Go above and beyond the law on data, charities warned by Fundraising Regulator

New guidance published today says charities must do the right thing by their donors, aspiring to best practice rather than just compliance with the law

Donor data: compliance 'only part of the answer'
Donor data: compliance 'only part of the answer'

Charities should go above and beyond the requirements of the law when dealing with donors’ personal information, the Fundraising Regulator says in new guidance, published today.

The guidance, Personal Information and Fundraising: Consent, Purpose and Transparency, says that legal requirements and compliance are essential, but "only part of the answer" to data protection issues.

The 53-page document explains the legal framework around data protection, and gives case studies and examples to help charities assess their compliance. It calls on charities to agree and regularly review their approach to direct marketing.

The guidance acknowledges that there has been "a great deal of background noise" about "inconsistent guidance, differing views on legal interpretation, and impact on funding and beneficiaries".

But it says: "This is, however, to miss the point – charities must now do the right thing by their donors, aspiring to best practice rather than simply compliance.

"To ensure this happens, it is the responsibility of boards and chief executives to own a set of principles about how their fundraising teams will operate."

Gerald Oppenheim, head of policy at the Fundraising Regulator, told Third Sector the document was intended to be viewed as a guide to best practice, rather than a set of legal requirements or standards.

But he said: "We’ll do a further consultation, we hope in the summer, on how key parts of the guidance could turn themselves into rules for the Code of Fundraising Practice in due course, and of course it is the code that a charity would be judged against in the case of a complaint."

Stephen Service, policy manager at the Fundraising Regulator, said the regulator was unable to say at this point which elements of the guidance were likely to be transferred to the code.

"At the moment the first priority has been getting out some guidance to help and support fundraisers to ensure they’re compliant," he said.

"So I think in the next stage we need to think very carefully, not just about what particular aspect we’d like to include but also about how we word that in a way that will make it enforceable for our adjudication committee."

Oppenheim said the document was a "first edition" of the guidance and would be refreshed after the publication of guidance by the Information Commissioner’s Office on the General Data Protection Regulation, due to be implemented in 2018, although it does explain some of the requirements of the GDPR.

He said: "The document is to help charities and fundraisers better understand their responsibilities both in terms of the current landscape and forthcoming GDPR requirements when using personal information for direct marketing.

"We hope they will find it useable and useful. We’ve made it clear that we’re inviting feedback on it so that when we get to the second edition we can make any changes that help people use it better and more effectively."

He encouraged anyone who wanted to offer the regulator feedback to contact it by email.

If you’re interested in fundraising, you can’t miss Third Sector’s Annual Fundraising Conference on 23 and 24 May. Click here for more information and to book at the Early Bird rate.

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