What is "Frugging"?
"Frugging" is a term used to describe the practice of fundraising under the guise of research. The use of an opinion poll to conduct fundraising has raised the distrust of the public to a point where they refuse to cooperate with researchers trying to obtain the opinions of any number of issues, including political campaign, and government: federal, state and local research. Marketing and opinion researchers promise no selling, no request for contributions and confidentiality of personal information to respondents in return for their cooperation. Legitimate marketing and opinion researchers are only trying to obtain neutral and unbiased data. Fundraising under the guise of research obviously rejects this principle.

How Is "Frugging" Different From Legitimate Polls & Surveys?
Requesting money from members of the public is not survey, opinion and marketing research. The purpose of a survey research is to gather information and opinions from members of the public to measure public opinions of products and services or social and political issues. Although survey research companies may offer an reimbursement to the respondent in appreciation of his or her cooperation, the request for monetary payment or soliciting monetary contributions is not acceptable or permitted in legitimate and professionally conducted survey research.

Legal Issues Regarding Fundraising Under the Guise of Research
The Telemarketing Sales Rule includes charitable solicitations in its definition of telemarketing. The Telemarketing Sales Rule also makes it an abusive telemarketing act or practice and a violation of the Rule for a telemarketer, in an outbound telephone call to induce a charitable contribution, to fail to disclose truthfully, promptly, and in a clear and conspicuous manner to the person receiving the call, that the purpose of the call is to solicit a charitable contribution - thereby prohibiting fundraising under the guise of research or so-called "frugging."

Section 5 of the FTC Act also prohibits unfair or deceptive practices. Being a deceptive practice, frugging would be included under that authority. However, the FTC only has authority over for-profit entities. If the organization frugging is a non-profit, that organization is outside the purview of the FTC.

The U.S. Postal Service also has regulations and enforcement authority against deceptive and fraudulent practices by mail.

Frugging is a violation of the MRA Code of Marketing Research Standards

  • #7 in the MRA Code: "Ensure that respondent information collected during any study will not be used for sales, solicitations, push polling or any other non-research purpose."
  • #10 in the MRA Code: "Members will never represent non-research activities as research studies. These non-research activities include, but are not limited to... The compilation of lists, registers or databanks of names and addresses for any non-research purpose, such as in canvassing or fund raising."

What to Do If You Have Been Frugged?
Contact your local Better Business Bureau. In addition, contact MRA to alert us to the deceptive activity so that we can try to assist.

This information should not be construed as or substituted for legal advice. It is provided for informational purposes only. It is advisable to consult with private counsel on the precise scope and interpretation of any laws/regulation/legislation and their impact on your particular business.