Large fundraising organisations that undertake mass-fundraising campaigns should refresh the consents they use to contact donors by phone at least every 24 months, a working group set up by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has recommended.
The group, which was chaired by Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, which itself agreed to renew its consents every 24 months earlier this year, also says in a report published today that charities of all sizes should regularly ask donors they speak to by phone if they are happy to continue hearing from them in future.
"Periods of refresh will vary depending on the type of institution and fundraising activity," the report says. "However, it is proposed that large fundraising organisations that undertake mass fundraising campaigns should refresh consent at least every 24 months."
The working group has been meeting since the start of the year to decide on proposals for how charities can best meet the public’s expectations of them as well as navigate the complex and changing data regulation environment.
In its report, it says that charities should acquire an individual’s consent for fundraising through all channels of communication and should always offer their supporters a way to opt out of phone calls and letters.
It says that charities should minimise their reliance on indirect consent and "legitimate interest".
If a charity relies on indirect consent, it says, it should take a cautious approach and make sure the people it contacts have a "reasonable expectation" of being contacted for fundraising purposes.
For example, it says charities should only call people whose phone number was obtained through a third party if that person had given their consent to receive contact from that specific charity.
By direct mail, however, charities can get in touch as long as they have reason to believe the person has an interest in their cause or work, it says.
The group says it made this proposal less strict because direct mail is a less intrusive form of contact than telephone.
The report says that if a donor cancels their regular gift, charities should no longer consider that individual’s consent to receive fundraising communications as valid after 24 months have lapsed.
It also says that charities should not generally engage in teleappending or telematching - using databases or directories to find supporters' telephone numbers - particularly if a person has moved house or changed their circumstances and not informed the charity.
The report recommends that charities should not approach individuals using the legitimate interest criterion more than once a year and that when they do, they should explain how the person’s data was obtained and what their legitimate interest is i.e. why they think that the individual might be interested in their cause or work.
It says that where donor data was acquired a long time ago or donors have been inactive for a long period, charities should refresh and update the consent they have. But it says the length of time will depend on the intrusiveness of the channel of communication, the type of institution and and the nature of the relationship with the donor.
The proposals have been welcomed by the Fundraising Regulator, which will consider whether to incorporate them into the Code of Fundraising Practice.
The Red Cross’s move to renew its phone consents every 24 months was announced by the Information Commissioner’s Office in February, marking the conclusion of the regulator’s investigation into the charity’s adherence to Telephone Preference Service rules.
It emerged in August, following a Freedom of Information request from Third Sector, that the ICO had originally requested that the charity commit to renewing its opt-in consents every 12 months but that the Red Cross had refused, saying this would result in supporters being contacted more frequently.