Obey data privacy law, but don't alienate donors, says IoF's Daniel Fluskey

The head of policy at the Institute of Fundraising tells its major donor conference that charities must move beyond the simple legal issues of fundraising data

Daniel Fluskey
Daniel Fluskey

The debate about fundraising and data privacy needs to move beyond the legal issues to focus on the donor experience, according to Daniel Fluskey, head of policy at the Institute of Fundraising.

Speaking at the IoF’s major donor conference in London this morning, Fluskey said fundraisers needed to be creative to ensure they were complying with the law without alienating donors.

His comments come after the Information Commissioner's Office released a document warning that the Data Protection Act required charities to fully explain how they planned to use any donor data when they collected it, including if they planned to carry out wealth screening.

Fluskey acknowledged that legal issues were at stake, but said the challenge facing fundraisers was "about more than just the law".

He said: "We need to be talking about why this is not just a technical legal issue. this is about people's experience; this is about giving people a great experience of fundraising.

"It's about understanding why we do it, and it’s about developing and improving the experience that we give our donors.

"Of course we need to be legal, of course we need to make sure we're following the rules, and we've got the right guidance to be able to do that. But we need to be up-front and clear about how and why we use data and how we're asking for it from individuals."

Fluskey said fundraisers would have to think creatively to make sure their privacy notices were not "clunky and formulaic", but instead helped to engage donors.

"So when we ask people for their details, how well are we asking that?" he said. "Are we making a compelling reason about why it’s great that you're willing to share that data with us and how it’s going to give you a better experience?

"Are we phrasing it in a way that will make people actively want to have that kind of relationship, or is it going to be in very legalistic terms and conditions?"

In the same session, Hannah Lyons, an associate at the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, said that under the legislation major donor fundraisers had to contact potential donors as soon as possible after researching them to alert them that their data was being processed.

The issue was the subject of much debate at a conference on data protection run by the ICO, the Fundraising Regulator and the Charity Commission last month. Delegates at that conference questioned how they could issue privacy notices to potential major donors before researching whether they would be able to give, which would technically count as data processing.

Lyons told this morning’s gathering that charities would probably be considered to have processed the data fairly if they researched the donor, then notified them that they had researched them as part of the initial contact or in follow-up contact.

But she warned that fundraisers would need to notify the person even if they had concluded the person would not be in a position to donate or be interested in donating.

She said this could be done through a more general mailing, but would have to make specifically clear to the person that their data had been used.

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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