Developing a proportionate response to Fundraising Preference Service compliance

By Daisy Houghton, Head of Communications and Corporate Services at the Fundraising Regulator

Established in 2017, the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) is the free service that has been helping people manage their communications with charities, and end contact with those that they no longer want to hear from. People are also able to use the FPS on behalf of someone who may not be able access it themselves, or on behalf of someone who has passed away. 

Since its inception the Fundraising Regulator has continued to assess how the FPS works, helping us to ensure that it is effective and easy to use.  In 2020 we commissioned an independent review of the FPS and implemented the changes that were recommended to us. The review, and our continued development of the service means we are in a constant process of developing and finessing the FPS for both charities and the members of the public who use it.  

How it works currently 

When an FPS user logs a suppression (a request to stop contact), the charity in question receives a notification to log into a secure portal to collect the suppression and remove the person named from their databases.   

We currently publish a list on our website of charities that are in breach of section 3.2.5 of the Code of Fundraising Practice, because they have not logged on to the FPS charity portal to access the requests to stop direct marketing communications.  

A new approach 

As part of our role as a maturing regulator our approach to FPS compliance has been reviewed by the board. This review considered how breaches of the code in relation to FPS are handled alongside decisions on breaches of the code managed through our casework processes. It was recognised that our casework processes allow for a more nuanced approach than was being applied to the FPS breaches. To tackle this the board have agreed that a more proportionate approach to publicly naming charities for code breaches in relation to the FPS will be maintained going forward.  

From this month onwards charities will not be named on our website until there are at least three uncollected suppressions from the public (previously a charity could be named with only one uncollected suppression). 

In addition, we will be including the names of charities that have accessed the charity portal in the past to collect suppressions, but then fail to collect more than three suppressions within the required time period later on.   

Recognising risk 

Although the changes are minimal, we understand that there may be concerns. Our priority is public protection and evaluation of all our processes highlights that there are adequate safety nets in place for those whose suppression have not been acted on (i.e. they have continued to receive marketing material after the suppression).   

There are two routes of escalation for members of the public whose suppressions have not been acted on: they can submit a follow up via the FPS website or they can submit a complaint. The numbers involved in both routes do not suggest that the charities who are currently in breach are continuing to contact people when they shouldn’t be. Therefore, we feel that the risk to the public of changing the policy is very low.  

It is also worth noting that we are only changing the point at which we would publicly name a charity as in breach of the code and we will continue to make the same efforts to get charities to collect their suppressions in the first place as we always have.  

We expect charities to collect their suppressions in a timely way to respect the public’s wishes. And as with all our processes, we will continue to monitor and review as we go forward so that we can ensure public protection, accountability, and excellence in fundraising today and in the future.