Charities need help to get to grips with data protection changes | Daniel Fluskey

A fifth of charities haven’t yet started to think about the biggest change in years to data protection. We want the government to step in

A worrying number of UK charities are yet to take any steps to prepare for the new UK law on data protection.

Our survey of more than 300 UK charities shows that most are taking action to prepare for the new general data protection regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in May 2018, with major new requirements for how organisations process personal data. Steps already taken include training and recruiting staff; discussing data protection with their board; reviewing and updating privacy policies; and undertaking audits. This all shows that charities are taking seriously the need to reach the right standards for data protection.

However, and not surprisingly, some organisations are finding it a challenge to get ready for these new legal changes. A fifth of respondents – 22% – said they had not yet taken any steps to get ready for GDPR. The vast majority of those organisations are smaller charities, with a turnover of under £1m. But compliance and GDPR is not optional – so we need to ensure that everyone in the charity sector is ready.

The biggest challenge reported in our survey, cited by 72% of respondents, is a lack of clear guidance. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has not yet published its final guidance on consent, but the law is written and final and the commissioner has put out a range of resources for all organisations to think about the new law. There is also guidance from a range of organisations including ourselves, the Fundraising Regulator, and others.

At the same time, we also believe there is a need for government action. That’s why we’ve written to the digital minister, Matt Hancock, asking him to work with charities, regulators and sector bodies on a new strategic intervention to help the sector prepare for these changes.

As part of this, and based on the responses to our survey, we would like to see a targeted grant scheme set up to support charities who need to update their databases. We also want to see a coordinated campaign to raise awareness across the sector about the changes and guidance on offer. While the government already provides limited but very welcome support in building fundraising skills and capacity through the provision of subsidised training programmes, this should be complemented with an additional programme on data protection, and a hotline for charities with advice and information.

We know money is tight; if direct funding is not available, the government should use its convening power to identify and coordinate funding bodies that could support charities.

Meeting the new requirements in data protection will affect all charities and it is the right thing to do for charity service users, volunteers and supporters.

But our research shows that for some there is still a long way to go before the charity sector as a whole is fully prepared. With May 2018 getting ever closer, the time for action is now.

Talk to us on Twitter via @Gdnvoluntary and join our community for your free fortnightly Guardian Voluntary Sector newsletter, with analysis and opinion sent direct to you on the first Thursday of the month.

Looking for a role in the not-for-profit sector, or need to recruit staff? Take a look at Guardian Jobs.

Daniel Fluskey

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
GDPR: how charities should prepare for data protection changes
New regulations affecting fundraising, campaigning and volunteer management come into effect in 2018. Here’s how you can be ready

Daniel Fluskey

05, May, 2017 @6:45 AM

Article image
Chastened charities must find their place in 2017 Brexit Britain
Brexit, fundraising scandals and crumbling trust loom over the voluntary sector, but the new year also offers a chance to reflect

David Brindle

03, Jan, 2017 @6:30 AM

Article image
'This has to work': last chance for charities to clean up fundraising | David Brindle
If self-regulation fails to halt questionable practices, more draconian steps could be next, warns the Institute of Fundraising

David Brindle

10, Feb, 2017 @6:30 AM

Article image
How charities can work with tech companies
Charities know that digital technology can boost their impact, but getting started is a challenge. Here are some tips

Sam Applebee

23, Aug, 2017 @6:02 AM

Article image
How we sorted out our charity data for GDPR | Philippa Frankl
Preparing for GDPR is a huge headache for an organisation like ours. Here’s how we tackled it

Philippa Frankl

09, Apr, 2018 @6:53 AM

Article image
Charities and the EU referendum: what you need to know
The voluntary sector faces a tough decision on whether to enter the Brexit debate – here are some points to consider

Simon Steeden

21, Apr, 2016 @1:00 PM

Article image
Children in Need shows why charities need to be fully open about costs
The BBC annual fundraiser is a model of transparency, but charities cost money to run and pretending otherwise is self-defeating

David Brindle

16, Nov, 2016 @10:08 AM

Article image
What charities need to know about campaigning in the 2017 general election
Most charities can campaign in the run-up to Theresa May’s snap election, but be aware of rules about donations, hustings and canvassing

Simon Steeden

09, May, 2017 @6:41 AM

Article image
In straitened times party conferences are a waste of charities' cash
Booking a spot or a stand rarely leads to a change in policy and in straitened times, charities could do with the extra cash

Ben Summerskill

30, Jun, 2015 @6:00 AM

Article image
Charities welcome new civil society minister Tracey Crouch
Tracey Crouch is new minister for both sport and civil society. Here’s what the not-for-profit sector would like her to do

Charlotte Jones

15, Jun, 2017 @3:36 PM