New Restrictions on Fundraisers for UK Nonprofits: What You Need to Know

 “The new regulations have been tightened as a result of public dissatisfaction with current fundraising methods. Contravening them, as well as possibly being illegal, is very unlikely to endear you to your donors and potential donors in the UK.”


What’s Changed

Many readers of this post may have followed at least some of the events that have unfolded in the UK charity sector since May 6, 2015, when a 92-year-old resident of Bristol and a collector for the Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal (the fundraiser supporting current and former personnel of the British military), took her own life. It has since been established that this was a result of long-term and severe depression.

Nevertheless, following news stories in the British press around the level of fundraising mail and telephone contact she was receiving, a narrative quickly developed in the media that she had been “hounded to death” by charity fundraisers.

As a result, on August 18, 2015, the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) jointly issued a much more stringent set of guidelines for permission-based marketing and fundraising.

These guidelines have serious implications for telephone, email, and SMS fundraising and marketing practice—in both mass communications and one-to-one contact. Although this has always been the case, a key piece of guidance from the ICO around the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR) has been revoked, which restricts how nonprofit fundraisers and marketers are able to operate in Britain.

Below are highlights of what these changes mean for fundraisers operating in the UK and best practices for complying with the new guidance (excerpted from the new GG+A white paper, “The New Era of Consent,” which you can download here).

Key Points for All Educational Fundraisers and Marketers

Charities (including universities and schools) may not make a marketing or fundraising call to any individual who is registered with the UK Telephone Preference Scheme (TPS), even if they have called them in the past with no objections, unless the individual has provided to the charity:

+ His or her telephone number

+ Explicit permission to call—this may be written, online, or in a conversation

+ “Informed consent”, i.e., could be reasonably expected to understand the intended purpose(s) of future calls

The charity must be able to demonstrate how and when such consent was given.

Administrative or genuine market research calls to individuals on the TPS are permitted, as long as these calls do not seek to obtain information that might be used in further marketing to that individual.

In other words, charities may not call individuals on the TPS to obtain their consent to continue to phone them in the future. This would be defined as a marketing call.

Charities may not send emails, texts, or automated voicemail messages to people for marketing or fundraising purposes unless:

+ The individual has given that specific charity explicit permission to contact them by such means

+ The individual can be said to have given informed consent, i.e., could be reasonably expected to understand the intended purpose(s) of future communications

+ The charity can demonstrate how and when such consent was given

As with telephone calls, charities may not send emails or texts to people to ask for their consent to continue to email or text them in the future. These, again, would be classed as marketing communications.


This article was originally published in full as a GG+A white paper by Adrian Salmon and Kristin HellerDownload the entire paper here

“Opt-In, Opt-Out? How Changes to Guidance on Privacy and Electronic Communications Affect Fundraising in the UK” was presented by Adrian Salmon and Kristin Heller at the CASE Development Services Conference 2015 in Birmingham, UK on October 9, 2015. Download the presentation.

To learn more about the guidelines and compliance for organisations operating in the UK, visit the Information Commissioner’s Office website.

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About the author

Adrian Salmon

Vice President

Adrian Salmon, Vice President, GG+A Europe, brings 25 years of direct-marketing fundraising experience in the higher education, arts and culture, and wider nonprofit spheres. His particular expertise includes digital engagement and stewardship, direct mail fundraising, annual giving program management, and management of contributions from integrated mail and online appeals. Before…