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Charity trustee duties and fundraising

Published: 21/02/2018
Updated: 21/02/2018


In this section we explain how the charity trustee duties under the 2005 Act relate to your charity’s fundraising activity and what that might mean in practice.

The duties in the 2005 Act and how they relate to fundraising have not changed.


The charity trustee duties set out a broad framework that all charity trustees must work within. There is more detailed guidance called Guidance and good practice for Charity Trustees on our website.

Charity trustees are required by law to act in the interests of the charity. This means as charity trustees you must make sure any fundraising carried out by, or on behalf of, your charity complies with all relevant laws and does not put the charity or its reputation at unnecessary risk. As charity trustees you 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.

The 2005 Act provides charities with control over those who fundraise for them. It requires that charities have a written agreement in place before any fundraising is carried out for them by a professional fundraiser or a commercial organisation.

In this guidance we refer to the written agreement as a ‘fundraising agreement’.


The 2009 Regulations set out what must be contained in a fundraising agreement. These requirements are explained in more detail in the next section.

These duties separate out into general duties that set out a broad framework that all charity trustees must work within, and specific duties detailed in the 2005 Act. The duties are set out in the diagram below.

The general and specific duties apply equally to all charity trustees and to all charities registered in Scotland. All of the charity’s trustees should work together to make sure that these duties are met.

Charity trustee duties

Your fundraising may be carried out by:

  • Volunteers
  • Charity staff
  • Third party professional fundraisers
  • Commercial organisations
  • Trading subsidiaries of the charity.

The role of a charity trustee will vary from charity to charity. Some charities have staff who are responsible for daily operations, with the charity trustees providing strategic oversight and governance. Other charities are run solely by charity trustees.

Whoever does your fundraising you, as charity trustees need to make sure there are systems in place to allow them to understand what they can and can’t do. As charity trustees you need to oversee the fundraising activities to make sure that they are in the best interests of your charity.

The main charity trustee duties to bear in mind for your charity’s fundraising are:

Acting in the interests of the charity
Acting with care and diligence
Complying with the 2005 Act.

Acting in the interests of the charity

This means you must do what is best for your charity and its beneficiaries and put the needs of your charity before the needs of any other organisation or individual. Doing what is best for your charity means protecting the long-term interests of the charity, its assets and reputation.  

You should be able to show how the money you spend on fundraising is in the best interests of your charity: 

  • Show how you balance the financial or reputational risks and rewards to the charity
  • Make sure that any third party fundraising agreements are favourable to your charity – carry out proper checks on any third party fundraisers you intend to use
  • Show transparency in your fundraising relationships
  • Be able to explain your fundraising work to the public, supporters and donors
  • Make sure fundraising is regularly on the agenda at charity trustee meetings
  • Take appropriate advice if you need it.

Acting with care and diligence

Whatever your charity trustee role involves – hands on or strategic oversight – the decisions you make about the charity should show that you are acting with care and diligence that it is reasonable to expect of a person who is managing the affairs of another person.

How to plan for and have oversight of your charity’s fundraising activities:

  • Assess the risks of any fundraising activity. You should be able to justify the amount spent on fundraising compared with the amounts received
  • Make sure you have the systems in place so that any money raised is properly accounted for, recorded and used only for the reasons for which it was collected
  • Any funds raised for a particular project or appeal is a restricted fund and can only be spent on the stated activities
  • Exercise reasonable commercial sense and develop a sound business case for any large scale fundraising activity
  • Look for a range of funding sources – don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  • Monitor and review fundraising performance regularly, including any third party fundraisers you use
  • Embed the charity’s values into your fundraising plans and demonstrate your commitment to good practice:sign up to the fundraising guarantee from the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel
  • Be open and accountable – have procedures for dealing with complaints: adopt the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel's model complaints handling procedure.

Complying with the 2005 Act

The 2005 Act sets out certain requirements for benevolent fundraising. The next section on the 2009 Regulations outlines these requirements and the Technical Guide on the 2009 Regulations sets them out in detail.  

Publicising that you are a charity
All charities registered in Scotland must publicise the fact that they are a charity. Charity trustees must make sure that certain charity details, including the charity name and number are on all of the charity’s external documents including any fundraising material, like labels on collection buckets.

These rules also apply to any third parties who produce documents on behalf of your charity, including fundraisers.You need display your charity’s details, this means:

  • your charity's name, as entered in the Scottish Charity Register
  • any other name your charity is known as (the ‘known as’ name)
  • your Scottish Charity Number (SC0[zero]xxxxx)
  • the fact that you are a charity, if this is not already clear from your name.

It is good practice to state that the charity is regulated by OSCR.

For example: Monkstown After School Club (known as Monkey Club) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) regulated by the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), Scottish Charity number: SC098765’.

You could add the OSCR Registration logo to your documents. More information can be found at: Publicising that you are a charity.

Breach of charity trustee duties and misconduct
If you fail to comply with these duties then this is misconduct and we do have powers to take action against charity trustees, where appropriate. Our response will be proportionate depending on the situation.

Where a charity trustee has acted reasonably and honestly, it is unlikely to be treated as misconduct. Find out more about what we can and cannot do and what to expect if we have a concern about your charity.


  • Fundraising Regulator  

The Fundraising Regulator holds the Code of Fundraising Practice for the UK.