CRM software provider Blackbaud has said that only a small number of the UK’s largest charities have the required technological tools to comply with the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS).
The FPS system, proposed in the Etherington Review of fundraising regulation, has been designed to allow donors to opt out of communications with all charities for up to two years.
Responding during the FPS consultation period, John Bird, managing director of Blackbaud Europe said: “The FPS represents a data processing challenge that resembles virtually no other process charities currently follow and few, if any, have the tools available to meet it. It is my view that with the best will in the world, a combination of technical and logical barriers will prevent all but a small handful of organisations being able to fully screen their data against the FPS list, as the proposal currently stands.”
Bird explained that, as a norm, charities import data into their CRM system and deduplicate that data – the end result is to bring in additional contacts or to enhance existing records. In the case of the FPS, the aim is to screen their data against a list of external contacts (FPS list) – but not to import any of the data from the FPS.
In his response, Bird added that MPS or TPS screening are not the same processes as FPS. “Firstly, the process of matching an individual record is far simpler on MPS/TPS – the match is done solely against a physical address or a telephone number. As FPS is multi-channel, the expectation of a match would be across a combination of physical address, telephone, email and name. Secondly, in MPS or TPS, screening is part of a process of fulfilment that is part of a campaign (i.e. irregular) – the requirements of FPS and 30 day window to contact a supporter means it must be executed at least fortnightly, if not weekly.
“I make these points to highlight that the process of FPS screening is entirely new for most if not all charities and so it would be wrong to assume that in the time available and with the guidance currently published charities will be able to comply using existing tools and knowledge.”
Making FPS work
Bird concluded by suggesting that, in order to make the FPS work, FPS and CRM database providers, like Blackbaud and several others, would need to take a greater responsibility in supporting the matching and screening process.
“The FPS data should be exposed only via an API,” he said. “This would be more secure than a data file and more manageable – and would avoid the FPS data existing on charities’ servers. The FPS must also publish matching criteria to determine how an individual should be considered ‘identified’, with thresholds published to qualify as a match.
“Finally, I understand the intent to move quickly and to avoid a tender process. However, I would suggest that whatever solution is finally reached, it would not be unreasonable to expect an absolute minimum of 12 months from the publication of sample file format/working API details before charities are in a position to try and use the FPS data. I would suggest investigation into how long the work between HMRC and various suppliers took a few years ago when the Gift Aid XML format was introduced would draw worthwhile parallels.”
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