Building a willing audience is at the heart of the incoming data protection regulation, so charities must consider their approach carefully to take advantage of the opportunities it presents. Richard Turner explains more…
If you are a fundraiser in the UK, you’ve probably noticed by now that a four-letter word is being frequently used. I am referring to ‘GDPR’ or the General Data Protection Regulation – few people actually remember what it stands for, so it has become a four-letter word in its own right. ‘Get Donor Preferences Right’ is my alternative version.
At the heart of data protection is transparency in how you use an individual’s data, so wherever your organisation is based, I suspect data protection is coming your way.
In the UK there has understandably been a rise in seminars to help you understand the implications of GDPR as the commencement date of 25 May 2018 fast approaches. The law has that affect, along with the threat of fines – but do not be afraid.
Adopt the right mindset
Listening to a seminar by Daniel Fluskey, Head of Policy and Research at the Institute of Fundraising, giving some sound guidance at a recent conference, I couldn't help but think that adopting the right mindset could make a big difference to how you approach individual data use and how you communicate this (which is, in short, what GDPR is about).
It is important to consider GDPR carefully as you have some critical choices ahead such as ‘consent’ and ‘legitimate interest’ or even a mix of the two. There are some pitfalls to avoid that are too extensive to discuss here – much like a café offering all variations of ‘coffee’ – which is why approaching the regulations with the right mindset will help you.
If your mindset is to target as many people as possible, GDPR probably feels like yet another obstacle to overcome. That mindset comes from a model of harvesting names and capturing details so you can target people for future appeals and fundraising – yet interrupt-style marketing is no longer effective. In a world where everyone is drowning in an abundance of information, people do not like being aimlessly 'targeted'.
Build a willing audience
People’s attention is scarce, so you need to build an audience. An audience tends to be, more often than not, willing participants. So, if you adopt a mindset of engaging people who want to hear from you, GDPR will help your organisation.
Building an audience forces you to understand the people who support you, which will help you create meaningful content that attracts and sustains the attention of individuals. Charities have two audiences after all; beneficiaries and donors. This will encourage you to think about how you can provide added value in your communications.
This kind of mindset might help you get buy-in from the rest of the organisation too, which can help deliver that added value – and GDPR is likely to make colleagues, even trustees, pay attention.
Focus on donor experience
Donor experience is key, along with their influence as advocates for your mission; in the same way that customer experience is considered important for a brand.
This means you need to think of providing a donor experience that goes beyond tick boxes and communication preferences. Instead, provide one that people enjoy so that they will want to come back for more. Better still, they will talk about what your charity is doing and if you make people feel part of solving a problem, they will also want to hear about your progress.
Apply GDPR effectively
With this mindset, applying GDPR – or its equivalent wherever in the world you are – takes on a different meaning. The aim is to build an audience of individuals who want to hear from you, who welcome your material and look forward to the communications you send – so much so, they want to tell others.
However, there is a danger that reacting to GDPR will absorb a huge amount of your organisation’s energy and time, and become tick box exercise in itself. If that’s the case, you will miss the real opportunity of adopting a new mindset to take advantage of the fact that everybody, including your supporters, is a new channel for your communications.
I'll be chairing the Successful Fundraising Post GDPR conference on 6 December 2017 in London where you can hear experts provide guidance and advice on the upcoming regulation. For more information, or to book your place, click here.
Richard Turner is Founder of iFundraiser and Former Chief Fundraiser at SolarAid. He will also be chairing the Successful Fundraising Post GDPR conference on 6 December 2017.