Institute of Fundraising lobbies for changes to 'devastating' EU data plans

Peter Lewis, chair of the IoF, says requiring donors to opt in to allowing their data to be used for marketing purposes would harm direct mail fundraising

Peter Lewis
Peter Lewis

The Institute of Fundraising has called for changes to "devastating" European Union proposals to reform data-protection rules, which it says would lead to less money being raised for good causes.

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the institute, has written to Neelie Kroes, vice president of the EU, and three UK MEPs, raising concerns about the impact that new data-protection legislation will have on direct mail fundraising.

Under the proposals, a potential donor would have to opt in for their data to be used for marketing purposes, even when they already give to a charity.

Explicit consent would have to be obtained by "clear statement or affirmative action", according to the proposals, which are aimed at strengthening online privacy rights and building trust in online services.

The IoF believes charities might face a substantial loss of fundraising money if the plans go ahead and has called for a "soft opt-in" extension to the definition of explicit consent, which would allow charities to count an individual’s donation as a form of affirmative action.

"This would strike a balance, respecting the rights of individuals, while allowing charities to undertake relevant direct marketing activities," said Lewis in a statement.

The letter says: "Charities know that establishing and maintaining a relationship with the public based on trust and confidence is a prerequisite of successful fundraising.

"However, as currently drafted, the regulations do not strike a fair balance – they are disproportionate, limiting and likely to increase costs to charities."

The IoF said it would be working with charities this month and next to review amendments to the regulations and identify appropriate changes. It has also called on members to write to their MEPs about how the changes might affect them.

Mark Astarita, chair of the IoF and fundraising director at the British Red Cross, said his charity expected to attract 120,000 new supporters through door-drops this year. "The lifetime value and generosity of these new donors will be worth more than £4m net over the next five years," he said.

But he fears that an opt-in requirement would be "simply devastating".

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