Protecting your donors and your sustainability, our conversation with FIA

Protecting your donors and your sustainability, our conversation with FIA

Many of us work in this sector to make a positive impact on society. But has the nature of fundraising in today’s digital world led to a proliferation of communication and around privacy concerns that sometimes challenge our core beliefs?

Have the negative experiences of our overseas counterparts; the rise of “leaking donor bucket” syndrome; – and the declining ability to acquire donors via traditional channels got you wondering where things have gone awry; what can we learn; and what can we do differently?

On our mission to create more sustainable giving practices in Australia, these questions and concerns are certainly at the forefront of our minds here at LemonTree Fundraising.

That’s why we recently sat down with the FIA’s Head of Code and Regulatory Affairs, Scott McClellan, to discuss best practice donor protection and others trends across the industry. Some really interesting market research was discussed and some powerful areas of focus resulted from our conversation. 

Handling Donor Preferences

Earlier this year FIA’s Code Authority commissioned mystery shopping of 30 FIA organisational members to assess their compliance with the Code. Donations were made in April via telephone and website.

To date no breaches of the Code have been recorded. Nevertheless, the monitoring found that most charities that received the unsolicited donation by telephone did not take the opportunity to ask the donor about their preferred method for receiving future communication.

By contrast, a clear majority of charities contacted via their website did enable the donor to choose their preferred method of future contact.

Similarly, receipts sent to donors generally had no option for the donor to alter their communication preferences. While there is no requirement to provide a communications preference choice to current donors, it is considered best practice to regularly offer it in the context of donor care.

Scott also mentioned “a current focus of Code monitoring is the treatment of donors who may be in vulnerable circumstances. This is a tricky area, demanding compassion and good judgement from fundraisers. The Code itself requires fundraisers, when they identify such a person, not to accept a donation.”

FIA has published a practice note to help members identify donors who may lack capacity to make a decision to donate due to their vulnerability.

Communication Compliance

Other topics discussed with Scott, included the changes we are seeing in the awareness of and preparation for the governments Digital Platforms Enquiry, Consumer Data Rights and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

As these privacy-driven controls begin to tighten, both the FIA and LemonTree Fundraising have observed mixed views across fundraising on high vs. low frequency of communications and which is in the best interests of the donor.

Interestingly, in what appears to contrast the increasing privacy-driven compliance measures, Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has declared overall communication complaint levels from Australian consumers are in decline. However this could be due to the mass reduction in telemarketing of the financial sector, as opposed to changes in fundraising telemarketing practices.

What did we conclude?

Protecting vulnerable people is getting better and easier with the ability to apply ‘vulnerable propensity’ scoring across your donor base and equip your donor support team with a flag on your CRM for the next time they communicate with a potentially vulnerable donor.

When it comes to the frequency with which you communicate with your donors, one size does not fit all. It’s no longer enough to be compliant with government and industry regulations; you need to be compliant with your donors. Begin capturing communication preferences on your donors as part of your opt-out process. Often they are more frustrated, rather wanting to stop giving completely.  Check out our LemonTree Fundraising preference/opt-out capture page as an example.

Finally, conversations increase learning which leads to change. We each play a part in the future of the fundraising industry; it’s important that we continue to share our experiences and learnings so together we can create more sustainable giving practices in Australia. We look forward to continuing our conversations with Scott and the FIA and encourage each of you to tap into your passion for social good and contribute to the discussion. Comment below or reach out to Scott at or myself directly.