A working group of major charities and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has published its recommendations on how donors can be given better control over how charities use their personal data. In particular it has focused on how they give consent to the fundraising relationships with the charities that they support.
It has recommended standards that will let donors decide if and how they are contacted by the charities they give to.
- charities that buy data would only call people if they had specifically given their permission to be contacted by that named charity, not simply from agreeing to being ‘happy to receive marketing from selected third parties’. Charities that call their donors or members of the public would also regularly ask them if they are happy to be contacted in the future.
- fundraising letters should only be sent where the charity has a positive reason to believe that the potential donor has an interest in hearing from charities or that they have an interest in the particular cause. They would always have an opportunity to opt out of future mailing.
The group argues that such moves would “significantly cut down on direct mail and unwanted calls and put members of the public back in control of who contacts them”.
The recommendations “go above and beyond the legal minimum”, according to the NCVO, setting higher standards for the charity fundraising sector than those adopted by other industries for their marketing.
The group was commissioned by NCVO in part because one of the recommendations made by the review of fundraising regulation, chaired by NCVO’s Chief Executive Sir Stuart Etherington, was that charities should review their relationships with donors and consider which principles should underpin their approach. In particular they should consider the use of their donors’ personal data for fundraising purposes.
“Freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous consent”
The group was given the task of developing proposals on what steps charities should take to move to a system which is based on an individual’s ‘freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous consent’ to be contacted.
The group says that research it commissioned shows that seven in 10 donors think the amount of contact they get from the charities they support is ‘about right’, but donors say their trust in charities would increase if they were given more control over whether and how they were contacted.
The charities that took part in the group include the British Red Cross, Shelter, Oxfam, Beating Bowel Cancer, and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.
Presenting to the Fundraising Regulator
NCVO will formally submit the report to the new Fundraising Regulator “as the recommended good practice to be incorporated into the Code of Fundraising”. It will then be for the Fundraising Regulator to review it, consult appropriately and issue new guidance.
The proposals have been welcomed by the Fundraising Regulator.
Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said:
“We welcome this report as a positive contribution that will help charities understand the requirement to secure proper consent from their donors as a key part of restoring public trust and confidence in fundraising. We will review the report and consider how we use it to prepare appropriate guidance for charities and in our development of the Code of Fundraising Practice.”
Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross and chair of the group, said:
“I want people to know how seriously charities are taking this issue. We have come up with proposals that balance the needs of charities to get in contact with supporters and potential supporters with the public’s right to have control over how they are contacted.
“We heard from the public that they are most concerned about unwanted phone calls. So these proposals would mean that charities would never phone members of the public unless they had clear permission to do so.”
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said:
“This is a complex area for charities. The working group have taken the time to untangle the legal and regulatory issues involved in using the public’s contact data in order to come up with guidelines that are practical and demonstrate that charities take their responsibility to work to high standards seriously.”
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said:
“It’s vital charities demonstrate to their donors that they are operating to the best possible practice. These principles are an important step in that direction, and I hope colleagues across the sector will them pick up enthusiastically.”
You can download the 21-page Charities’ relationships with donors: a vision for a better future from NCVO.
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