Charities must no longer sell supporters' data, Institute of Fundraising says

The change is among several that will be made to its Code of Fundraising Practice after a review by the fundraising body's standards committee


A ban on charities selling supporters’ data is among the changes that will be made to the Institute of Fundraising’s Code of Fundraising Practice after a review by its standards committee.

The fundraising body’s standards committee carried out a review of the code in response to recommendations made by the Fundraising Standards Board in its interim report on charity fundraising practices this summer.

Some of these recommendations were accepted immediately by the committee at its meeting in June, and four task groups were created to consider other recommendations under four themes: the practice of sharing, selling, and buying data; frequency and pressure; enabling supporters to better manage their communication preferences; and telephone fundraising.

After completion of the review by the task groups, the IoF said today it had agreed that every addressed fundraising communication must carry a clear message explaining how donors could easily opt out of receiving future communications and that minimum font sizes would be introduced for opt-in and opt-out statements.

Charities will be banned from selling their supporters’ personal data for commercial gain, and will be able to share an individual’s data with third parties for fundraising communications only if that person has provided express consent, the IoF announced.

A clear requirement will be introduced to ensure fundraisers end telephone calls when asked, and all fundraising calls from agencies and call centres will have to be made from identifiable numbers.

The grey area around "reasonable persuasion" in the code would be replaced with a requirement prohibiting fundraisers placing people under "undue pressure" to donate, the IoF said.

But the IoF has not accepted all of the FRSB’s recommendations. The FRSB had recommended that the code should specify the maximum amount of times that a charity could contact an individual in a year, but the IoF did not accept this recommendation. The IoF said that changes to the code would help to ensure that people did not "feel overwhelmed by fundraising requests".

The FRSB had also recommended that the IoF review how charities communicate with older supporters. But the IoF accepted this recommendation in part only, arguing that it would not be "appropriate, and likely to be discriminatory" to treat individuals differently and exclude them from fundraising based on their age.

The FRSB recommendation that charities should regularly monitor the content and tone of telephone calls made on their behalf was also accepted only in part. The IoF argued that the code already "adequately sets out the responsibility of organisations" to monitor third parties or agencies.

Tanya Steele, chair of the standards committee at the IoF, said in a statement: "It is clear from the poor practices highlighted by the media and the increased number of complaints to the FRSB as a result, that the public feels that we have not had the right rules in place to govern fundraising.

"These changes, in response to the areas where the public have demonstrated most concern, are part of an ongoing commitment to strengthen the codes and give fundraisers clear and unequivocal guidance."

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said in a statement that it welcomed the IoF’s decision to make significant changes to the code. He said: "The IoF has accepted many of the FRSB’s recommendations from our interim report and we will review the detail of those changes with our board imminently."

The IoF said that all the recommendations would be reviewed by its legal advisers before being implemented as code changes.

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