Charities need better systems for dealing with data complaints, regulator warns

Charities need to ensure they have good systems in place for responding to requests from members of the public wishing to cease contact, the Fundraising Regulator has warned.

Speaking at the Voluntary Data Conference in London today, the regulator’s chief executive Gerald Oppenheim said around a fifth of all complaints to the regulator between 2017-18 were in relation to how supporter data is managed.

“One fifth – a significant number in itself – related to 15 individual investigations. Whilst you may say it’s not a large number in overall terms, it’s significant for us,” Oppenheim said.

“Very often, complaints of this nature were in relation to somebody saying to the charity: ‘I asked you not to contact me again for direct marketing purposes, but you’re still doing it’,” he added.

“So it was clear there were some charities that weren’t taking enough – or swift enough – action to deal with requests from supporters wishing not to be contacted.”

Oppenheim also stressed charities must make sure they have systems in place to manage the third parties they work with, such as the fundraising agencies that are using charity data. He warned charities to make sure contractors are compliant too.

Despite this, the fundraising chief said charities were responding well to GDPR.

“There has been a short-term hit on fundraising income as a result of GDPR for some charities, but most are predicting a growth in income over the next three years," he said.

The regulator launched its new Code of Fundraising Practice, which follows a consultation in autumn 2018 and is the first major redraft of the code in almost a decade.

Improvements have been made to style, presentation, clarity and accessibility to make it easier for fundraisers, charities and third-party organisations to understand the standards expected of them when fundraising.

The regulator is urging organisations to ensure their fundraising materials, training and policies are updated to reflect the standards in the new code.

To help with the transition, the Fundraising Regulator has produced a mapping document and deletions and mergers log to show where old rules and sections have moved to, which will be available online until November 2019.

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