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GDPR: an opportunity to engage hospice supporters

Author: David Burland
25 September 2017

The latest conundrum for charities to deal with is the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018. Hot on the heels of the introduction of the Fundraising Regulator this legislation will affect any organisation that handles data. Here David Burland, an independent consultant with over 20 years experience in the hospice sector comments on some of the issues facing hospices around GDPR.

A whole industry has emerged in recent months with the aim of advising organisations on the potential impact of GDPR. Playing on some of the stories circulating, such as huge fines for miscreants and stringent enforcing of regulations, sales agents for this new industry have a worried audience. However The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has now taken to writing a weekly blog to dispel some of the more alarmist rumours about its impact.

In her first blog, she said: “It is scaremongering to suggest that we will be making early examples of organisations for minor infringements or that maximum fines will become the norm.”  Instead, she says their emphasis will be as much as possible on providing information and advice.

The second blog in the series stresses that consent is not the only legal basis for processing personal information data. This is well worth reading in relation to the issue of whether hospices can process personal information of families and patients without getting their express consent.

The largest hospice stakeholder group affected by GDPR is, of course, supporters, and this is where GDPR really does offer opportunities as well as challenges.

Firstly, this is the ideal chance to contact all supporters to explain why it is so important that they agree to receive future communications. This can be combined with emphasising other aspects of a hospice’s ethical approach to supporter communications. For example, letting them choose to receive certain types of mailings. So, you can turn a legislative necessity into a positive message of how you will respect donors’ choices.

Of course, this does not have to be done purely by letter. Hats off to Saint Francis Hospice in Romford for the tweet they sent out with a link to a video of hospice patron and TV presenter Richard Madeley. This talked about why people should agree to continue to receiving communications from the hospice. The video also featured on their website and Facebook page and was then followed up with a press and mail campaign.

Moreover, one of the great advantages hospices have over other charities is the regular “flow” of in memoriam donors, many of whom have personal knowledge and experience of the service.

Understandably, hospices have often long debated the ethics of adding these donors to their future mailings. I know that some hospices have decided not to do so, often normally without any external consultation. Is this not a somewhat paternalistic approach? Why not ask the people who made the donation what they want?

With GDPR, hospices have the perfect reason to ask them about their preferences for future communication in their thank you letters.  Some will agree, others will not. But they will have been given the chance and in a legal and ethical way.

Few, if any, other charities have large numbers of potential long term supporters whose first donation is not “bought” via an expensive recruitment method. Moreover, personal experience of the charity is the motive for their gift, so they will be more inclined to keep supporting.

GDPR will probably make many of the commercial and heavily criticised forms of supporter recruitment even more difficult and expensive. So an ethical, legal and respectful approach to communicating with in memoriam donors may be of great long term advantage to hospices.

There is no doubt that GDPR will bring big challenges to fundraising. Recent NfP Synergy research, “The Change that Charity Donors Want” (now available from their website), showed that 34 per cent of those asked would opt out of any future communication with charities. But GDPR is coming and if looked at carefully but creatively, may have its upsides as well as its downsides.

To learn more about GDPR Hospice UK are running a series of workshops across the country this autumn, for further information visit Masterclasses and Workshops

For more information contact David Burland


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