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New EU data protection proposals ‘could devastate direct mail fundraising’

The Direct Marketing Association and Institute of Fundraising are urging charities to respond urgently to new EU proposals on data protection, warning that they could have huge consequences for fundraisers that rely on direct mail.

IoF chief executive Peter Lewis wrote to the EU Vice President and UK MEPs last week to complain that the proposed rules around donors’ consent to be mailed needed changing if charities were not to lose a great deal of money.

The proposed changes amend the definition of consent and would mean that a potential donor would have to opt in to receive direct mail, even if they are already giving to a charity.

According to the DMA, the new regulations would “rule out any contact that isn’t expressly permitted by your prospects: signalling the end of targeting online ads, direct mail and cold sales calls unless you can prove explicit consent”.

The Institute has suggested adding a “soft opt-in” extension to the definition of explicit consent. This would enable charities to count an individual’s donation as a form of ‘affirmative action’.

“This would strike a balance, respecting the rights of individuals, while also allowing charities to undertake relevant direct marketing activities,” said Lewis.

Institute chair Mark Astarita, who is also director of fundraising at the British Red Cross, says that changing the existing opt-out to opt-in would have a “devastating” effect on the Red Cross’s fundraising.

He said the charity expects to attract 120,000 new supporters through door-drops this year, and the value of these new donors would be more than £4m net over the next five years.  But there would be no point in conducting such campaigns if prospective donors have to actively opt in first.

Other contentious proposals identified by the DMA are: the end of analytics; prohibition of profiling; individuals’ right to be deleted from records; and the hidden costs of creating new data systems, retraining staff and keeping compliance records.

The DMA said it welcomed the modernisation of data law, much of which pre-dates the internet era, but the proposals as framed could have potentially devastating consequences for those involved in the direct marketing business, as well as the wider economy.  This could “kill off the good of the digital age along with the bad”, it said.

The DMA and the IoF are urging those affected to write to their MEPs to object to the proposals.

This article was taken from Civil Society – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/fundraising/news/content/14858/