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"To honour and protect"

  • Data protection, the secret to a lasting donor relationship

    Over the summer the charity sector was faced with a host of uncomfortable headlines. This has rightfully led to some deep soul searching. Data protection was one area which was subject to particular scrutiny.

    Localgiving feel strongly about the need to protect donors. For this reason, we recently compiled a simple help sheet aimed at improving your understanding of how the Data Protection Act applies to charities and community groups. Make sure you take a look so that you know what you need to do to protect donor’s personal information and ensure you don’t break the rules when sending out marketing communications.

    If you’ve seen our help sheet for data protection, and you understand what you can and can’t do, read on for some practical tips to make it easier to do the right thing.

    1. Create a simple donor database to help you keep things up to date

    We strongly recommend creating a donor database to keep your information accurate and up to date. Any basic spreadsheet software programme such as MS Excel can be used to easily do this. All you need to do is create a table with at least 3 columns like the one shown below:


    Each time you get a new donor you can just add their information to the next row in the table. Then make sure you keep this up to date with any changes that your donors let you know about. If they tell you they no longer wish to receive communications from you then you need to update their record in this table. 

    You can also record more information in this database about your donors - for example their address or telephone number and the number of times or amount they have donated to you. Just make sure you keep things up to date. You can download our template to help you get started with managing your communications here.

    If you have a Localgiving account you can use the marketing report available in the “My Donations section” as a basis for your donor database. You can download it regularly to see if there have been any changes. Don’t forget if a donor has contacted you directly to say they don’t want your to contact them, you should not send them any more marketing information, even if they haven’t updated their Localgiving record.

    2. Check your donor database before you send out marketing communications

    When you would like to send out an email to your donors you should check your new donor database to make sure you are not contacting people who have said they don’t want to be contacted.

    3. Always ask donor’s permission before sending them marketing communications

    You should always ask new donors whether they are happy to receive future marketing communications from you when they first donate. If they donate to you directly you must ask their permission. Include a statement similar to the one on the right on forms your donor fills in.

    If they donate through Localgiving we will have already asked them. If they agreed, their contact details will be shown in the marketing report.

    4. Include simple instructions for opting out of future messages in all marketing communications

    You should explain how your donors can opt out of future marketing messages each time you contact them. For example include a statement at the bottom of all your emails to say:

    “If you no longer wish to hear from our fundraising team please reply to this email and we will remove you from our mailing list”.

    You should make sure you update your donor database each time someone tells you they don’t want to be contacted anymore.

    5. Protect donor’s personal information when sending out email marketing

    If you are using a simple email client like Gmail to contact your donors, you need to make sure you don’t accidentally share your donor’s email address with everyone on your mailing list by adding all the email to the “To” or “Cc” field.


     You can do this easily by using the “Bcc” function when sending out an email. Put your organisation’s email in the “To” box and then add your donor’s email address to the “Bcc” box. This will ensure that each donor can only see their own email address.

     6. Make sure everyone in your organisation understands their responsibilities to protect donor’s personal information

    Don’t forget to make sure that everyone in your organisation knows what they need to do. Everyone should follow data protection rules when it comes to sending marketing information to your donors. Always provide training to new employees and make sure to offer refresher training to existing employees at regular intervals.


    This blog post is intended to help small charities and community groups get started with Data Protection. For more detailed information and advice specifically aimed at charities please visit the ICO website here.