Information Commissioner in another warning to charities

Elizabeth Denham tells a Direct Marketing Association conference that activities they cannot happily explain to donors are unlikely to be legal

Elizabeth Denham
Elizabeth Denham

Any activities that charities would not happily explain to their donors are unlikely to be within the law, the Information Commissioner has warned.

Speaking at the Direct Marketing Association’s data-protection conference in London on Friday, Elizabeth Denham held up charity sector fundraising practices as an example of what other marketers should seek to avoid.

She said the Information Commissioner’s Office had received a complaint from one charity that requiring charities to tell people that they would use their personal data for purposes such as wealth screening – assessing how much money potential donors had to give – would put people off giving their details in the first place.

This concern was also voiced by several delegates at the Fundraising and Regulatory Compliance Conference in Manchester last week.

Denham said on Friday: "But that’s the point. And that’s where this is so relevant to everyone in this room.

"If you can’t happily justify what you’re doing to your customers, it’s unlikely to be within the law.

"You don’t have a fundamental right to take people’s information and use it however you see fit, even if it does help your marketing."

She said list-swapping schemes such as those she and her office had investigated had treated donors "like they were a basic commodity".

The fundraising investigations came at a time when people had never been more aware of their rights, but this had not led to a rise in consumer trust around data handling, she said. Denham called on all marketing organisations to put accountability to people at the heart of their practices.

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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