The Information Commissioner's Office has “specifically requested” changes to fundraising rules to enforce stricter compliance with the Telephone Preference Service, which could prevent charities calling up to three in four donors.
The Institute of Fundraising has made the requested changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice, but has said it has "real concerns" that the measures will damage charities' relationships with donors.
In an email obtained by Civil Society News, the IoF told its members: “following recent correspondence with the Information Commissioner’s Office we have made amendments to the section on telephone fundraising in IoF’s Code of Fundraising Practice regarding the ability to call TPS-registered numbers”.
“a) Organisations MUST* always check telephone numbers against TPS/CTPS when intending to call cold donors.
b) Organisations MUST NOT* make direct marketing calls to Telephone Preference Service (TPS)/Corporate TPS (CTPS)-registered numbers unless the person who registered the number has notified the organisation that they are happy to receive calls for the time being.
c) Marketing calls under the guise of administrative calls MUST NOT* be made”.
The IoF said that the above changes were “specifically requested by the Information Commissioner’s Office” and called upon its members to “ensure they act accordingly with the new changes as soon as possible”.
The email was sent to IoF member organisations at midday yesterday and was sent to telephone fundraising agencies on Monday.
Civil Society News understands that an agency offered to switch staff to make administrative calls to existing, TPS registered supporters thanking them and asking if they wished to be called for donations in the future. The ICO reportedly said this was not acceptable.
The IoF has advised its members to “read the ICO guidance on direct marketing for an explanation on the rules and application of the Data Protection Act and Privacy and Communications (EC Directive) Regulations”.
The ICO directives on the TPS have effectively pre-empted the findings of the IoF's working group on telephone fundraising.
The changes to the code regarding TPS have come less than two weeks after Peter Lewis personally wrote to the Information Commissioner to express his dissatisfaction with elements of the ICO’s regulatory approach towards charities.
IoF 'really concerned' for telephone fundraising
Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the IoF, said: “Telemarketing is an essential form of communication for charities to be able to reach out to their supporters, talk to them about their work, and to seek further support.
"We have made this change to our Code of Fundraising Practice following engagement with the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure full compliance with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and Data Protection Act.
“While it is of course crucial that all charities fundraise according to the law, we are really concerned about charities not being able to contact individuals who have existing and long-standing relationships with charities – this will have a severe and significant impact on the amount of money that charities can raise, and threaten the sustainability of some organisations.
“We agree that the rights and privacy of individuals is of fundamental importance, but charities need a proportionate and reasoned regulatory system to govern this that does not unduly restrict the ability to raise money for their causes.
"We have real concerns that rules and legislation that have been designed to govern the whole of the direct marketing sector are unduly restricting the ability of charities to maintain relationships with their supporters which we urgently want to see addressed.”