Door-to-Door Alert in the Corridors of Power

Forewarning of unintended consequences from new data protection rules

Reflecting on a fascinating insight into the world of fundraising, I was fortunate enough to be at the House of Commons yesterday to hear the All Party Parliamentary Group on Charities & Volunteering discuss fundraising standards. Of note among the speakers was the BBC’s Lydia Thomas who directed the story of Barbara Smith in Selling Barbara for Radio 4. Ninety-year old Barbara was the unsuspecting victim of her personal data being traded by some of the charities she supported, something that the Fundraising Regulator was set-up to stamp out. Key to this is the introduction, next year, of new data protection rules (GDPR) but it sounds like there’s going be some unintended consequences. Melanie Sallis, head of supporter marketing at The Woodland Trust and already busy on a mission to gain ‘good consent’, warned that tighter compliance will shrink databases, distract staff and reduce income. She predicts that some charities may dial-up their door dropping activities or, worse, door-to-door knocking to try and make up the shortfall. Be warned: as well as living in fear of the doorbell, every charity that you support will be contacting you shortly to ask if it’s OK for them to carry-on contacting you in future!

One item of good news was that the hotline for small businesses to gem up on the new rules will be available to charities too when it goes live on November 1st.


Meanwhile there was a consensus that we’re witnessing a culture change in fundraising (albeit at the start) that is not only bringing about higher standards but more engaging campaigns. So Give’s Sanjay Joshi was keen to point out the benefits of letting supporters know exactly what difference they’ve made to the World via their donations and The Woodland Trust acknowledged that the art of giving is becoming much more of a two-way communication thing. Taking that one step further, why shouldn’t a charity offer something in return? An ample supply of feel-good factor is the traditional form of reciprocation but it needn’t stop there. One idea - here on Back of the Sofa - is to harness the buying -power of a group of supporters and invite them to help themselves which, in turn, produces an income for the charity. For example, asking supporters to sign up to a ‘Collective Switch’ not only hands them a really competitive tariff for their home energy bills but generates up to £20 per household for the charity concerned.


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