Photo credit: Photo by Dele Oke on Unsplash.
With some EU states proposing that residents should not receive unaddressed mailings unless they have opted in, our public affairs columnist Patrick Gibbels explains how this might impact charity fundraising and underlines EFA’s role in challenging these proposals.
In recent times, proposals have been raised in five European Union Member States (Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark and Germany) to change the current opt-out approach for receiving unaddressed printed advertising to an opt-in approach. Many non-profits rely on these ‘door drops’ to build awareness within the local community and beyond and encourage supporters to donate, raising concerns about the impact of restrictions to this fundraising channel.
Door drops and the opt-out system are a part of the EU’s 2005 Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. If the EU were to adopt an opt-in approach, non-profits would no longer be able to send unaddressed mailings to any households, unless they proactively permit them to do so. Few people are likely to do so, which would have a significant negative impact on fundraising organisations and their opportunity to rebuild income levels at a time where many are facing critical funding shortfalls.
The European Fundraising Association has signed a joint letter (along with Intergraf, FEDMA, the European Letterbox Marketing Association and others), calling on the European Commission to address this issue with the Member States concerned. The letter asks for clarification that any restrictions on this form of advertising need to take into account the principle of proportionality and must be compliant with EU law.
The General Data Protection Regulation has significantly curbed the way in which charities and fundraisers can reach out to potential donors. Moreover, the Covid-19 crisis has made it impossible to physically approach donors and make collections or to organise events.
Unaddressed printed postal mailing is one of the few remaining viable alternatives.
Recently, the Belgian Red Cross had to cancel its annual event whereby it sells stickers at crossroads and other busy places. Alternatively, they distributed 770,000 stickers in letterboxes across Belgium and called on people to donate online. Actions like these, which aim to offset some of the negative consequences of the current crisis, would no longer be possible under the Member States’ proposals.
Whilst it is understandable that consumers need a certain level of protection against targeted advertising and the (ab)use of their personal data, printed and unaddressed postal mailings do not pose a threat to anybody’s privacy. Usually, a simple ‘NO unaddressed mail’ sign or sticker is enough for a household not to receive these. An opt-in would indeed be disproportionate and unrealistic, as very few people will actively go out and place some sort of ‘YES’ sticker or signage. Therefore, many philanthropic organisations would be affected substantially by such a measure.
EFA will continue working with its partners, to sensitise decision-makers of the negative consequences further restrictions on donor outreach would have for the sector as well as its beneficiaries.
Joint response to Anti Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing
In another push for better lawmaking, EFA has contributed to a joint response (with ECNL, EFC and DAFNE) to the European Commission consultation on the Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Action Plan. The group will continue to collaborate to finalise its submission to the consultation, which closes on 29 July 2020.
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Follow Patrick @GPA_Brussels