Winning the right to ask

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A developing theme for fundraising this year is how charities ensure that they have proper consent from their donors to communicate with them.

After the annus horribilis of 2015 for UK fundraisers,there has never been more focus on whether charities are complying both with the law and donor expectations.  Within a wider context where EU data protection legislation is in the process of fundamental change.  To grossly simplify a very complicated picture, we are in the process of moving from effectively an “opt out” regime for donor communications into a world where specific and revocable consents are needed for all channels where individual  data is being collected and used.

Last week, a group of senior fundraisers and agency folks met for the latest of our “Future of Fundraising” debates to talk about how we respond to the many challenges that the new world will create for fundraising.

The evidence from the session was that UK fundraisers are pretty hazy about the new EU regulations in particular and there is an urgent need for clear guidance.

As one of the key points of the proposed new directive is to increase fines for breaches of data protection regulations to a maximum of €20 million*, getting this wrong could be truly painful.

Key points which came up from the discussion included;

  • Charities aren’t going to be able to bury their heads in the sand on the permissions issue. While we don’t know exactly what we will be faced with in terms of legislation, we are clearly going to need to be much more proactive about ensuring we have clean, up to date and compliant data on all our supporters.
  • Donor permissions need to be properly captured now across all marketing channels. You can’t assume that past permissions are still valid.
  • This is a complex area and individual charities will need  to take independent legal advice. You can’t assume just because other charities are interpreting legislation in a particular way that you can just copy them and be compliant.
  • There’s good practice already happening which needs to be more widely shared. We heard from charities who have been working on this area for a while and have good learnings.
  • Increasing regulation of charities marketing activities is a fact that we will have to live with. But it’s not all bad news, the focus on ensuring we are handling data correctly and only talking to people who actually want to hear from us is hard to disagree with.

    As many of is have been saying, charities need to take donor retention and development much more seriously in the future.  Winning the right to ask is going to be an essential first step.

*or 4% of worldwide turnover, if greater. They’re not messing about

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