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Working group set up to support charities’ move to opt-in communications

Working group set up to support charities’ move to opt-in communications

NCVO (the National Council for Voluntary Organisations) has set up a working group to examine the likely adoption of ‘opt-in’ communications by charities and to develop recommendations on how charities can implement such a move.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation is changing, meaning that charities will need to review and probably change how they gather and use people’s personal information. This will apply whether they are sending fundraising, campaigning or information messages, and whether they are communicating with existing supporters or to the general public.

The expectation is that organisations will be required to move to an opt-in approach, whereby individuals have to give their explicit permission to be contacted and to continue receiving messages from charities.

The new rules will probably not come until force until the end of 2017 or early 2018, but some charities are already considering how they might address this. For example, the RNLI has already announced that it will switch to an opt-in system from 2017, despite an initial multi-million cost over five years, which the charity will cover from its reserves.


‘Specific and informed’

The rules were agreed in December 2015 by the EU Commission, Council and Parliament, but the final detail won’t be announced until this month or next.

It is clearly that the new rules will require that personal data will only be able to be used with the consent of an individual that has is “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous”.

Review of fundraising regulation

The issue of ‘opt-in’ was also included among the recommendations of the Etherington review into the future of fundraising self-regulation in 2015. Etherington is CEO of NCVO.


Working group members

NCVO’s working group will be chaired by Michael Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross. The members of the group are:

• Liz Tait, Director of Fundraising at Battersea Cats and Dogs

• Eleanor Harrison, Chief Executive of Global Giving

• Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter

• Tim Hunter, Director of Fundraising at Oxfam

• Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer

• Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK

The group will have access to legal advice from a lawyer with expertise in data protection.

The working group’s terms of reference have been published.

The group will work over the next six months and report to NCVO’s trustee board before the Summer.

Reference group

Other charities and individuals can get involved by joining the reference group for the project. To express interest contact Elizabeth Chamberlain at NCVO.




Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of Research massive growth in giving.

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