Dawn Varley, chair of the Institute of Fundraising’s data task group and a member of its standards committee, resigned from both positions yesterday, two days before the task group was due to meet for the third and final time to agree the recommendations it would make to the standards committee.
The data task group – which was set up in June to look into whether the IoF should amend its Code of Fundraising Practice to introduce standardised "opt-in" wording for data-sharing – was due to meet on Wednesday to agree on the standards charities should have to comply with in relation to the buying, selling and sharing of data.
Varley, who is the lead consultant at the charity database consultancy Purple Vision, declined to comment on the reasons for her resignations when contacted by Third Sector, but she had tweeted on Sunday: "You learn a lot by reading the papers sometimes."
This was the same day The Sunday Times carried a front-page story in which a group of major charities, coordinated by the IoF, called for changes to the fundraising regulation system.
In the article, Richard Taylor, chair of the IoF, was quoted as saying he expected data-selling by charities to be tackled by the introduction of an opt-in system through which donors would be explicitly asked if they were willing for their data to be passed on to third parties.
He said that such questions should not be "buried in the small print" and he expected hard-to-read text would be banned.
Varley declined to say whether she had been privy to the IoF’s plans for data-sharing before reading it in the press.
A source close to Varley told Third Sector that she had decided it was no longer worth her while to dedicate her time and energy to pulling together the data task group’s recommendations on Wednesday and then presenting them to the standards committee at its meeting on 16 September.
She sent her resignation letter to Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, Tanya Steele, chair of the standards committee, and the chairs of the other task groups, each established in June to work through the recommended changes to the code that the Fundraising Standards Board had requested.
The other task groups – which specialised in the frequency of donor approaches, how donors can manage their preferences more easily and telephone fundraising, and were respectively chaired by Beth Upton, director of the agency Money Tree Fundraising, David Cunningham, chief executive of the Scottish charity the Archie Foundation, and Alan Gosschalk, director of fundraising at the disability charity Scope – have already held their final meetings, although none of them have yet made their recommendations to the standards committee.
The task groups were set up by the IoF to respond to concerns about charity fundraising after the death of the poppy seller Olive Cooke in May.
Lewis told Third Sector he was not yet aware of Varley’s resignation and he would need to establish what had happened before making any comment.