Every day we hear about the lack of trust between nations, between citizens and their governments, between employees and customers, customers and corporations, and between individuals. Advances in technology have aggravated the problem by making it easy for individuals and organizations to steal or misuse sensitive information.
More than 50 million consumers have had their personal data compromised this year, a statistic grim enough to elicit spasms of paranoia in donors’ hearts about identity theft, data security and privacy. But, in reality, there have been few cases of privacy infringement reported in the nonprofit world — not enough to spawn a skittish donor pool.
It does, however, raise two important questions for nonprofit fundraisers. First, with the explosive growth in data collection and compilation, to what extent is it moral, ethical or legal to mine data on potential donors? And secondly, what proactive measures can be taken to safeguard donor privacy?
In every nonprofit’s life, there comes a time when questions arise about the general health of its database.
This could come as a result of a new initiative to push the organization ahead. It could stem from a mandate to raise additional funds within a certain period of time. It could be a desire to increase brand awareness among donors and prospects. Or perhaps the organization has recognized the need to identify, communicate and track its audiences’ activities.
Many organizations, such as the American Red Cross and CARE, provide relief services to communities in severe situations. But when it comes time to address the possibility of being victims themselves, many nonprofits become proverbial ostriches with their heads in the sand, writes Michael K. Robinson, IT director at full-service fundraising firm Creative Direct Response, in his new book, “Disaster Recovery Planning for Nonprofits.”
“Is it the end of the line for fundraising by phone?” was what many nonprofit organizations were pondering last year when more than 48 million Americans signed up for the National Do-Not-Call Registry. While the law clearly stipulates that charitable and political calls are exempt, many members of the public still are unaware of the distinction.
A Harris Interactive poll of 1,011 people in August 2003 found that 37 percent thought that the federal do-not-call list also applied to charity calls.