Stephen Cotterill: The FPS looks fine, but will the public really care?

04 Jul 2017 Voices

The FPS may be well-intentioned, but will Joe and Josephine Public care... or even notice? That sound you hear is the Daily Mail editor’s phone ringing.

There have been months of consultation on the upcoming Fundraising Preference Service and the Fundraising Regulator has put in enormous effort, cost and many man hours to get it ready for its launch this month. But I just can’t shake the feeling that its unlikely to entirely fulfil its remit.

The first obstacle is brand awareness. The regulator has said it will launch a public awareness campaign to coincide with the FPS going live, but how much real resource does it have to promote this effectively and nationally? And will the public listen? Ask most people if they know what TPS stands for and you will probably get a blank look. And the TPS has been around since 1999. Furthermore, it patently doesn’t work very well.

The regulator has also said that there is no obligation for charities to promote it – much to the relief of many no doubt. But for this to work, charities have to get behind the idea. A footnote on charity communications directing people to the FPS would vastly boost touch points with the public. If people don’t know about it, then the solution falls at the first hurdle.

The other thing that is worrying is the level of engagement needed on behalf of an individual to suppress a charity’s communications. To its credit the FPS is quite a simple, intuitive interface, but for harassed parents or busy professionals or older people, logging in, only being able to register three suppressions, having to log out, then back in again, plus the registration process and the vast variety of charities they may wish to block...all told, this will have people banging their keyboards in frustration.

Most people give to two or three charities or causes, emergency appeals and televised events aside. These are the ones they want communications from. They actually, most likely, want to suppress all others. But allowing people to choose only the charities they want to hear from is an option that is perilously close to the big red button proposal so feared at the outset of the FPS.

The other concern is that this in no way impacts cold mailings and door drops, which were a major part of the problem that sparked the initial reviews into bad practice back in the summer of 2015. It is true that the regulator never claimed FPS would do that and has since mentioned a review to the Code in this regard, but if someone registers a charity with the FPS and still receives collection bags or mailshots from it, it’s not going to play out well in the press. The FPS does state during the registration process that it does not stop this type of marketing, but will this sink in? Cue a letter to the editor from “outraged in Tring”.

The fear is not so much that the FPS is poorly designed, but more about how it will be perceived; that ultimately it won’t do what the public thinks it should do. And that is like giving a big fat stick to the tabloid press with which to beat the sector.



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