Fundraising is a key contact between charities and the public. Get it right, and your charity secures funding and public goodwill. Get it wrong, and you risk undermining the public’s confidence in your charity and the wider sector.
It’s up to your charity’s trustees to make sure that they – and any fundraisers working on their behalf – observe the legal requirements and, importantly, the kind of fundraising practices that will encourage the public’s continued support rather than harming your charity’s reputation.
Who regulates charity fundraising?
Charity fundraising in the UK is governed on a self-regulatory basis. This means that the charity sector itself sets the standards for charity fundraising, with some laws underpinning the self-regulation.
Under self-regulation individual charities are the first point of call for any complaints about fundraising practices. Where a charity is unable to resolve the complaint, the complainant can escalate it to one of the following:
Charity law does, however, give OSCR powers regarding fundraising activity in specific areas.
What rules does my charity have to follow?
Your charity must follow the legal requirements relating to fundraising and the fundraising standards set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice.
What is the Fundraising Code of Practice?
The Code of Fundraising Practice and its associated rule books for street and door fundraising outline the standards expected of all charitable fundraising across the UK. The standards were developed by the fundraising community through the work of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and Public Fundraising Association (PFRA).
The Fundraising Regulator now has responsibility for the Code and the rule books.
What is the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS)?
The FPS is a service for members of the UK public to manage the fundraising communications they get from charities. The FPS only applies to charities who are registered in England and Wales with the Charity Commission.
For more information see the Fundraising Regulators FAQs.
What does Scottish Charity law say about fundraising?
Fundraising by charities and benevolent bodies
Charity law in Scotland sets out certain specific requirements in relation to fundraising. These include:
- the requirement for your charity to have a formal agreement in place with the professional fundraiser that is acting on your behalf
- the requirement to provide information to your donors, setting out the payment arrangements you have with the fundraiser
- regulations controlling the collection of money from the public
- how your charity can get an interdict to prevent fundraising on its behalf.
You can read the relevant sections of the 2005 Act here.
Charities and Benevolent Fundraising (Scotland) Regulations 2009
We have produced guidance* to help charities and fundraisers meet the requirements set out in the Charities and Benevolent Fundraising (Scotland) Regulations 2009. These regulations set out:
- the information that your charity must provide to a donor
- what must be contained in the fundraising agreement between your charity and those fundraising on your behalf.
The guidance does not cover cash collections or the collection of goods, as these would be covered in future Regulations should Scottish Ministers choose to implement them.
* Some parts of this guidance refer to the old system of self-regulation and will be updated in early 2018.
Some larger charities that organise regional or national collections in Scotland can apply to us to be registered as ‘exempt promoters’. This status means that they don’t need to co-ordinate their activities with many local authorities when organising a collection, reducing the administrative burden on the charity.
We consider applications and publish a list of exempt promoters for reference.
An exempt promoter does not have to have permission from the local Council to hold a collection, but they must give the Council at least three months’ notice. You should note that the ‘exempt promoter’ is not the charity itself, but a named individual. You can find out more in our note on Public Charitable Collections.
What should charity trustees do about fundraising?
Charity trustees are required by law to act in the interests of the charity. This means that charity trustees must make sure any fundraising carried out by, or on behalf, the charity complies with all relevant laws and does not put the charity or its reputation at unnecessary risk. This means that charity trustees must:
- comply with all relevant legal requirements
- make sure that all funds which are raised are properly accounted for
- only spend donations on the purposes for which they were raised.
See our Guidance and good practice for Charity Trustees for more information on the duties of charity trustees.
What about charities registered in both Scotland and England and Wales?
Most complaints about UK wide charities (registered with OSCR and the Charity Commission for England and Wales) will be dealt with by the Fundraising Regulator. This is the same lead regulator model currently used by OSCR and the Charity Commission for general charity regulation.
We operate/fundraise in other parts of the UK – what do we need to do?
The fundraising standards are the same across the UK. The law in Scotland and England/Wales/Northern Ireland relating to fundraising is broadly similar. The individual charity regulators have more information on the details:
If you are based in England and Wales or Northern Ireland then you will fall under the Fundraising Regulator for fundraising self-regulation.
Fundraising Complaints: Scottish only charities
What happens if someone complains?
- If someone complains to your charity about fundraising, you should take the complaint seriously and try to resolve the problem. If your charity has an appropriate complaints procedure, you should use this to deal with the complaint. Ideally, you should have a two stage process:
- Stage 1: The charity tries to resolve the complaint.
- Stage 2: If the complainant is unhappy with the first stage they can complain to the charity trustees.
- If the complainant is still unhappy, after they have been through your complaints procedure they can ask the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel (the Panel) to look at it. The Panel will decide if your charity has breached the fundraising standards and advise you of any steps you need to take.
- The Panel will also look at whether there might be a regulatory concern that should be referred to OSCR for consideration.
What is OSCR’s role?
OSCR provides a secretariat function to the Panel and assesses any regulatory concerns identified by the Panel when they adjudicate on complaints.
OSCR will only usually become involved in a fundraising complaint where there are concerns about:
- a breach of charity trustee duties, including potential mismanagement or misconduct by the charity’s trustees
- a risk to public trust and confidence in the charity or the wider sector
- a risk to charitable assets.