Following the suicide of charity fundraiser Olive Cooke public faith in charities is at an all-time low, and the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) recently announced a change to the Code of Fundraising Practice. The new change bans charities from selling their supporters data for commercial gain, and a Fundraising Preference Service, similar to the Telephone Preference Service, could be on the horizon.

What could change

Calls for an opt in system to address concerns are gaining momentum. However, the charity sector is pushing back against the proposed Fundraising Preference Service. It would allow potential donors to say no to all contact from charities, unless permission was granted otherwise. There’s a concern that this would isolate charities.

Despite the worldwide portrayal of short arms and deep pocket Scots give generously to charity. Requests by telephone, post and face-to-face all play a part in many causes fundraising strategy.

Volunteering for opt in

Currently fundraisers can continue to contact people unless they expressly opt out, an option they have to state on all communication.

Few have changed their strategy to opt in. It’s currently a voluntary measure, but one household name happy to test the model is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The charity plan to have a system in place to only contact individuals who have expressed an interest to receive such communications by 2017.

By only contacting individuals who have themselves given permission to be contacted, it’s estimated the RNLI could lose over £35 million of funding over the next 4 years. As their average annual income is around £190 million, this is a substantial loss but one which RNLI hope to absorb.

Why opt in could be the end

Few charities have 192 years of history, heritage and a national network. The RNLI is a huge brand but not many have the same reach, or £35 million to lose.

For these causes the inability to reach out and educate new donors on their cause is a real concern. It raises the question of how the charity will have enough income to sustain the charity in future. Think tank Rogare, part of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University, found that 77 per cent of (550) respondents were against the introduction of a Fundraising Preference Service. It remains to be seen how charities will adapt their business model if it is introduced.