The RNLI has revealed the high cost it will shoulder to become the first major UK charity to adopt an opt-in marketing data regime after it predicted the move will leave a £36m hole in its coffers over the next five years.
While agency chiefs have slammed the strict opt-in recommendations in Sir Stuart Etherington’s recent fundraising review, branding them “dangerous” and “ludicrous”, the RNLI’s direct marketing agency of record, Proximity London, will be forced to either like it or lump it.
From January 1, 2016, the RNLI’s fundraising campaigns will no longer target existing or potential donors by telephone, email or direct mail unless they have given their explicit consent, even though the charity says the decision will cost it £35.6m between now and 2020 – just under 20% of its £190m income in 2014.
Of course, as one of the richest charities in the UK, there will be some who claim the RNLI can afford to take the higher ground. Other charities which rely heavily on bought-in and shared data will not have that luxury.
The RNLI predicts the move to opt-in will result in a loss of about £11m – about 6% of its income – in 2016, falling to £4.4m in 2020 as the charity finds new ways of clawing in income.
Leesa Harwood, director of fundraising at the charity, said in a statement: “The RNLI is making this change because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We’ve always prided ourselves on our ethical approach to fundraising and the RNLI has been investigating how to reduce its reliance on direct marketing since late last year.
“Events such as the tragic death of Olive Cooke have made it clear that this kind of change is overdue, so we’ve accelerated our move to an opt-in fundraising system.”
Harwood added that the charity understood that not all not-for-profit organisations were in the same position as the RNLI and that an opt-in system was not an easy thing to adopt. However, she insisted the RNLI would share what it learned with other charities to help other them reassess their own strategies.
The RNLI was one of 17 charities – including British Red Cross, the NSPCC, Oxfam, Macmillan Cancer Care, Royal British Legion, Save the Children and Cancer Research UK – which recently issued a statement apologising for failing to live up to the “high standards” expected by the public.
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