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April 03, 2024

Potential changes to direct electronic marketing rules concerning non-profits

Potential changes to direct electronic marketing rules concerning non-profits

Date updated:
Potential changes to direct electronic marketing rules concerning non-profits

What is the change?

The current draft of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (the “Bill”) is set to extend the “soft opt-in” exemption to allow electronic marketing to be sent by not-for-profit organisations (including charitable companies and relevant faith sector organisations) without prior consent if certain conditions are met. At present, non-profit organisations may only send electronic direct marketing to those who have specifically consented to it. 

What does it mean?

The “soft opt-in” will allow non-profit organisations to send electronic mail (e.g. emails and texts) to supporters where the purpose is to further charitable, political, or other non-commercial objectives. Contact details must be obtained in the course of someone expressing an interest in, or offering/providing support to further that objective. 

This would enable charities to send information about their work, fundraising campaigns and donation appeals to those who have previously engaged with the organisation without the need for consent, provided certain criteria are met. This has the potential to allow non-profits to expand their marketing lists, create more prospective cross-selling opportunities, and ultimately reach a wider audience and raise more funds.

What do you need to do?

If these changes are implemented, non-profits will need to familiarise themselves with the rules for utilising the “soft opt-in” so that it can be used effectively and compliantly. For instance, supporters must be given an opportunity to opt-out when their details are collected and in every subsequent communication. 

The “soft opt-in” extension should be introduced with thought and care, and in a responsible and respectful way, ensuring beneficiaries and supporters only hear from organisations in the ways that are relevant to them. Organisations will, for example, need to ensure that their CRM systems are able to store multiple permission statuses for legacy data alongside new data gathered under the “soft opt-in”.

It is crucial to be aware that reliance on the “soft opt-in” would only be possible moving forward. It will not be an opportunity to re-contact people who never opted in or have specifically opted out in the past. If you would like specific advice about your marketing practices or other aspects of privacy and information law, please contact the Information Law Team.