In recent months, changes in the UK data protection landscape, including a shift in the interpretation of existing regulations and confusion over what might be considered a breach of regulations, has caused ambiguity. Understandably, many nonprofit leaders are indicating a hesitancy in moving forward with activity that might endanger reputation, donor confidence, or delivery of mission.
Recently, on the basis of ongoing work between the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), the Charity Commission, and the Fundraising Regulator, additional guidance on key data protection issues was released. This includes reference to how nonprofits may lawfully and transparently acquire, process, retain, and render secure personal data.
We continue to encourage nonprofits to consult with legal counsel to ensure full compliance with all regulations.
The Heart of the Matter
In the face of continuing uncertainty, there are a number of options available to nonprofits:
- Ignore: Pretend nothing has changed, conduct business as usual, hope for the best…and run significant risk!
- Panic: Halt activity and cease contacting donors until there is absolute clarity on all regulations, eliminating one type of risk but placing donor relationships and mission delivery in jeopardy.
- Take Positive Action: Grasp an opportunity to engage with existing supporters on a data-related issue that may be top of mind.
The first step for nonprofit leaders is to open their team members’ minds to the potential for a constructive internal assessment of fundraising activity and behaviours, and a re-devotion of efforts toward longstanding donors and friends.
While the new data protection landscape is, as yet, a little hazy, there are some clear benefits to measures that improve both the reality, and perception, of donor acquisition and stewardship practices. Nonprofits all stand to gain from regulations that drive integrity and transparency and remind development professionals to show a little TLC:
- Take care of existing supporters, respecting their wishes and preferences
- Listen to the concerns of potential donors
- Concentrate efforts on communicating with those who truly wish to engage
Step Up, Step Out
Hiding in the office doesn’t build confidence and loyalty, financial or otherwise. Nonprofit leaders in particular need to get ahead of the news cycle and get in front of supporters, embracing the chance to:
- Speak to existing supporters about how their organisation is engaging with data protection
- Seek advice and input
- Communicate their vision with passion, and emphasise a continued need for philanthropic and voluntary support
Though newsletters, personal letters, and emails form part of this effort, picking up the telephone, making visits, as well as holding roundtables and town halls will have an even greater impact and signify a real willingness to nurture relationships.
Seek and Enable Ambassadors
Across sectors and causes, we see time and again the considerable role nonprofit ambassadors can play in generating interest and enthusiasm, encouraging involvement, and making asks.
Investing time in existing major donor relationships – thanking and recognising; inviting honest feedback; providing financial and impact reports – enables supporters to develop confidence and pride in the value of their contributions. This, in turn, allows them to speak to friends and peers with authority and energy, opening the door to new, receptive contacts.
This is the first post in a series that looks at the positive steps that can be taken to embrace the challenges thrown up by this rapidly shifting problem, to return to fundraising fundamentals, and maintain progress and momentum, especially in the major gifts space. For the next post in this series, the author will return to the subject of data protection, offering our insights into how nonprofits running major gift campaigns can reach an interested audience with powerful messages despite research, processing and segmentation constraints.
About the Author
Eibhlin Morley is a CCS Vice President with breadth and depth of experience across multiple sectors and in numerous countries. Over the past decade she has directed fund-raising campaigns; helped transform development functions, and provided strategic counsel to clients spanning higher and secondary education; healthcare; arts and heritage; medical research; faith; and national and international non-governmental organisations.