Key Messages from the Fundraising and Regulatory Compliance Conference

24 Feb 2017 Sandra Bailie    Last updated: 19 Sep 2017

This conference was organised by the three regulators to set out the regulatory requirements and expectations for fundraising bodies and their boards under current and forthcoming data protection legislation. 

Around 300 trustees, decision-makers and fundraisers heard from UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, Paula Sussex, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission and Gerald Oppenheim, Head of Policy at the Fundraising Regulator during the conference at Manchester Town Hall on Tuesday 21 February.

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner (ICO)

Elizabeth started by quoting Admiral Grace Hopper saying “the most danagerous phrase is - we’ve always done it this way". She urged people to review their fundraising practice and be brave enough to make the necessary changes to ensure the long term trust and respect of donors. 

"The most successful organisations think of data protection as something more than mere compliance. Everyone must stop focusing on the paperwork of privacy and move towards commitment to the people whose data they have – commitment to managing personal data legally, sensitively and ethically."

We need to:

  • handle personal data fairly and lawfully
  • tell donors what we are doing with their personal information
  • only use personal information as people would reasonably expect
  • respect that donors have right to make choices about how their information is used
  • give people control of their personal data in order that you have their trust
  • have leadership in the boardroom on this issue
  • have ethnical transparent practice
  • ensure consent is freely given, informal and unambiguous

Paula Sussex, Charity Commission for England and Wales

Paula reinforced that public trust and confidence is key and one of the building blocks to this is ensure fundraisers are honest and ethical. Trustees carry full responsibility for their charity and they have to ensure proper standards of governance are maintained.

"Charities are subject to the same legal requirements as all other organisations and we expect them to properly safeguard personal information according to the law.Trustees should have systems in place so that there is the right level of knowledge and awareness about the rules and expectations, and that they are adhered to. This conference is designed to help charities understand and meet these obligations."

She outlined the key fundraising principles for trustees, also found in their guidance CC20:

  • Plan efficiently
  • Comply with fundraising law
  • Follow recognised standards
  • Supervise your fundraisers
  • Protect your charities reputation and assets
  • Be open and accountable

Paula encouraged us to take a fresh look at donors to our charity and put donors first, saying that we are more likely to increase donations to our charities where people feel in control of their personal data. 

Gerald Oppenheim, Fundraising Regulator (FR)

Again, Gerald started by saying that the core purpose was building public trust in charities and that the 3 regulators are committed to working together with others to ensure charities are equipped to deal with the issue of consent. He said that the FR was there to "Help make more fundraising possible in the best way possible" and that its role is to help people to get to the right place through advice and support. He mentioned that the guidance - Personal Information and Fundraising: consent, purpose and transparency - and directed people to the guidance, case studieschecklist and consent self assessment tool available on the FR website.

The Code of Fundraising Practice outlines the standards of best practice for all charitable fundraising organsiations and is a useful practical tool.  The code is currently under review and he encouraged everyone to give their feedback by responding to the consultation before 28 April 2017.

Like the other speakers he urged charities treat donors ethnically and with respect, ensuring that they have given clear consent, saying "We appreciate that reviewing and renewing donor databases to ensure proper consents are in place will be resource intensive and could lead to a loss of income in the short to medium term. It will not be pain free as the case studies show. But it is unavoidable, it is a legal requirement and compliance is what all three regulators expect."

Gerald was followed by two case studies from The Children's Society and Rethink. More detail on these and the other case studies is available here.

Henry Rowling, The Children's Society

In January 2016 The Children’s Society began the process of creating a new Supporter Engagement strategy. The trustees and the executive team agreed that they should move from short-term product-led fundraising to long-term relationship building with our supporters. This long-term approach suggests that loyalty and long-term value is driven by a two way relationship which recognises the uniqueness of each supporter and the story of what they can bring to the cause and beneficiaries. They recognised the high stakes involved and that it was a "leap of faith". But as a result of reviewing their fundraising practice and asking if they were behaving in a way that demonstrate that they value their supporters they have in fact changed their charity fundraising model forever.

Some examples of things they changed:

  • Reduce investment in recruitment channels with high cancellation rates
  • Use a different set of metrics to longer term measures of success
  • Reduce number of solicitation communications and increased engagement communications (with no direct ask)
  • Increase call listening with telephone agency
  • Work beyond silos

  • Create a quality experience for the donor
  • Increase investment in innovation
  • Change of team name from fundraising to supporter experience
  • Involving the whole organisation

For this to work they have the commitment at senior management and trustee level, are committed to listen, adapt and learn and have the whole organisation involved. They want to reinvigorate the joy of giving for the donor and value the role of all of their supporters.

Emma Malcolm, Rethink

As part of implementing a new five year fundraising strategy Rethink decided that they needed to look at how they contact people, as they didn’t want their communications to impact negatively on anyone. They wanted to treat every supporter or potential supporter with respect, honesty and clarity, and listen and act appropriately. They were also considering the changes to fundraising regulation, the introduction of the Fundraising Preference Service, and GDPR on its way, so it was a great opportunity to look at the way they speak to our supporters and make sure that firstly, it’s better than best practice well before 2018, and secondly, it’s exactly how their supporters would expect to be treated.

Some examples of things they have changed:

  • opt in policy across the board and make it easy for people to opt out of fundraising at any point
  • consult on all new fundraising products
  • have “our supporter promise” – 11 promises
  • ensure that database team are on side
  • consent lasts for two years and if people don’t interact within this time they take them off

They recognise that they may not see the results of this for some time but felt that they needed to build trust with their supporters. There is more pressure on fundraising team to raise money – need to look at areas to grow eg corporate. It is vitally important that all teams talk to each other now about their communications. They also know they need to make sure we are looking after their supporters not just interested in growing all the time.'s picture
by Sandra Bailie

Head of Organisational Development

[email protected]

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