Respect your donors’ data wishes

Gerald Oppenheim, Fundraising Regulator

Last year we all witnessed a constant stream of troublesome stories about the use and abuse of personal data.

We saw high profile companies face fines for letting hackers steal the data of UK customers, and social media giants were exposed for harvesting data. This kind of data theft and misuse is one of the main reasons so many of us receive junk mail, spam emails and unwanted phone calls.

Because of this, we’re now much more aware of the rights we have over our personal data. As a member of the public, we want our rights to be respected. And as a fundraiser, you should want to do everything in your power to respect the rights of your donors.  

Remember why data privacy matters

Data Protection Day, celebrated on January 28 every year, is a good time to take stock and reassess how you should be using the personal data of those that support your organisation. There’s no need to tread over old ground by explaining what the Data Protection Act 2018 says - I trust you know (and if you’re new to this, have a look at our guidance).

Instead, remember why it matters. All the hours spent digging through the legal stuff, reading the guidance, speaking to experts and trying to figure out what it means for your database, and for what?

For trust, support and sustainability. Donors don’t want to give their money to an organisation that doesn’t care about their rights and doesn’t respect their wishes. They want to choose who they support, and who they receive emails, phone calls, mail and even text messages from.

Be aware of (not wary of) the Fundraising Preference Service

The Fundraising Preference Service lets them do this. Any member of the public can use the service to stop unwanted communication from charities they no longer want to hear from. It’s just another option available that allows donors to exercise their right to data privacy. They might not choose to opt-out of communication from your charity, but at least they have the choice to do so.

And if you’re on top of the data protection game, the service shouldn't cause a problem. If you’re confident that your organisation is respectful of those who have given it money in the past, then knowing that there is another way for them to stop contact from you shouldn't worry you.

Debate about data, and the misuse of it, will continue to roll on in 2019. There is no easy fix. But how you handle the personal data of your donors, and how open you are with them about the options available, is completely up to you.

Learn more about the Fundraising Preference Service and what to do if you get a request to stop communication.