Learn to thrive in this new world of data compliance

Learn to thrive in this new world of data compliance

Guest Bloggers | 13 August 2018

Some charities are well-equipped for this new world of data compliance we’ve entered, while for others attempting to ensure compliance and mitigating the potential damage is an ongoing challenge. Here, fastmap shares some of the problems GDPR has presented and how some charities have overcome them.

This piece will focus is primarily on consent in GDPR compliance (legitimate interest is another lawful basis of GDPR).

Clarity versus database volumes – the polar bear of GDPR

Clarity has become a key component of consent in GDPR. People must be aware what they are consenting to and if they give permission, it must be unambiguous and explicit.

The problem is, people aren’t as willing to consent as fundraisers would like. As people become more aware of what they are agreeing to, they generally become less willing to give consent.

In addition, the more that you include phrases such as ‘share with third parties’ or ‘wealth screening’, the less likely people are to consent. Interestingly, sometimes even saying ‘we will not share with third parties’ can cause apprehensions.

In this case, I think about the proposition that Fydor Dostoevsky, author of Crime and Punishment, posits:

“Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute”.

This holds true in a similar way with consent statements. Mentioning data processes that were normally hidden away in the background, whether positive or negative, will put them in the forefront of a donor’s mind.

This was one of the issues WaterAid faced in its research with us.

In one  example, a permission statement needed to be clear about sharing with third parties. This led to a tug-of-war between what the marketers wanted and what the legal team said was required. As a result, the statements were performing poorly.

The statements were changed to add reassurances, reminding people of the WaterAid cause. By the end of the research, the statements were performing above benchmark.

Jon Eserin, Individual Giving and Engagement Lead at WaterAid said a key challenge during the consent campaign was creating an engaging statement that reflected the brand and ethos, while ensuring transparency. “Our research allowed us to sense check a number of creative options and develop good learnings for further iteration,” he said.  

Download this case study to see WaterAid’s consent statements before and after they were optimised


Supporter-focussed compliance

Being supporter-centric was a consistent theme with the charities we’ve worked with. It makes sense that by ensuring your communications are relevant and valued by your donors, you are also making your supporters more open to future contact. This is especially important in the charity sector, when you consider that charities cannot incentivise their supporters within their communications in the same way that other sectors can.

Supporter-centricity was one of the main aims the British Heart Foundation has in its GDPR campaign. Through fastmap research, BHF tested a number of options that had supporter focus in mind. These included testing granular consent options and reducing levels of ‘bad consent’.

Maddy McManus, Marketing Manager at BHF said understanding what supporters expected and wanted was the main consideration in developing the GDPR approach and campaign. In addition to supporter surveys and insight, BHF tested the impact different approaches had on supporter perception of the charity as well as propensity to consent. This information was crucial in informing and justifying the final strategy that was approved by the Board of Trustees, Maddy explained. “We have exceeded our campaign targets, obtaining good levels of consent from existing and new supporters,” she said.

In our consent research, we’ve noted that GDPR is actually helping charities. By giving all of us a reason to optimise our consent statements, GDPR also means charities can improve the quality of consent, meaning they are more likely to have an engaged, contactable audience who will be less likely to opt-out in the future.


Evidence-based compliance

We worked closely with RSPCA during its consent campaign. It had a nine-step methodology, which proved extremely successful during its GDPR preparation.

After assessing the current approach (including financial risks), a supporter survey was sent to the database to assess people’s desires and expectations. The audience was segmented and shared what they liked and disliked about RSPCA’s marketing communications.

This helped inform the next stage of research, which included developing and optimising their consent statements. RSPCA used the same process as WaterAid and British Heart Foundation, which helped boost consent rates from both new and existing supporters.

Finally, RSPCA conducted a balance test, along with the use of legitimate interest. Through the development of a risk assessment matrix and CHAID analysis, it was able to understand the sorts of communication and data processes supporters found reasonable. RSPCA could then determine the actions that would likely result in complaints and produce a comprehensive, evidence-based defence in case the ICO came knocking at their door.

Learn more in our RSPCA case study


Overall, it seems charities are increasingly using research to support their GDPR strategies. It is an approach that is in line with a general paradigm shift towards donor-centricity within the charity sector. From our research, it seems particularly relevant for legitimate interest strategies.

By building communication strategies around evidence-based research, charities can find out what engages supporters and what deters them. This should help retention rates and hopefully boost fundraising without the over-farming of donor goodwill.


Tom Burke, Insight Executive at fastmap 


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