Charities need support to get ready for new data protection laws, Institute of Fundraising survey

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29 September 2017

Many charities need additional support and awareness to prepare for the new data protection laws being introduced from May next year, and smaller charities need the most help. These are the main conclusions from a new survey of charities published by the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) today.

The IoF’s Chief Executive has also today written to the government to ask them to work with charities and sector bodies to help prepare for the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) when they come into effect next year

The survey, conducted over the summer, found that while over three quarters of charities are in the process of preparing for GDPR, a huge 72% say there is a lack of clear guidance available at the moment. Nearly half of charities (48%) feel that they did not have the right level of internal skills or expertise in data protection and nearly 40% are concerned about limitations in their current database systems and the costs of upgrades. 

There are also significant differences between how smaller and larger charities are preparing.  Smaller charities generally feel less ready, while larger charities are more likely to report ‘getting a joined up approach across the organisation’ and ‘getting support and direction from the board’ as challenges. 

To help make sure that charities are ready for the new laws, the IoF, regulators and other organisations have been providing training and resources to help organisations to prepare, but this report shows that more action is needed.  The IoF has now written to government’s Digital Minister, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, calling for a strategic intervention working with the charity sector to prepare for these changes. 

With the Data Protection Bill currently being debated by politicians this is an important time to make sure that any support provided to businesses and other organisations is also extended to charities.  In particular, the IoF is calling for more awareness raising of the changes for smaller charities, working with charity sector bodies to offer more data protection training, a targeted grant scheme to help charities needing to upgrade their database systems, and a GDPR ‘hotline’ for charities in the 6 months before the law comes into place.      

Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Institute of Fundraising, said;

A large majority of charities are working to prepare for data protection changes but also that there is a clear need for much more support, especially for smaller organisations. It is really important that sector bodies, regulators, and the government all step up to help raise awareness of the changes coming and to ensure there is support in place to help charities through this transition.”

He added:

"The IoF will be launching a new suite of GDPR materials and support, including online webinars, in the months to come. This will help the fundraising community to prepare for the changes in data protection law, but we also need a wider approach across the sector."


Mandy Johnson, Chief Executive of the Small Charities Coalition, said:

I welcome the research that the IoF has done in this area. It does not surprise me to see that a lot of small charities have not yet decided how they are going to approach the GDPR. It is a complex regulation and there has not been enough support given to help hardworking volunteers and charity workers to understand exactly what they need to do - Small Charities Coalition are working to change that. We want small charities to be able to focus on the vital work they were set up to deliver, and be able to get to grips with the GDPR without drowning in paperwork."


Vicky Browning, Chief Executive of ACEVO, said:

These findings accurately reflect what we’re hearing from ACEVO members: they know working towards GDPR compliance is essential but many of them lack the resource and in-house skills to tackle the issue. Members from larger charities tell us they’re having to divert significant funds to dealing with the challenge, but this isn’t an option for smaller organisations. The sector is crying out for clearer guidance.”


Download the GDPR survey report


For further information please contact Mike Smith at  or on 07387 417579 / (0)20 7840 3790