Charity rules ludicrous, say agencies

Charity rules 'ludicrous' say agenciesDirect marketing agencies have slammed plans to ban the selling and sharing of charity donor data gathered without explicit consent, branding them both “dangerous” and “ludicrous”.
Last week, the Insitute of Fundraising said it would change its code of practice so that charities will no longer be able to sell or share data without valid consent, which must also have been gained or revalidated within the previous six months.
The IoF’s pledge follows recommendations made in the Etherington Report on the future of fundraising. It said that charities should lead the way when it comes to embracing explicit consent for marketing data – even though it is not yet a legal requirement, and – given the rows over the proposed EU data protection reforms – may never be.
Some agency bosses are concerned that the move will hit the sector hard, especially as there will be no grace period for charities to use data gathered six months before the new rules come in.
DM Focus managing director Adrian Williams told Third Sector. “[The IoF] has stepped into a very dangerous position because this recommendation goes above and beyond the Data Protection Act.
“The selling and swapping of data has massive implications for the sector. If this change goes through, it would have a huge impact on smaller charities that rely on purchasing charity data to get direct mail to work. Many charities are not too sure where to go.”
There have also been claims that donor data pools – such as Reciprocate, run by St Ives Group company Response One – would be rendered illegal. Williams believed such systems could be “wiped off the agenda”.
One agency boss, who did not want to be named, said: “Let’s face it, the sector is in a mess. For far too long charities have either thought they could get away with it or were ignorant of their responsibilities.
“Many smaller charity marketing departments are staffed by people who can barely spell ‘data protection’, let alone know how it affects their donor base. They just get us in and brief us to design a mailing, seemingly without a care in the world about whether their data is opted in or not. That doesn’t even cross their minds.”
A second agency chief, who would also only speak anonymously, added: “To expect charities to put their houses in order immediately is ludicrous. Many have databases dating back five to ten years. If they have to revalidate that data or delete all the information that is over six months old, most will be left with nothing.”

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