Fundraising Week: 'Opt-in-only systems will not be compulsory'

John Mitchison
John Mitchison

Charities will still be able to use opt-out-only systems for mail and telephone fundraising communications once new EU data protection rules come into force, according to the man who runs the Telephone Preference Service.

John Mitchison, head of preference services, compliance and legal at the Direct Marketing Association, told a debate: "The regulations make an allowance for telephone and direct mail to be done on an opt-out basis. The rules around consent will tighten up, but you don't need to give an explicit opt-in for those channels."

He told Third Sector later he was bemused that so many charity professionals appeared to believe opt-in-only systems would be compulsory from 2018. He said charities would require opt-in consent only in order to call supporters registered with the TPS.

In the case of donors who were registered with the Mailing Preference Service, he said, they would need only have to demonstrate an existing relationship to continue. The only channels that would require an opt-in-only system were those that already had one: SMS, email and recorded messages.

Several charities have said in recent months that they would move to opt-in-only systems for their telephone fundraising.

George Kidd, chair of the Fundraising Preference Service working group, told delegates it was possible the service would be needed only to cover the transition between existing regulation and EU legislation due to come into force in 2018. Kidd said there was a "fundamental issue" about using the FPS, based on an opt-out model, alongside the General Data Protection Regulation, which will require fundraisers to show recipients of direct marketing have opted in. He said it was unlikely the two regimes would "travel together for a long period of time". See Fundraising, page 50

Charities should be moving toward an "opt-in" system of fundraising, according to Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society. Giving the week's opening speech, Wilson said charities should be less concerned about the possible impact and requirements of the Fundraising Preference Service, and more concerned about European data-protection legislation, due to come into force in 2018. The General Data Protection Regulation, adopted this month, will from 2018 require all fundraisers to be able to show that all recipients of direct marketing have explicitly consented to receiving materials by actively opting in. But Wilson said charities should start preparing at once.

Online giving will represent almost half of all UK giving by 2020, according to Charlie Wells, chief operating officer at JustGiving. He told delegates he expected the proportion of giving that came through online channels to rise from 15 per cent in 2015 to almost 50 per cent by 2020. "The massive rise in mobile and the amount of time people are spending on mobile will force giving online," he said.

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