Over the past year and more, the telephone has been a vital channel for fundraising and nurturing supporter relationships. Patrick Gibbels highlights the risks of the forthcoming ePrivacy Regulation, exploring how this could well put the brakes on telephone fundraising.
Every nonprofit organisation has a mission and a purpose, and fulfilling that purpose is its number one priority. To do so, they need to build and maintain capacity and resources. Fundraising is therefore a crucial part of the sector’s work, and donors form the lifeblood of the organisation.
COVID-19 and the many restrictions that came with it have significantly restricted the ways in which we can reach out to donors. Live events are near impossible to organise under the current circumstances in many parts of Europe, and visitor attractions and public fundraising are still limited. At least we still have the phone, right? Well, maybe not.
The EU has been cracking down hard on privacy violations in an effort to protect its citizens from data abuse. Whilst the primary targets of the EU’s crackdown are internet giants such as Facebook and Google, who have been known to harvest and sell citizens’ data, many other smaller players are becoming collateral damage. We all know the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by now and most of us understand how it protects consumer rights, but also how restrictive it can be in terms of data collection and outreach.
The e-Privacy directive is a piece of EU legislation that is closely connected to the GDPR but zones in even more on what data may be harvested. And the new ePrivacy Regulation, which will replace the current Directive, focuses specifically on outreach by telephone.
For years, the ePrivacy Regulation has been in a deadlock at European level, as the European Council refused to progress the file. During the second half of last year, the file started moving again and the institutions are now getting closer to an agreement. The Council made two amendments to the Commission’s proposal which could make telephone fundraising very difficult.
Article 16 states that organisations that engage in telephone marketing may receive a certain label and a special telephone prefix to be recognised as such. To make matters more difficult, the proposed article 14 states that telecom providers will be able to offer users to automatically block all incoming calls from such numbers. This would bypass donors’ consent to be contacted. If a customer who had consented to be contacted activates the prefix block, all fundraising calls – including those to current supporters, would be blocked by default. Needless to say, this could severely affect organisations’ ability to raise funds.
Personal data has become a commodity and abuse of these data by large online players is a real threat. It is logical that the EU legislators wish to protect citizens from this type of abuse. But applying a catch-all approach, which sadly seems to be the EU’s modus operandi in many cases, can be particularly dangerous in this case.
EFA calls on the European institutions to consider the magnitude of the impact this proposal might have on fundraisers and to adopt a risk-based approach, leaving this line of communications intact for those organisations that legitimately rely on it.
About Patrick Gibbels
Patrick is EFA’s public affairs columnist in Brussels. He is the director of Gibbels Public Affairs. Follow Patrick @GPA_Brussels.
Read more from Patrick in our View from Brussels column here.
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