Both contentious and confusing. Why can’t they get FPS right?! 

10th November 2016 • Opinions

by Mark Roy, Founder and Chairman, REaD Group



  1. An organisation set up to provide help and raise money for those in need.

The above sounds like an important job to me, especially when one considers the knifing that government cuts has given the vulnerable.  The need for charity has never been more obvious, yet the government still seems intent on stifling any hope of the third sector picking up the significant shortfall created by project austerity. Ministerial meddling is now seeking to limit the opportunities that charities have to raise funds with the introduction of the Fundraising Preference Service.

So let’s face it, charities needed to get their house in order – a review of the sector is without doubt long overdue.  However the basis of any sector review surely is to make things better, to raise the bar, to become more efficient, not to cut off vital lifelines. One fact that the proposals have conveniently ignored is that 72 per cent of funds raised every year are as a result of a consumer being ‘asked’. This is a broad term encompassing being sold to, called, mailed, emailed, donation boxes etc.  Therefore if you limit a charities ability to ‘ask’ then you must limit their ability to raise funds, period.  Having read the 78 page proposal released last week, I am utterly confused as to how the service is going to work, how and with whom consumers register and how charities actually learn which of their donors do and do not want to be contacted.  The whole concept has become more confused than ever – it all seems as clear a mud to me!

Interwoven into this, now, somewhat murky vision, they have introduced the complexity of both Mail Preference Service (MPS) and Telephone Preference Service (TPS).  So if you don’t want direct mail – register for MPS.  If you don’t want telephone calls then register for TPS, thereby reducing the FPS to a digital suppression file for charities!  However, had any one of the extremely eminent members of George Kidd’s advisory committee looked at the legislative framework surrounding this area, they would have realised that PECR covers much of this, and GDPR now just under 20 months away will deal with it all in one fell swoop.  It seems ironic that the best they can come up with is MPS.  A file that has been around for over 20 years and still at last count had a recognition rating of about 50 per cent with the public.

Even more ironic then, is to have the DMA involved in these discussions.  The rhetoric that is being used and the ensuing recommendations are at best anti-DM.  Those of us who have spent many years helping and guiding charities to deliver well targeted, timely, sensitive and equitable direct marketing campaigns are perplexed by the absence of a stern defense of the our work.  I am not hearing from any senior DMA executives about how much good the collective DMA membership has done or how much worse it would be without us.  When a DMA representative attends these meetings they must do so with one mantra in mind – that to protect the interests of the associations’ members.

Working with many charities as we do at REaD Group, there seems little or no appetite within their circles for such a suppression mechanism but a very real appetite to do things better.  I worry intensely when I read about some of the biggest charities talking about having “available reserves to withstand the loss of revenue through less contact”. In laymen’s terms, we know we will make less money through less contact, but we have millions in the bank and can withstand it for a while. But what about the vast majority of charities who do not have millions in the bank and are now going to have to stop funding projects, lay off hard working fundraisers or worse still, go bust?!

Charities, now is the time to stand up and present an alternative, before it is too late. Reject the concept of FPS, but commit to a more responsible, open and transparent relationships with your donors.  By building a relationship which is built on trust and respect, donors can easily share their preferences making it simpler for charities to respect those choices.

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