Directors from three fundraising agencies have called on the Information Commissioner’s Office to provide greater clarity on how tougher Telephone Preference Service rules will affect charities.
The TPS is a directory of numbers which cannot be phoned by cold callers. Up to three quarters of donors are registered with the TPS, according to some fundraisers.
The ICO has recently made it clear that it will enforce TPS rules much more strictly than it previously has done, which could potentially prevent charities from speaking even to existing supporters who have not given explicit permission.
One senior fundraising director recently told Civil Society News that the TPS is "currently not fit for purpose"
He said the Telephone Preference service applies to phone numbers and not individuals, and that many donors inherit a TPS number without knowing it.
He said the ICO’s stronger stance in regards to charities and the TPS, unveiled at the IoF and FRSB’s joint telephone fundraising summit in July, is "the single biggest threat to charity income".
Fundraising agencies also warned that the rules as they stand are unclear and difficult to follow.
David Clark from NTT Fundraising, Bethan Francis from Pell & Bales and Giuseppe Iantosca, formerly of GoGen, all told Civil Society News that the ICO needs to give telephone fundraisers greater clarity when it comes to how it enforces the TPS.
“I think the TPS is an incredibly blunt tool,” said Clark, director of NTT Fundraising.
“It is a blunt rule and a blunt tool because, if you receive a PPI call and you put yourself on the TPS because you don’t want to receive that, it does stop you from receiving other calls.”
He said fundraising agencies had previously relied on statements made by the ICO at a telephone fundraising summit held in 2010. But he said the ICO now needed to define how fundraisers should "capture consent" from donors.
Bethan Francis, client services director at Pell & Bales, said there are a number of grey areas which need clarification.
“I’m not sure that the rules need relaxing at all, they just need to be clarified on a couple of points,” said Francis.
She said most fundriasers are already compliant with the TPS.
"There just needs to be some clarity from the ICO and the IoF around what constitutes explicit consent and how that’s recorded on charity databases," she said.
Giuseppe Iantosca, former director of the now defunct fundraising agency GoGen, said that he had counselled caution until clearer guidance was provided.
“Certainly one thing that we were communicating to our clients over the last couple of weeks was to take a more cautious approach on TPS, whilst waiting for clearer guidance," he said.
“It’s very difficult when you have a relatively grey area of legislation how you interpret that and you also potentially as a charity have a donor base of people, many of whom actually started supporting that organisation before anyone even operated on a system of gaining consent”.
Earlier this month, Civil Society News obtained a letter from Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF to the Information Commissioner, effectively saying that separate telephone fundraising guidance must be provided to charities.
These interviews were conducted as part of an investigation into the state of the telephone fundraising landscape. The full piece will be available in the September edition of Fundraising Magazine. Subscribe here.