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How charities can gain and keep supporters’ trust through strong data privacy practices

As purpose driven organisations, charities must demonstrate strong ethical behaviours across all aspects of their organisation. Not only to those they help, but also to those that make their work possible - their supporters.

Charities in the UK are highly respected across the world. In fact, a recent survey has placed charities as the third most trusted sector in the UK, an increase of one place since 2018. Despite this, trust levels have not improved to their peak of 2014. This highlights that if trust is lost, it can take a significant amount of time to re-build it and often at a significant cost. There are many ways trust can be lost, it could be through fines, reputational damage and rebuilding of supporter databases.

But what actions can charities take specifically to gain and keep supporters’ trust? One important piece to an unquestionably large and complex puzzle, is data privacy and consent management

What you need to know in a nutshell

  • Charities must be clear to the supporter about the benefits and the use of giving data and consent
  • A loyal database may take longer, but can be critical as a foundation of building and maintaining trusted relationships
  • Consider a higher level of transparency to obtain relevant information at the relevant touchpoints
  • Privacy can be a catalyst for deeper relationships and higher levels of fundraising income

In this article

Charities must transparently display ethical data practices

Maintaining a good supporter database is imperative to a charity’s marketing activities. So, the information collected needs to be accurate and accessible. When asking for marketing opt-in consents or other important data, a charity must be clear to the supporter about the benefits of giving their data and how they plan to use it.

Beyond this, best practice suggests that supporters should be provided with a mechanism that allows them to update the information and permissions they have given, at any point in time. This is an important step in the process as if you give people access to a preference centre, where they can pick and choose the information and frequency that suits them, you reduce blanket unsubscribes over 60%. Your communications and fundraising teams can also be confident that the data they have is detailed and accurate, which helps improve campaign engagement rates.

How to adopt a privacy first approach in 3 steps

A well-thought-out engagement strategy needs to incorporate a privacy first approach to data capture and a well-structured experience for the supporter. Put yourself in the shoes of the supporter and consider what processes are right for them. Your loyal database may take longer to grow but you can be confident the foundations are ethical and transparent - critical for building and maintaining trusted relationships.

Some simple steps that highlight to supporters that not only are you doing the right thing, but you take privacy seriously, include:

  1. Be fully transparent at the point you capture data.

    By being clear about how you will use their information, you bring privacy to the forefront of the journey and go beyond compliance as a tick box exercise. It’s easy to hide your data practices away in a privacy notice, but is that really the right way to inform people?

    We know from our own research and have seen the same in other studies, that most people simply don’t read privacy notices. And when they do, the notices are not written in a way that is easy for them to understand. By setting the standard and making it easy to follow, you’ll be one step ahead of everyone else.
  1. Consider where and how you collect and process data using the supporters consent.

    The definition of valid consent is well documented within the GDPR. The consent request must be clear, unambiguous and for specific purposes. This means that you cannot ask supporters to agree to Terms and Conditions and assume that they have consented for you to use their data.

    Also, supporters do not want or expect to be faced with multiple irrelevant requests for data when, for example, they simply want to donate to the latest campaign. In fact this leads to consent fatigue, and they are likely to drop out of the whole process, so carefully think about when and where you ask for consent.
  1. Ensure the purpose for which consent was granted is clearly stored and respected by everyone.

    It can be difficult to manage this within legacy systems, but there are dedicated solutions that can collect and manage granular consents and preferences in one central place. By introducing consent and preference software into a supporter account area gives them more opportunities to tell you what they are interested in, which further improves engagement in your campaigns.

And while taking a privacy first approach to collecting consent may seem like a nuisance at first, it can directly impact your bottom line. The DMA found:

The bottom-line benefits of having these [consent management] systems in place are clear, too. The industry professionals we surveyed estimate that for every £1 spent on consent and preference management systems, they receive somewhere in the region of £37-46 in return.

Download the Magnificent Seven.

Our guide 'Seven ways consent can boost supporter engagement' shows you best practices to attract more supporters and collect data. The download is for free. 

Privacy is a catalyst for building deeper relationships

A higher level of transparency can help you obtain more information at relevant touchpoints during the supporter journey. If your data practices are made available to supporters when they interact with you, they can make a clear and informed decision over whether they want to provide you with the information you request.

This builds supporter trust. As their trust grows, their relationship and commitment to your cause deepens, and they will be more willing to share data with you and donate more. When supporters share more information about their preferences, you understand them better and no longer have to rely on assumptions, which improves your return on Investment.

It is clear how privacy can be a catalyst for building deeper relationships with your supporters, higher levels of fundraising income, and longer commitment to your cause, especially when it is built on  ethical data practices.

Do you want to implement more transparent data practices into your organisation or wondering what to do next? Download our Charity’s Guide to buying a consent solution. It addresses all the challenges you may face and highlights the areas you need to consider when making a decision.

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About the author

Ren Watson

As a results-focussed analyst, Ren has worked in many industries including finance, charity and start-ups and became interested in data protection as a focus over the last decade. Using her analyst skills alongside her data protection expertise, she has consulted with charity, media and energy companies to understand their data protection requirements and has provided guidance and support for implementation of multiple privacy programmes. Today, she provides multi-functional support and awareness within DataGuard and to clients to promote privacy beyond compliance.

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