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Charities and Their Fundraisers Exempt from FTC Do-Not-Call Proposal

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WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Dec. 20, 2002) - In an important victory for AFP and the fundraising profession, final regulations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will exempt third-party fundraisers from the requirements of a national do-not-call list.

On Wednesday, December 18, the FTC released its final version of the amendments to the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which includes provisions that would require telemarketers to acquire a national list of individuals who do not want to receive telemarketing calls. In the original version of the proposal, charities were exempt from the do-not-call list, but third parties working on behalf of charities were subject to the requirements.

AFP submitted formal comments to the FTC, arguing that such a situation created an unfair playing field for those organizations using third-party telemarketers. AFP pointed out that the critical factor should be the message and its charitable nature, not whether the charity or a representative of the charity makes the call. Furthermore, such a bifurcation would be impractical, cause greater confusion for the public, and ultimately prove costly to charities.

In the final version of the regulations, third parties working on behalf of charitable organizations will be exempt from having to obtain the do-not-call list before beginning a campaign. However, charities and their representatives will still be subject to certain requirements of the Telemarketing Sales Rule. These obligations include--

  • Disclosing the name of the organization on whose behalf the call and request is being made;
  • Disclosing that the purpose of the call is a charitable solicitation;
  • Prohibiting misrepresentations of what the charity does, how the contribution will be used, and how much money is spent on programs and costs (among other disclosures).
  • Honoring entity-specific "do not call" requests, such as when individuals ask that a particular charity not contact them.

As these requirements closely mirror AFP's own Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice, AFP supported these provisions.

Despite the announcement, the FTC proposals and the national do-not-call system still face some significant hurdles before coming into effect. Commercial telemarketers have indicated they intend to challenge the regulations in court, arguing that the FTC has overstepped its authority. In addition, Congress must still approve $16 million in funding to set up the do-not-call list.

Further complicating matters, the Federal Communications Commission is also developing its own do-not-call proposal, a final version of which may be out in 2003. Fortunately for charities, the FCC version already exempts them and their representatives from any do-not-call list requirements.

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