Why should organizations refrain from selling their donor lists? PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronics Documents Act, allows for the selling, bartering, or sharing of fundraising or donor lists as long as consent is obtained from all individuals prior to the lists changing hands.1 Imagine Canada, however, requires nonprofit and charitable organizations to meet a higher standard than that required by law, prohibiting organizations from selling their donor lists.
When an organization sells its donor list, it relinquishes control over the data and risks having the information used for a purpose other than that for which it was collected. An organization’s donor list is an asset of the charity or nonprofit, and relinquishing control over the list could be seen as a breach of the directors’ legal responsibility to protect the assets of the organization. In renting donor lists, on the other hand, organizations are able to set the terms of the rental agreement and retain more control over the use of the data. If renting or exchanging donor lists, organizations operating in Alberta must adhere to the province’s Personal Information Privacy Act (PIPA), which classifies bartering or leasing of membership, donor, or other fundraising lists as “commercial activities.”1
What is the Canadian Marketing Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice?2 The Canadian Marketing Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice presents guidelines for the conduct of marketing professionals across Canada. The code applies to all CMA member organizations regardless of sector or marketing medium, and provides a set of ethical principles and best practices to be followed by Canadian businesses in order to ensure that marketing activities are carried out with integrity. Although written in a for-profit language, the code also applies to nonprofit and charitable organizations.
What does the Canadian Marketing Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice say about renting donor lists?2 The Code states that all marketing must be conducted in accordance with PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronics Documents Act, (see Board Governance Standard A13.). It advises marketers to rent lists only to organizations that have signed a contract to abide by all relevant Canadian privacy laws and that agree to use CMA’s Do Not Contact Service, which allows individuals to limit the frequency of marketing offers they receive by mail.
Why must nonprofit and charitable organizations honour donors’ requests to be excluded from rented lists? Section J, Protection of Personal Privacy in the Canadian Marketing Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice states that individuals must be informed of the uses to which personal information will be put at the time of collection and that personal information shall not be used or disclosed for other purposes without consent. While individuals are free to opt-out of receiving solicitations at any time, at least once every three years they must be presented with “an easy-to-see, easy-to-understand and easy-to-execute opportunity to decline further marketing use of their name or other information.”
From "Accreditation Preparation Workbook Section C: Fundraising," Katharine Zywert, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo at the University of Waterloo, 2013.
- “The Protection of Personal Information by Charities and Not-For-Profit Organizations: A National Perspective,” M. Jasmine Sweatman, The Philanthropist, 19 (4): 2004, p. 308.
- Canadian Marketing Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice
Standards Reference Guide