The Institute of Fundraising has published a guide to help charities understand how they can lawfully undertake major donor fundraising.
Connecting People to Causes: A Practical Guide to Fundraising Research was produced in partnership with the law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite and the fundraising consultancy More Partnership.
It was launched at the institute's major donor conference yesterday.
Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the institute, said major donor fundraising and prospect research had become "hot topics" over the past year for two main reasons.
First, he said, the Information Commissioner's Office had issued fines totalling £138,000 to 11 charities last year for breaching data protection laws.
Second, said Fluskey, charities were preparing for the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, stricter data laws that are due to come into force on 25 May.
Fluskey said the guide would help fundraisers "do the right thing and ensure their work is done according to the law and the highest standard".
He said it would be particularly useful to arts and cultural charities, as well as universities, which had well-developed major donor fundraising programmes, as well as organisations looking to ramp up their major donor fundraising.
The 36-page guide covers areas such as how charities can process data, including how to use publicly available information to better understand donors, how and when to provide privacy notices to donors and how to undertake legitimate interest balancing exercises.
Lawrie Simanowitz, a partner at Bates Wells Braithwaite, said: "This guide addresses in a clear and accessible way, one of the most challenging areas of regulation for charity fundraisers: how to comply with data protection law when researching donors.
"It is an area that has recently become fraught with uncertainty."