Twenty years ago this coming June, a nightclub called The Haçienda closed in Manchester, England. For nearly 15 years, but mostly in the mid-to-late ‘80s, the Haçienda was the place to see, be seen, and dance to great music. Madonna took the crowd on holiday and The Smiths showed what a difference it did make in music history. Income from record sales from co-owners New Order helped keep the club afloat during the recessionary years.
But finally changing times, security issues… (for which read: drugs), and simple lack of income killed the venue in 1997. Now there’s an apartment building – called The Haçienda – where the heaving dance party once thumpa-thumpa-thumpa’d.
Half a mile away and two days ago at the Town Hall in Manchester, members of the professional fundraising community met during a day-long conference with representatives from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Charity Commission, and the Fundraising Regulator. Jointly organized by these three bodies, the mission of the Fundraising and Regulatory Compliance Conference (#FRCC2017) was to explain “the regulatory requirements and expectations for fundraising bodies and their boards under current and forthcoming data protection legislation” to an invited group of very interested parties.
The importance of this gathering for the fundraising community in the UK really can’t be overstated. Not all questions were answered, and certainly many of them were not answered to the participants’ satisfaction.
However, this conference was the beginning of what many hope is an ongoing discussion that could be informed by: future research into the sector that includes peoples’ attitudes to various fundraising practices; the practical needs of the sector in order to grow and thrive in uncertain economies; and guidance provided by the Fundraising Regulator and the ICO on how they will continue to interpret the Data Protection Act 1998, Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, and in the future, General Data Protection Regulations.
From a fundraising research perspective, the questions were many, but included these:
- Can a charitable organization still do prospect research and stay within the legal confines of UK data protection laws?
- Are wealth screenings now illegal?
- Can organizations use third-party vendors to update the addresses in their database?
- Can a charity identify and research currently-unaffiliated entities to find prospects for their organization?
- If someone approaches an organization wishing to make a significant donation, can the organization do research to be sure the donor isn’t a crook/thief/money launderer?
You may be surprised at the answers. And for those of us here in the US, you may be surprised that these are questions to be asked.
If this topic is of interest to you, there are places to get more information, and that is the purpose of this post today – to lead you to the resources that will help you understand what happened at the conference, and how the interpretation of UK data protection laws is slowly becoming more clear. The ways they evolve and are enforced will significantly impact how prospect research will be part of fundraising in the UK in the future.
For example, identifying and researching new major donor prospect will be very difficult unless the organization has a natural constituency. The regulations outline that an organization cannot do even basic research on a person without their consent. So how do you discover basic information about whether someone would be a good major donor prospect if you’re not allowed to research them without their consent?
Which organizations will survive and which will struggle?
Schools, colleges and universities will still be able to identify large prospective donors from amongst their growing alumni bodies, but not the wider community. Arts and membership organizations, like the RSC and National Trust, should be able to cultivate larger donors from amongst their ticket-buyers and regular givers.
But health and medical charities like the Alzheimer’s Society, and organizations that protect the vulnerable, like the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) could have a very rough time of identifying new, currently unaffiliated, major donors moving forward.
And looking at it another way, why should regular donors have to shoulder all of the burden for keeping charities afloat? If a wealthy person who has publicly expressed an interest in a cause is never made aware of a program in their own city that solves that issue because the charity’s hands are tied from contacting them, why should it just be hard luck for the people/animals/cause the charity serves? Should they just send out another appeal to the diminishing faithful? It’s not going to make charities any more popular. Or more sustainably funded.
There has to be an informed compromise, because without major donor programs, many charities won’t make it.
Despite its popularity and potential, the Haçienda was torn down. Ultimately the club couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with the major issues that impacted its survival. The building sat empty until the developers finally arrived.
How will UK charities face the changes to their new order? Which ones will thrive? And which will go flat?
For more information: (and if I’ve missed any, please let me know)
- Papers presented at the conference are posted, and major sessions of the conference were live-streamed. Selected video recordings are available here. Look here for papers from the day.
- The running commentary/live tweeting on Twitter during the conference was fascinating. Here it is in all its messy glory: https://twitter.com/hashtag/frcc2017
- From the Institute of Fundraising’s Head of Policy and Research, Daniel Fluskey, a post-conference roundup on the top 10 things learned: http://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/blog/ten-things-we-learned-from-the-joint-regulatory-event/
- From Civil Society’s Hugh Radojev, an article on the day’s events: https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/voices/hugh-radojev-fundraisers-and-the-ico-are-further-apart-than-ever-before.html
- Twitter highlights, curated by Civil Society:
- A post-conference BBC Radio 4 interview with Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. The segment is titled “Phantom Uber journeys, Pay-per-bid auctions, Working with arthritis” but the lead-in starts at 1:00 (one minute) into the program. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08fdb31