Singapore charities hope you'll let them keep sending fliers

They and VWOs seek to keep fund-raising channel via mailers open

Charities and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) sending flier inserts with phone or utility bills are now relying on people not to opt out of receiving them so that this channel of fund-raising remains viable.

SingTel and Singapore Power, the only two of nine telcos, banks and utility companies checked with that carry mailers for charities, said they would give their customers the option of not receiving such appeals.

Since July 2, companies, including charities, have had to seek permission from individuals to send unsolicited marketing materials or fund-raising appeals.

As charities piggyback on the contact lists of companies which send out their fliers, they are dependent on them to obtain the requisite permission.

The Personal Data Protection Commission issued these clarifications, among others, last Thursday on how the Personal Data Protection Act relates to organisations in the social, health-care, education and photography sectors.

"If it's a blanket opt-out option for all third-party services, then we will be affected," said an Assisi Hospice spokesman.

"Hopefully, customers can have the option to differentiate the type of third-party information they wish to or wish not to receive - for example, a choice to opt out of marketing but not community service materials."

She added that a few hundred thousand people receive the mailers each time.

Other charities sending mailers this way include Touch Community Services and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.

A Singapore Power spokesman said new customers can opt out of getting such inserts through e-mail, the telephone or in person when signing up for utility services.

SingTel has a portal on its website through which new and existing customers can specify the mailers they still want to receive and those they want to opt out of.

"VWOs and other businesses do have their materials inserted in our bills for a fee, and customers who do not wish to receive them can opt out," said a SingTel spokesman.

The Straits Times understands that the handling fee for each insert is about five cents. Charities can run several thousand to over a million of these inserts.

Charities depending on such services as part of their fund-raising efforts may now have to work at persuading people to keep them.

Salesman Francis Tan, 46, said: "I chose to opt out, since I always ignore them. This way, at least they won't be wasting paper sending them out."

lesterh@sph.com.sg