Today, 6 July 2017 sees the launch of a new service allowing people to opt out of direct marketing communication from charities by using an online portal. But will it affect PTAs registered as charities, and if so, how?
What is the Fundraising Preference Service?
The Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) is a website-based service, with a supporting helpline, run by the Fundraising Regulator. The FPS will allow members of the public in England and Wales to end all direct marketing communications from a specific charity or charities.
Individuals will be able to find or specify a particular charity, and make a request to stop receiving direct marketing from it, by post, by phone, by text, by electronic means, or all methods of contact.
The Fundraising Preference Service will pass on this request to that charity, who must then stop all communications with that person, and remove their name from any address lists they have.
What does it mean for PTAs?
If your PTA is registered as a charity, it will be covered by the FPS - there is no way to opt out of this. In practice though, most PTAs will never have any dealings with it. But it's better to be ready just in case.
Does my PTA need to do anything now?
Only the 2,000 charities which spend most on fundraising have had to register before the service launches. All other charities, including PTAs, will only be contacted when the first request regarding them is made to the FPS.
One thing to note though, if the FPS does need to get in touch with a charity, it will use the email address held for it by the Charity Commission, so make sure that's up to date for your Association.
What happens if my PTA is contacted by the FPS?
If the FPS contacts your PTA, it will be to ask that you stop all direct marketing communications with a named individual. You would then have to make sure that that individual's details, such as their email, phone number and home address, are taken off any lists of contacts held by the PTA, and that they aren't contacted directly with any requests again.
What counts as direct marketing communications?
Any request addressed directly to a named recipient, aimed at raising funds and selling products or services, which promotes the aims and ideals of that organisation. So a request for sponsorship would count as a direct marketing communication, as would a letter about a PTA's success in raising money for playground equipment, if sent or emailed directly to a named individual.
It doesn't include unaddressed mail sent to everyone - such as a flyer put in the bookbag of every child in a class. And it doesn't include rattling a tin at someone at the Summer Fair.
It also doesn't include communications that happen as part of an individual's membership of an organisation, or in relation to a transaction they have carried out with it. So a request for a Gift Aid declaration, or notice of an AGM sent to committee members, wouldn't be covered.
What happens if my PTA doesn't remove someone's details after being asked, or contacts them again?
The FPS will report your organisation to the Information Commissioner, which has the power to issue fines under the Data Protection Act 1998. The Chairman of the Fundraising Regulator, Michael Grade, has said "We don’t have the power to fine at the fundraising regulator but the Information Commissioner’s Office does. If we refer that some charity is abusing and not respecting the fundraising preference service choice that they make... they have plenty of powers to make the fines hurt and to make it effective."
Why is this service being launched?
The FPS came out of the 2015 Etherington review of charity fundraising practices. It was prompted by a series of high profile scandals, including the selling on of vulnerable individuals' details by charities, and the death of 92-year old poppy-seller Olive Cooke, who was plagued by as many as 200 letters a month from charity fundraisers.
One of the recommendations of the review was that people should have a single place they could go to in order to stop unwanted contact by charities, which has developed into the Fundraising Preference Service.
Where can I get more information?
There's plenty more information on the Fundraising Regulator's website. You can also find useful information about when you can and can't send communications to people on the Information Commissioner's Office website.