It’s no secret that in the not-too-distant future, organizations in the UK and the European Union could lose access to between 50% and 85% of their donors if they don’t get some form of permission — from those donors — to send communications.

The Agitator has written about this here … offered a free download of the DonorVoice white paper on Opt In/Opt Out … held several free webinars and live sessions on the subject … and pointed our readers to research on donor consent here.

Alas, lots of folks either still don’t seem to get the message. Or, perhaps they’ve chosen to ignore the coming regulations and simply pay the fines.

Whatever the reason, it’s painfully clear that through sloth, stupidity or deliberate design too many organizations are doing nothing — or doing a little quite poorly — to prepare for the eventuality of Op In/Opt Out.

I was particularly struck by this comment I came across on a Facebook fundraising group thread. It involves the approach a prominent organization — MSF/Doctors Without Borders — is taking where their regular, monthly donors are concerned.

“My wife gives via monthly direct debit to MSF along with a handful of other charities.  The donation is in her name, from our joint bank account and it was a joint decision to support them.

“Yesterday she received a letter from them.  As is often (but not always) the case with charity mail from organizations she supports, she didn’t get round to opening it, and I know it was likely to have ended up in the bin.

“Professional interest led me to open it.  It was a pre-GDPR permissions clarification.  They’ve not been writing because they ‘don’t have a clear record that you would like to hear from us.’  If we don’t respond to this letter they will never write to us again.  If we want to hear, she has to go on the website or return the form.

“I don’t think we’d noticed they weren’t writing, as we only stated supporting them about 6 months ago.  At some point, we would have noticed that absence of feedback—and perhaps wondered if our contribution was valued.

“So I would argue that regular donors would have a reasonable expectation that a charity to whom they give regular donations WOULD keep them informed of progress.  At some point, a regular donor who has not said ‘don’t contact me’ will realize they have heard nothing, and may wonder if they are valued by that charity—increasing the likelihood of a lapse.  Which suggests to me a clear legitimate interest for the charity in keeping in touch, albeit with clear and simple signposting of how to opt-out.

“My view is that charities going down this consent only route for regular donors are playing with fire.  I wonder if MSF did a privacy impact assessment on the implications of their decision?”

AND … I wonder why in the world these donors hadn’t received any communications in the six months since they joined as regular donors? Or why the importance of the opt-in communication was so camouflaged that it risked being tossed un-opened into the bin? Or…or…or?

My point isn’t to single out MSF. They have plenty of company. It’s simply to once again stress two fundamental points:

  • Organizations who are not approaching the Opt-In/Opt-Out issue with as much skill, attention and investment as this issue warrants are, as the writer notes, “playing with fire”.
  • And organizations — whether in the UK or anywhere else — who ignore and don’t regularly communicate with their monthly donors, assuming they’ll continue honoring their monthly commitment, deserve to be burned.

I’ll trade you all the high-priced fundraising execs in in the world for a thinking donor service manager.






This article was posted in: Communications, Direct mail, Donor Centricity, Donor Centricity - Case Studies, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Nonprofit management.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.