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Data is a charity’s most valuable commodity, so it has to be treated as such

Howard Lake | 25 May 2016 | Blogs

It’s been a challenging year for many charities, which has highlighted a number of issues in the way the sector approaches its supporters. The events of 2015 were also the trigger for an evolution across the sector, offering an opportunity to make some really positive changes that will benefit both the charities and their supporters.
One of the key challenges within this evolution is how charities are equipped and prepared to manage the data they hold on their supporters. For example, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is due to have significant effects on how charities handle personal data. For some charities, changes like those around GDPR could be both confusing and expensive to implement correctly, as well as having an impact on the way fundraising is able to be conducted.
However, these changes are unavoidable now that the GDPR has completed its passage through the EU institutions, but more importantly they are essential to building a sustainable future that befits the charitable aims of the sector. Meaning fundraisers and marketers need to not only be aware of the GDPR, but also ensuring the people in their teams have the right skills in place to use the valuable insight data could have for the charity’s future marketing and fundraising activities.
Therefore, education and training will be an integral part of creating a sustainable future for the fundraising sector, as staff will need to know:

1. How the law affects marketing and the importance of consent?

Marketing departments will need to understand what the changes are in the GDPR as compared with the Data Protection Act 1998. They also need to be aware that the European Commission has just issued a consultation on revising the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, which was implemented into UK law by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. These laws all have an effect on how and when marketers need to ask for consent, not to mention whether it has to be opt-out, soft opt-in, opt-in or double opt-in. Ensuring charities have the systems to manage all these different consents and deal with any changes which the donor may request in a timely  fashion is another challenge.

2. Why data protection matters to fundraising and the effect of legislation?

Breaking the rules on data protection could lead to enforcement action from the Information Commissioner’s Office, who will have the power to issue significantly higher fines under the GDPR as well as action by the new fundraising regulator. But more importantly charities risk damaging their reputation and the relationships they have in place with their supporters in the first place if their personal data is not used correctly.


An introduction to AI for charity professionals by Ross Angus

3. How do we actually analyse and use the data?

Even once the new laws are understood and charities are managing all this personal data correctly, they still need to make sure they’re able to use the insight from this data to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their marketing campaigns.
Understanding how to evaluate the metrics from marketing campaigns will enable charities to fully appreciate the value of their supporters, not to mention the success of their fundraising programmes.
The data charities have on their donors is integral to the long-term success of all fundraising and marketing campaigns. Supporters should, therefore, be put at the heart of everything charities do.
Charities must ensure that they are diligent with this data, respect privacy, are honest and fair, and take responsibility for this data. Ultimately, supporter data is a charity’s most valuable commodity, so it has to be treated as such.
Jane Cave is Managing Director at the IDM
Image: people’s consent – Jakub Grygier on shutterstock.com