Five evolutionary observations on GDPR in the charity sector – one year on
Observations from the front-line
As a CRM database provider, we had a clear insight into challenges GDPR posed in the run up to 25 May 2018. It was the hot topic in support calls, user workshops, demonstrations and sector events. In addition, we collaborated with customers to evolve our CRM software, adding a free GDPR consent tool. At the close of 2018 we surveyed the sector about charity readiness for GDPR, the impact so far and the ongoing role of CRM systems. This year, we’ve been running a data management roadshow for customers. Here are some of our observations about how GDPR has evolved in this time.
1. GDPR has been a business driver for organisations investing in CRM databases since 2016 when the regulation was written.
Prior to the 25/05/2018 deadline to adhere to GDPR, prospective customers often cited GDPR as a reason for CRM procurement. For example: “GDPR presented us with a fantastic opportunity to look at our processes around holding, storing and using data.” Addressing GDPR is still important although it is now more of a ‘given’ in such conversations.
2. People were alarmed and panicking at the start.
Initially, for many, GDPR was an emotional subject: people worried about data loss and the financial impact of this. In our research, a respondent said GDPR “…made us nervous about talking to our donors.” Another said, “It will get us all in line but fear of mistakes is a big threat.”
3. GDPR made charities look inwards at their data use and information handling processes.
An indicative comment from our research is that GDPR “…has proved to be a valuable exercise in data-cleansing and improving our data-keeping, but it has also been time-consuming.” Another said, “We’ve had to start from scratch.”
4. People started to see the threat as an opportunity.
GDPR became recognised as an opportunity to build closer donor relationships with the most engaged supporters – reducing costs. A respondent commented: “What we thought was a negative situation, is now possibly positive as we are not wasting resources on dormant contacts.” Another said, GDPR presents both an opportunity and a threat, “…as small charities are going to suffer through opt-in options. But it will also clear the system and true active fundraisers will stay.”
5. Support desks busy in run up to 25 May 2018.
I am sure every database provider in every industry saw busier support desks in the run up the enforcement of GDPR. Understandably, we had a number of clients looking for guidance, concerned how GDPR might impact their fundraising.
It has been a lot of work but our clients are working well with GDPR and have taken it as an opportunity to clean their data, review their data retention processes and build even closer relationships with their most engaged supporters.
Clearly, GDPR remains an important issue for the charity sector and CRM providers. However, things are moving on from GDPR being so dominant in conversations. In our recent data workshops, client debate has progressed from GDPR to deeper integration and impact reporting. It is the case that CRM systems are more frequently the hub around which all data is managed. AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning will create more intelligent use of CRM data, enabling more sophisticated engagement with supporters.