Prospect research agency WealthEngine has closed its UK office and ceased operations in the country, with the organisation's US owners citing "recent actions taken by regulatory bodies" as the reason for its closure.
Civil Society News can confirm that WealthEngine, an American-based company which specialises in wealth identification and non-profit fundraising prospect research, has ceased operating in the UK following recent regulatory action taken by the Information Commissioner’s Office in relation to charities using third party agencies to conduct wealth screening.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the WealthEngine in the United States said: "With the evolving privacy regulation and recent actions taken by regulatory bodies, WealthEngine has retired FindWealth UK [its UK arm]. The product has already been retired."
WealthEngine has operated an office in the UK since at least 2009, which provided a number of database prospect research services for fundraising charities and nonprofits. According to its website, WealthEngine have over 3,700 clients around the world – although only around 150 were UK-based, according to the spokeswoman.
Civil Society News understands that at least two full-time staff members have been made redundant as a result of the closure.
Prospecting for Gold confirm charities 'reviewing' wealth-screening activities
WealthEngine are not the only prospect research agency that have been affected by the ICO’s recent investigations and subsequent fines of charities in relation to wealth screening. UK-based organisation Prospecting for Gold have confirmed that many of its charity clients are reviewing their policies in relation to wealth screening.
Speaking to Fundraising Magazine, Kerry Rock, director of business development at Prospecting for Gold Ltd, said: “At the moment we’re conducting fewer wealth-screening activities than we would have been doing 12 months ago, as our clients review their policies but that was to be expected and that’s normal. We do other things as well, that’s only one part of our business.
“Every single organisation we work with is reviewing what its doing and making sure that its current policies and privacy statements adhere to what’s happening. So yes, we’ve seen a drop off.
“There’s definitely a pause across the sector in research of all forms. That’s not just wealth screening, and that’s not just stuff done externally but what’s being done by charities in-house as well. People are really concerned to make sure that they’re doing this in a way that meets the expectation of the regulation.”
In Fundraising Magazine
Since December 2016, the ICO has named, investigated and subsequently fined 13 large UK charities for breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998, in relation to wealth screening, tele-appending and data swapping and sharing of donor data.
Commenting on the news, Mike Smith, head of external affairs at the IoF, said: "It is clear that processing data can be part of great fundraising and this must, of course, always be done in line with rules and regulations.
"We hear from our members that there is still too much uncertainty around this issue, and are continuing to work with them and the regulators to ensure ongoing engagement and clear guidance.”