Cancer Research UK to stick with opt-in only communications policy

The charity says it will not be following the RNLI in abandoning the approach

Cancer Research UK balloons
Cancer Research UK balloons

Cancer Research UK will not be following the RNLI in dropping its opt-in only stance for communicating with potential donors.

In 2016 CRUK announced that it would contact potential donors by phone, post or email only if they had actively given their consent for the charity to do so, bringing the policy into force in 2017. 

It followed the example of the RNLI, which had made the same pledge in 2015, after the fundraising scandals of that year and before the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, a stricter set of data-protection rules that came into force in May 2018.

The RNLI has been opt-in-only since 2017, but on Monday it announced that in the face of falling income and rising demand it would drop the opt-in-only policy and instead rely on the concept of "legitimate interest" to contact potential donors.

Under the GDPR, organisations that do not have consent to contact people can instead claim they have a legitimate interest in contacting people by post and phone for marketing and fundraising purposes, if the person can reasonably expect the organisation to do so.

In a recent column for Third Sector, Ian MacQuillin, director of the fundraising think tank Rogare, wrote that "across the sector, the move to consent as the recommended mechanism for GDPR compliance has been a total disaster". 

But Ed Aspel, executive director of fundraising and marketing at CRUK, told Third Sector the charity had no plans to move towards using legitimate interest rather than opt-in consent to contact people.

Aspel added that, although the charity had a smaller database of people it could contact as a result of moving to opt-in, "those who do choose to hear from us are more engage  and therefore more likely to support us".

He said: "We still feel that allowing our supporters choice is key.

"We receive no government funding for our life-saving work, so putting our supporters’ wishes first is incredibly important in helping us achieve our goal of beating cancer."

Aspel is due to retire in November after four years leading fundraising at CRUK. 

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