Marking a tick in a box might not seem like much effort, but it could be the most important thing you do for a charity this year.
Here’s why: on 28 May next year a new piece of EU legislation (yes, it will still apply to us in the UK) will come into effect. It’s known as GDPR, and if you speak to some organisations, uttering that very acronym can be a bit like saying ‘Voldemort’ out loud.
It’s designed to replace the Data Protection Act 1998, tightening rules on how companies and charities can use your personal data. In a nutshell: it means that they won’t be in touch with you unless you’ve explicitly told them it’s okay, and by what means.
It would be easy to be nervous of these changes, especially for me as chief executive of a charity that relies on its supporters to fund vital cancer research.
Many charities could lose touch with lots of people as a result, with many predicted to potentially lose millions of pounds.
The new regulations don’t just apply to asking people for money – it’s also about being able to let supporters know where their money is going and the achievements made as a result.
It’s a challenge for the whole charity sector, but I think it’s one worth embracing wholeheartedly. It’s an opportunity to rebuild trust and have great conversations with our supporters, knowing that they’re listening and want to talk to us too.
It does mean that if you support a charity, the most important thing you can do in the next few months isn’t necessarily giving them money, it’s ticking a box on a letter or email, and giving your consent to be contacted and keep the conversation going.
The beauty of this new law is that you, as the person reaching into your pocket to support a worthy cause, have the choice. It puts power in your hands.
The build up towards GDPR comes at a crucial time for us. We’re a cancer research charity and this year we’ve been inundated with more than 750 applications for funding, from scientists across 42 countries. That’s double the normal demand.
There are so many brilliant ideas to help better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer out there, but they need the funding to progress and get to people who desperately need them.
We need to be able to keep talking with the tens of thousands of passionate people who support our mission and, through their generosity, help scientists across the world search for new answers to cancer.
We simply can’t leave bright ideas stuck on the shelf through lack of funding.
Dr Helen Rippon is chief executive of Worldwide Cancer Research, www.worldwidecanceresearch.org.