Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Are we being overcautious regarding the Data Protection Act?

Are we being overcautious regarding the Data Protection Act?

I try to make sure that I work to the guidelines produced by the Researchers in Fundraising Special Interest Group (RiF). For example, I have always tried to avoid including any “sensitive personal data” as defined in the Data Protection Act.

I even exclude information on nationality, when downloading information form sources drawing on Companies House information. I am quite happy to indicate a connection with other jurisdictions, or support for relevant organisations, but try to be careful about how I phrase things.

However, I have recently discussed this with other prospect researchers, and have been led to believe that our approach may be way too cautious. Apparently we can in fact process “sensitive personal data”.

I am not sure that I can afford to spend loads of money on obtaining detailed legal advice, to confirm this, but I wonder, for example, if the “legitimate interests” gives us greater scope for action than many of us believe? If we have been overcautious, then we can process much more data. This can only help our efforts as prospect researchers and fundraisers.

I know they are all busy people, but maybe RiF could revisit this issue.

Finbar Cullen, Research Plus

Finbar Cullen established ResearchPlus in 2005 to provide fundraising research services for the not-for-profit sector. He researches people, companies and grant-making trusts and foundations, mostly in the UK, but also other parts of the world. Finbar has published directories of “unpublished” grant-making trusts (registered with the Charity Commission and with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), and each month he contributes to The Trust List, highlighting newly registered grant-making trusts worthy of particularly close attention.

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