Does the sector need a Telephone Fundraising Regulator?

14 Oct 2010 Voices

Face-to-face fundraising has borne the brunt of the media spotlight, but the sector needs to wake up to the potential powder keg lying in telephone fundraising, says Michael Naidu.

Face-to-face fundraising has borne the brunt of the media spotlight, but the sector needs to wake up to the potential powder keg lying in telephone fundraising, says Michael Naidu.

So, have we survived the car crash that was the Newsnight exposé on chugging agencies? Time to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the job of raising vital funds for good causes? I hope not, because faceto- face fundraising isn’t the only contentious form of fundraising annoying the public and whipping up the media’s scorn.

I was pleased to read that the Institute of Fundraising have added to each code of practice a summary to highlight to practising fundraisers the key areas to review. But I fear that most fundraisers do not review the codes of practice when planning or implementing activity. Let’s be honest, I have rarely met a director of fundraising who has read them recently either. Grants and trusts fundraisers have less use for the codes. These are not the same as other forms of fundraising that get into our face or our home and ask us for our hard-earned cash.

The telephone has been an incredibly successful medium, with more charities building relationships with more supporters each year. As with most forms of direct marketing, agencies drive innovation producing better results to attract the everincreasing demand from charities.

Action needed on telephone fundraising 

Witness the uneasy truce over making admin calls to supporters on the Telephone Preference Service –. How many complaints do the public need to make before the Information Commissioner’s Office enforce the law and limit the opportunity to fundraise? I have heard talk of the need for a Telephone Fundraising Regulatory Authority – a TFRA – funded by the sector to do… something.

But what should the sector do? Having ridden the rocky waves of face-to-face for years I can think of a few questions the sector could consider first.

Is there enough capacity to meet the needs of the sector? The more charities ask for upgrades, sell raffle tickets and discuss legacies, the more likely the public are to receive calls.

Is the public ready for the needs of the sector? The consistent silver medal in the FRSB complaints survey (second only to the godfather of direct marketing – direct mail) shows that some of the public do not like being asked to donate by phone. But like direct mail there doesn’t seem to be any limit to capacity, only decreasing response rates when saturation occurs.

Are current practitioners achieving best practice? Are they abiding by the code and can you prove it? I don’t know about you but I have received a lot of calls and only once have I heard a disclosure including a notifiable amount and disclosure isn’t best practice, it is the law. Being able to prove that standards are high is useful when arguing for greater opportunity to fundraise or challenging constriction on capacity.

What is the legal future of telephone fundraising? Clearly the ICO respect the role that charity fundraising plays. The telephone symposium showed that there is clarity of sorts, for now. Meanwhile in Germany the public are very concerned about privacy, with direct mail and telesales being scrutinised. Laws passed in Germany often reaches into the EU which could ripple out to our blessed Isle. Damn those future Eurocrats!

And the obvious question, who will stand up to be interviewed by Newsnight when they next OD on catnip and realise that charities pay private companies to ring us up in our own homes? I’m not sure if we need a TFRA, but we MUST get a robust debate going and quickly. 

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