Rethink Mental Illness to move to opt-in only communications

Howard Lake | 21 June 2016 | News

Tick comprised of lots of people standing together. Photo:
Image: People’s consent – Jakub Grygier on

Rethink Mental Illness has committed to adopt an opt-in only policy from this summer, so will only contact supporters who have given it express permission to do so. This will apply to all communications channels, whether telephone, email, SMS or direct mail.
These permissions will last for a maximum of two years. The mental health charity has pledged that, if the supporter gives no confirmation about how they would like to hear from them after this time, they will no longer receive emails, magazines or newsletters.

General Data Protection Regulation

The charity’s decision comes just under two years before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into full force. This will require all organisations, including charities, to show that their direct marketing recipients have consented to communication.
Committing to full opt-in communications does, however, take the charity beyond what is currently required in terms of data protection legislation, and indeed what will be required by the GDPR. Nevertheless, RNLI and Cancer Research UK have both already committed to an opt-in only approach for some or all of their fundraising communications.
Emma Malcolm, Associate Director for Fundraising and Supporter Engagement at Rethink Mental Illness, explained the charity’s decision:

“It goes far beyond fundraising. Our supporters give their time, they give weight to our campaigns, and they give power to our voice to help improve the lives of people affected by mental illness. This is a big step forwards in how we communicate with our supporters – how often, using which method, the language we use, and how we record their wishes.
“We believe we should be setting an example of good practice, and doing what’s right. That’s why we have gone over and above what’s outlined by the law”.


Supporter Promise

The charity has also introduced  a ‘Supporter Promise’. This makes 11 commitments to supporters, ranging from never selling data to a third party, through to ensuring that they do not consistently approach anyone who might be considered to be vulnerable.
Vulnerable people and donors who might be vulnerable have been one of the key issues highlighted in the media and political criticism of some charities and some of their fundraising methods over the past year.
Emma Malcolm added:

“We recognise that we have supporters who might be considered vulnerable, or might care for a vulnerable loved one. As a mental health charity we believe that anyone who comes into contact with us should be treated with respect, and in the way they’d expect to be treated, vulnerable or not.”

Image: People’s consent – Jakub Grygier on