5 Questions to Ask the ICO

The Information Commissioner, the Fundraising Regulator and the Charity Commission are due to meet fundraisers in Manchester tomorrow, on Tuesday 21st February, for the Fundraising and Regulatory Compliance Conference. The ICO have produced a conference paper for delegates to read prior to 21st, which can be accessed here.

The paper, amongst other things, sets out the ICO’s view of data protection in relation to Database Screening and, it seems, prospect research – although, whilst it mentions ‘Screening’ specifically, the paper rather ambiguously only refers to other [research] “…activities such as profiling individuals”. We do need to get some clarification on what they mean by this but, from the context, it does appear to refer to researching donors and supporters using public domain sources and/or using information not supplied directly by the data subject (so, prospect research).

The paper initially outlines why an organisation should use a privacy policy to explain how they make use of data. It then explains the ‘legitimate interests’ condition in relation to the DPA. In this sense, the paper is useful in outlining that charities need to be honest and fair in their processing of data. This is something that cannot and should not be argued with. As we have said before (e.g. here and here), all charities must make sure they have robust, fair and easily accessible privacy policies which openly explain how they collect, store, use and process data.

The conference paper outlines situations in which such a policy must be communicated to a supporter, some ways this can be done, and even when it is not necessary / practical to do so. This is all useful and welcome information. We now hope that perhaps the Fundraising Regulator will issue some sample privacy policies at the conference on Tuesday that provide examples of the language that charities can use to comply with fair processing of data for fundraising.

However, the paper then states that it is ‘highly unlikely’ that charities will be able to rely on legitimate interests as a condition to process data for Database Screening – specifically using third party providers or involving any personal data not supplied by the data subject – or for ‘profiling individuals’. Instead these activities will require explicit consent from data subjects. This is because, the ICO states, these activities are a) not ‘compatible’ with processing data collected from a donor at the point of donation and b) not within the ‘reasonable expectations’ of a donor.

Please read the conference paper. Think about how it will affect you and your work and highlight any areas you feel are not clear. The conference on 21st February is a very important event and the questions we ask (and the answers we receive) about this paper are likely to have a long-term effect on fundraising and research. If you are not going to be at the conference on Tuesday, you can pass any questions that you may have about it directly to the ICO (send them to events@ico.org.uk and ask for them to be forwarded to the relevant dept).

Below are 5 of the questions we would like to ask, now that we have read the paper:

  1. The ICO say in its paper for this conference that individuals are “highly unlikely to expect” certain types of data processing. In the ICO’s press release announcing the British Heart Foundation and RSPCA monetary penalties they are quoted as saying “millions of people who give their time and money to benefit good causes will be saddened…” to know that charities would ask them for more money.
    1. Does the ICO have evidence that shows what donors expect?
    2. There is, in fact, strong evidence to support the fact that processing of personal data for research is within the reasonable expectations of many donors; a recent study concluded that 78% of donors said that better research before they are approached by a non-profit is the most significant area of improvement in fundraising in the past 10 years. Therefore, if fair processing is adhered to and prospect research is within the reasonable expectations of donors, then can the ICO confirm that charities can rely on legitimate interests to undertake this type of activity?
    3. Sources
      1. ICO, Fundraising and regulatory compliance, 21st February 2017
      2. ICO investigation reveals how charities have been exploiting supporters, 16th December 2016
      3. Breeze & Lloyd, (2013); Why Rich People Give. London, DSC.
  2. Tesco’s Privacy Policy, which customers using its loyalty card must accept, says: “We may also use personal data from other sources, such as specialist companies that supply information, online media channels (online media channels include websites, social media sites, pay TV providers and any other channels that become available to us), our Retail Partners and public registers (for example, the electoral roll)”. They state that they do this in order to provide a better service and experience to their customers.
    1. If a charity used this same statement in its privacy policy, could charities use the public and private domain sources listed by Tesco in research so as to provide a better service and experience to donors?
    2. If not, why not?
    3. Source: Tesco Privacy and Cookie Policy
  3. The paper for the conference says: “It’s legitimate for you to process personal data in order to properly administer donations received from individuals”. The paper suggests throughout, as highlighted above, that “administering donations” is the only purpose for which a charity would use data collected at the point of donation or at the point a supporter joins a charity database. It suggests, therefore, that fundraising (including the market research necessary for raising funds) is not a compatible purpose for processing donation information.
    1. Is it?
    2. If not, why can, for example, Tesco use transaction information for more than simply administering a transaction (see their privacy policy linked above)?
    3. As charities rely on fundraising to carry out their work, is it not within their legitimate interests to use data collected from supporters for fundraising purposes, providing that fair processing and the rules of PECR, the MPS/TPS/FPS etc. are all adhered to?
  4. Here is a common story: a charity Board member meets an individual at, say, a cocktail party. The Board member comes back to the charity fundraiser with the individual’s name and says “X is interested in what we do. And he is wealthy.” The ICO says in its paper for this conference: “Far more intrusive are activities such as profiling individuals, particularly where this involves getting more information that the individual has not given you, either directly or via third-party companies. In these cases the legitimate interest condition is highly unlikely to apply. So you’d need to seek the consent of individuals before doing such processing.”
    1. The X named by our Board member is not a donor. We have no permissions or opt-ins or opt-outs. Can we look him up on Google or LinkedIn or Companies House without his permission?
  5. The Charity Commission imposes a duty to check on donors and potential donors. The Charity Commission recommends that trustees understand their donors and asks: “Have any public concerns been raised about the donors or their activities?” The Commission suggests that “full use should be made of internet websites” to check on donors. This is directly contrary to the ICO guidance which would not permit the use of public domain information until the donor has signed up to our privacy policy.
    1. Given that we want to research a potential donor before she does this, whose guidance should we follow – that of the ICO or that of the Charity Commission?
    2. Source: Charity Commission for England and Wales, Tool 6: Know Your Donor – Key Questions

These are just some of the questions we feel require clarification from the ICO and we’ll be submitting these prior to the event. We will also be attending the event on Tuesday and we’ll report back on what happened as soon as possible afterwards through this blog.

Please also keep an eye on Factary’s Twitter feed during the day as we will attempt, where possible, to Tweet any significant points or answers to any questions raised during the conference.

Thanks, Alastair

I have just had this lovely email from Alastair James, Senior Consultant at Global Philanthropic. He read my book, ‘How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe’ and wrote:

Dear Chris

I just wanted to say what a wonderful book you have written.

It is a fascinating volume, full of interesting and well-researched material, and I have learned a lot by reading it. You have approached the subject with the rigour of a true academic, but you have written it in a very engaging and accessible style.

I have come away with an overwhelmingly positive impression of philanthropy in Europe from reading your book, although you have also been very clear about the lack of information available in the sector. The fact that foundations are starting to be more open is a very good sign.

I also think that, in the current difficult climate, the book provides a lot of encouraging messages for fundraisers – not least the fact that fundraising has been going on for a long time in Europe, and will, for sure, continue to do so.

My warmest congratulations to you on this superb book.

Best wishes.


Alastair James
Senior Consultant
Global Philanthropic


Chris Carnie is the author of “How Philanthropy is Changing in Europe”, published by Policy Press. He writes in a personal capacity.

Factary and Europe

Dear customers, friends, colleagues

A brief note to reassure you that Factary will continue to provide services – consulting, prospect research and training – across Europe despite this morning’s referendum vote.

We will be following the negotiations closely and will continue to act, as always, in the best interests of our customers, our colleagues in the non-profit and philanthropy sectors, and of the beneficiaries that you serve.

We will monitor any implications that this vote may have for cross-border philanthropy and fundraising, and we are ready to discuss any concerns that you may have in this area.

Do feel free to contact us to discuss any questions that you may have, at any time.

All the best

Chris Carnie
Martine Godefroid
Marc Low
Nicola Williams

Our new website

Thanks to the hard work of a team at Factary led by Shaun Gardiner we’ve got a lovely new website. We hope you’ll find it useful, and easier to navigate.

Take a look at our published research paperslike this one, on UK law firms. Or our free white papers on philanthropy – such as this paper on the UK foundation sector.

Our full range of services is described here.

Try out our Prospect Value Chain – follow the chain from prospect to donor, and work out what research is needed, when (just hover your mouse over the Prospect Value Chain steps.)

And find out what people say about Factary Phi – our online database on 339,000 (and counting!) donors in the UK. Click on Testimonials, here.

We hope you enjoy the experience. Let us know if you have any comments or suggestions  (write to Shaun, at shaun@factary.com).

Thanks for taking a look at Factary!


Charities analysed

We’ve been continuing to extract useful information from our Factary Phi database. Here, in a brief 2 page report, is the latest data from a survey we carried out in Factary Phi on donations to charities

We have found some interesting patterns by comparing reported gifts from trusts with reported gifts from individuals. For example mental health charities are reporting substantially more gifts from trusts than from individual donors, while education and training organisations show the reverse picture.

We hope that this information helps organisations in the nonprofit sector to begin to establish benchmarks in their work with strategic donors (philanthropists, companies and trusts.)

Do contact us (research@factary.com, or 0117 916 6740) if you would like to know more, or to set up an online demonstration of Factary Phi.

Download the report here.

Thanks from the Arts

More than 36,500 supporters are acknowledged publicly by arts organisations in the UK, according to new research by Factary. And most of the donated income is from people (not from companies or trusts, as you might have expected.)

A summary research note is available for download here.

The research is based on data from Factary Phi, the database of donations and donors reported in the public domain. Factary Phi currently contains more than 160,000 records of donors and supporters to UK nonprofits who have been publicly thanked or reported.

Factary’s research shows that while only one in three publicly-acknowledged donors is an individual, almost three-quarters of publicly-acknowledged donated £s are from people as donors.

Our research seems to show that grant-making trusts and foundations are shy of public acknowledgement – with few arts organisations listing the donation value of their trust supporters. By contrast, companies seem more willing to allow their arts organisation partners to report donation values on arts websites.

To build Factary Phi, Factary researched donors by name from public domain sources, and Factary Phi shows the organisation they donated to with that organisation’s location and the web address of the source we used to find this data. Almost half of the records show either the amount of the donation or a gift band, and we are currently reporting on more than £13 billion in known donations to UK nonprofits, from 161,896 donors and supporters.

For further information contact David Hughes, Editor of Factary Phi.

Download the research summary.

We’ve just raised £3 billion!

Factary announced today that it has identified £9.4 billion in donations to UK organisations. All of these donations are featured in Factary Phi, the database of publicly recorded gifts to UK nonprofits. This figure is up by more than £3 billion from last month’s total of £6.2 billion, thanks to new research into UK donors.

Factary Phi is a database of more than 150,000 publicly recorded gifts to UK nonprofits. Users can log in to the database, search for specific gifts, or gifts to causes, and extract detailed records showing the donor’s name and the URL or website where we found the gift. Factary Phi is a subscription service available to any UK nonprofit. Click here for more details, including screenshots.


Factary is a research and consultancy service for nonprofits. We offer research and consultancy services in fundraising from ‘strategic donors’ – major donors, trusts and foundations, companies and government. Factary was founded in 1990 and is based in Bristol, where we have a research and consultancy team, as well as in Barcelona, Brussels and Boston where we have consultants.

Factary Phi is a database of donations to UK nonprofits. We research and compile the data from public domain sources and currently show 155,276 records with a total gift value of £9,488,310,271. These figures change regularly – we have a fortnightly update cycle for Factary Phi.

Factary Phi shows the name and registration number of the nonprofit (charity, university, arts organisation etc) that received the gift, along with the donor’s name and the URL, or website, where we found the gift. Around half of the gifts show either an actual amount donated, or a range within which the gift falls (e.g. £10,000-£25,000) The total amount donated for which we show an actual amount donated is £9.3 billion (£9,314,557,955) and where we show a range is £173m (£173,752,316, the sum of the lower end of the donation ranges.)

Any UK nonprofit can subscribe to Factary Phi. Subscribers get 24/7/365 access to the database, unlimited searches, unlimited search time and a monthly newsletter on major gifts.

Factary Phi is one of a number of services provided by Factary, including data screening and analysis, prospect research, feasibility studies and major gift consultancy, as well as training.

Note for those wary of statistics:

The total amount given by individuals in the UK is approximately £9.9 billion per annum [Source: UK Giving 2009, Charities Aid Foundation.] The same source indicates that 26.9m people gave last year. So how can one database, showing only those donations recorded in the public domain show a similar total?

Three reasons; First, Factary Phi records donations over a number of years. Our database goes back to 2007, so we have more than three years of giving in the data set. Second, we’re reporting on the largest gifts; UK Giving 2009 estimates that high-value gifts represent 49% of the total amount given to charity. The database is ‘biased’ toward major gifts. Third, we take a broad definition of gifts – so we include donations to universities, museums, libraries, theatres, schools and political parties, as well as to charities.

For more details on Factary Phi contact:


For more details on Factary services contact:

Nicola Williams
Research Manager
Tel 0117 916 6740
Email nicolaw@factary.com

Christopher Carnie FRSA
Tel +34 93 845 19 02
Email chris@factary.com

Festival del Fundraising, Italy, 12-14 May 2010

Chris Carnie will be leading a workshop for experienced fundraisers at the Festival of Fundraising, Italy, in Castrocaro Terme (northern Italy), on Thursday 13th May. Chris will be talking about cultures of giving in Southern Europe, and making a comparison with Northern Europe. As a Scotsman living in Catalunya he feels qualified to do so…

For more information on the Festival and on Chris’ session, click here.