Not according to fundraising consultant Ken Burnett who warned that it will be an “unnecessary, unhelpful calamity for causes and donors”. In a blog on 101Fundraising.com Burnett was reacting to the draft guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office on consent under the General Data Protection Regulation, due to come into force in May 2018.
Burnett argued that many charities would lose those who may be happy to donate in the future, just not at the point, if they had to go with opt-in. He highlights that “Some charities have estimated that, if obliged to go the opt-in route, they will lose 50 to 85 per cent of their donors,”. This could be a higher attrition rate than some fundraising models’ adopted by charities could cope with. He suggested that the regulator might have been better focusing on what delivers the best donor experience, as the opt-in route has the potential to not benefit the charities or those wanting to donate.
While many organisations are looking at the new opt-in system with mixed feelings and reasonably, it would seem, some trepidation, one charitable organisation has already had positive results asking people to say ‘yes’. The RNLI became the first organisation in the sector to announce that it would move to an opt-in-only system of communications, a bold move made in October 2015. According to many reports Tim Willett, the head of funding strategy at RNLI has said that it had been much better received than expected. The charity has spent almost £3m on its project to move to opt-in, which it calls Blue Skies. Writing in Fundraising Magazine in March 2017 Tim Willet said “We are delighted that currently we have over 450,000 people who have opted in, which is double our original, conservative, ambition of 225,000. We originally projected that we could lose £36m over the coming five years, and we are currently reviewing this figure now that we know who has opted in to understand the impact.” So, opt-in might not ultimately be the best option, but it could look a whole lot better than it seems.