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24th November 2020

Evaluation finds use of Fundraising Preference Service is 'declining', reports Civil Society News

Originally published by Russell Hargrave, Civil Society News, 16 November 2020

Fewer than 30 people a week use the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) on average, according to an independent evaluation of the scheme.

Consultants Action Planning carried out surveys, interviews and a focus group, to which more than 150 charities contributed. It found that the majority of voluntary organisations had low levels of satisfaction in the service, and three-quarters said that it did not provide value for money.

However, the Fundraising Regulator, which commissioned the evaluation, said that the FPS continued to provide “vital support” for vulnerable members of the public and their families concerned about communication from charities.

The service was introduced in July 2017, after a series of high-profile controversies about charity fundraising and allows members of the public to opt out of charity fundraising communications. 

Has FPS ‘served its purpose’?

It also found that use of the service is “declining”. The evaluations says: “Awareness is low and the service is not easy to find through an online search about how to stop charity direct marketing.”

Between January and June this year, the service received an average of 36 requests per week from 26 users.

Several charities surveyed told the evaluators that the service “had served its purpose, particularly in the context of declining usage”.

One charity argued: “I would say if you can't bring these costs drastically down, then perhaps it's time to close the service due to lack of public demand.”

Used by concerned family members

The evaluation found that one in three requests to block charity fundraising communication was made by a third party, including family members on behalf of a vulnerable relative.

In some months, this rose to more than half of all requests.

Some members of the public who had used the service said they turned to it after seeing the distress caused to relatives with dementia by repeated fundraising contact from charities.

All recommendations accepted

The evaluators’ recommendations to the Fundraising Regulator included investigating how to set up a “minimal viable” version of the service aimed at protecting vulnerable people, and increasing the number of requests which can be made in a single online transaction from three to 10.

Lord Toby Harris, chair of the Fundraising Regulator, said: “The launch of the Fundraising Preference Service was a key recommendation put forward in the cross-party review and we welcome this independent evaluation.

“It is pleasing to see that the service remains a vital support service for the public, particularly for those who are more vulnerable and their relatives.

“The FPS was established three years ago, and we recognise that since then the demands and need for the service have altered. The recommendations outlined in the review provide a significant evidence base from which to make improvements and enhancements to the service.

“Our board has accepted all of the recommendations. Some will require us to consult and work with the sector, while others are more straightforward to implement. We remain committed to regulating in the public’s interest, in order to protect the trust in fundraising that the sector has worked so hard to build.”

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