Cancer Research UK has followed the RNLI by committing to using only opt-in data for all of its fundraising activity, including direct mail, despite admitting it will lose millions of pounds from the decision.
The policy, which will apply to new supporters from next month and to all supporters from April 2017, means that CRUK will be able to contact supporters only if they have given unambiguous and explicit permission.
The decision is in line with recommendations made in the Government-backed Fundraising for the Future Report, which at the time predicted that the EU data reforms would demand it.
However, this has proved way off the mark, with Brussels stopping short of demanding explicit consent for all marketing data. As the law stands, organisations need consent for telemarketing, email and text messaging, under the existing EU Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations. But CRUK’s new policy will also cover direct mail, where supporters have previously had to expressly opt out. With charities one of the biggest users of the medium, the move is likely to set off alarm bells at both Royal Mail and Whistl.
RNLI, which last year announced its own move to opt-in only data from January 2017, predicts its policy will leave a £36m hole in the charity’s coffers over the next five years, although CRUK admits it does not know how much it will lose from the decision.
Last week, it merged that up to 30 million people could sign up for the Fundraising Preference Service, a prediction which would not have gone unnoticed at the top charities.
CRUK executive director of fundraising and marketing Ed Aspel told Third Sector simply that the policy would cost the charity “millions in the short-term” but the exact amount would be determined by how well the charity communicated with its supporters in the future.
He said: “It’s difficult to say how much this will cost us, but the better we do it, the smaller the amount will be and the sooner we’ll be making more money.
“One of the reasons we’re doing new supporters first is to listen to them, understand what works best and make sure we’ve got the best experience when we move that to all supporters.
“We’re doing this because we think there’s a long-term gain to be had by doing the right thing by supporters and respecting their wishes. If they’re going to opt in and hear from us on their own terms, then we’ve got to give them a reason to opt out – and that’s about better relationships.”
Christine Andrews, managing director of DQM GRC, called the decision “brave and pragmatic”, as ultimately securing trust with supporters is far more important for a long term impact, particularly with new EU regulation coming soon.
She added: “Organisations need to get better at gaining consent and driving up their permission to market rates.”
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