The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

Posted in Legacies & In Memory Donor Management & Behaviour

Will GDPR impact legacy fundraising?

Although the new General Data Protection Regulations  sound daunting, they present an opportunity for legacy fundraisers to improve ways of working and collaborating, and to increase supporter engagement.

GDPR, which comes into force in the UK on 25 May 2018, will replace the 1998 Data Protection Act, but many of its core principles remain the same, with additional obligations and enhanced rights for individuals introduced in certain areas.

The new regulations will undoubtedly bring about changes to the whole legacy process, from fundraising through to administration, and it is vital that those working across all charity departments are fully aware of the regulations, their implications and what they will have to do to comply.


One of the key conditions of compliance with the new rules is consent. Consent will be required to make or send any direct marketing communications by e-mail and text, or by phone if the number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service. This may be relevant, for example, if you wanted to keep next of kin and family members updated on the work of your charity in the future, or encourage them to give an in-memoriam gift.

Legitimate interest

However, there are some situations where it is acceptable to contact someone who has not given direct consent. This might be if you need to comply with a legal obligation, to protect the vital interests of the person you hold data on or another person, or to carry out a task in the public interest or the exercise of official authority.

It is also acceptable to contact someone when it is deemed to be in their legitimate interests.

In the case of fundraising and legacy  administration, legitimate interest will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The key here is to consider whether legitimate interests are “overridden” by the interests of the person you hold data on. In assessing this, the Information Commissioner’s Office recommends the following three-stage test:

  • What is your legitimate interest or that of a third party?
  • Is the processing of the personal data necessary to pursue that legitimate interest?
  • Even if it is, would the processing affect the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of the individual in such a way and to such an extent that it is unjustified? (the ‘balancing test’).

So, if it is purely an administrative communication, then it will be possible to send these to executors and next of kin because it is likely to be within the charity’s legitimate interests to do so.

It is also vital that as part of the new regulations, you make it as simple as possible for people to withdraw their consent and opt out of receiving communications from you. So, ensure that on all methods of communication it is easy and straightforward for people to say they no longer wish to receive this information from you.

Potential opportunities

GDPR is already encouraging charities to consider their obligations more than ever before – leading to better understanding and, in turn, practice. It’s encouraging conversations between teams who may never have spoken before, helping each better understand the other’s role and responsibilities.

It has prompted charities to review their overall donor stewardship and communications programmes, which will not only help to ensure compliance with the new regulations, but also presents a great opportunity to optimise fundraising activities.

For legacy fundraising, the inability to rely upon the more traditional channels such as direct mail and telephone marketing means other new methods will have to be utilised. This should lead to a more personalised, donor-led approach to legacies. A greater focus on face to face, community, retail, networks and cross sell should also more proactively engage others within our organisations with legacy fundraising – thus supporting the development of an organisational-wide legacy culture and strategy.

Renewed ways of working will ultimately ensure that more people have the opportunity, in the most appropriate way, to consider leaving a gift in their will. And we hope that this will lead to an increase in vital legacy income to fund the work of charities.

Chris Millward, CEO of the Institute of Legacy Management


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