that has not been taken forward: a review by the regulator found that collecting further information about why suppression requests were made was not easy, as different charities collated data in different ways.

Encourage the promotion of the FPS to vulnerable people

  • The Fundraising Regulator is working with specific organisations to disseminate information about the FPS, as well as encouraging charities to share information about the service with their users.
  • The regulator has also put together digital marketing materials that can be shared more easily.

Increase the number of suppression requests that can be made at one time

  • The service now allows users to request that up to 10 charities stop sending them marketing materials in one online transaction (increased from three).
  • Up to 20 charities can be requested at one time using the FPS telephone service.

Issue guidance to charities on what to do if a suppression request is made from someone not on their database

  • Information available on the Fundraising Regulator’s website has been improved and updated to make it clear what charities have to do following a suppression request, including where the person making the request does not appear to be on their database.

Ensure that the FPS can be found easily by someone looking to stop charity marketing and improve the information page about the FPS, outlining what the service does (and does not) do

  • The issue that the review was highlighting here was that the Fundraising Regulator’s (limited) marketing budget could be better used to specifically target people looking to stop charity marketing (including improved search rankings for this issue), rather than aiming to generally raise awareness of the FPS among the public.
  • The Fundraising Regulator has developed a communications strategy specifically targeting people who may have need of the FPS (for example, carers and people with a specific interest in charities).
  • A new short animated video on the FPS homepage explains who might need the service and why.

Improve the clarity of information about when the public should raise a complaint with the Fundraising Regulator

  • This recommendation specifically addressed the issue where people believe that their data has been shared or swapped online, and links to existing statutory protections for the public regarding personal data.
  • There is an FAQ on the Fundraising Regulator’s website on this issue: however, it simply redirects users to the regulator’s own complaint form or suggests going directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Click here for the full independent review undertaken by Action Planning.

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