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Guidance on the Israel-Gaza conflict for Scottish charities

21 Dec 2023

We are aware that many people will wish to provide their support in different ways to those affected by the Israel-Gaza conflict, and we want to help trustees who are considering whether their charity should do so.

This guidance covers the different ways that charities may be considering supporting those involved or affected by the conflict.

What can charities do?

Your charity may be considering:

  • Raising funds or providing in-kind support (e.g. aid parcels)
  • Making a public statement of support for a cause. This would include signing public statements of support or issuing a statement or comment on a charity’s website or social media channels.

There are two key questions that charity trustees need to consider when deciding whether they can or should help:

  • Does this advance the charitable purposes of our charity?
  • Would it be in the interests of our charity to do this?

Factors charity trustees should consider before campaigning or taking a stance

Every activity a charity undertakes needs to advance the charitable purposes of the charity and be in the interests of the charity, and this includes any campaigning activity. Charity trustees should consider whether using the charity’s public platform to express particular views could harm the charity’s reputation.

Under Scottish charity law, your charity can campaign only if:

  • it is advancing your charitable purposes
  • your governing document does not prevent the activity
  • you are not advancing a political party and,
  • you can show you are acting in the charity’s interests.

If a charity carries out campaigning activity that does not meet these conditions, charity trustees would not meet their legal duties as trustees. Like any other such breach, OSCR would need to treat this seriously.

Factors charity trustees should consider before providing financial or in-kind support

The best way to support those in need of aid is to donate to charities registered in Scotland or the rest of the UK that have an ongoing relief operation in the region.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) lists 13 of its member charities that have launched appeals to help civilians affected by the conflict.

Every donor will want their contribution to be used in the best way possible; experienced aid organisations have the expertise and infrastructure to most effectively make use of funds that have been raised.  

Charitable purposes

Charity trustees that wish to raise funds on an ongoing basis via their charity to support those in need, need to ensure that these activities will advance the charitable purposes of the charity as provided in the governing document. If they do not, an application must be made to OSCR for consent to change purposes first. OSCR will prioritise any applications for consent to change purposes to aid civilians affected by the conflict.

Acting in the interests of your charity

Charity trustees have a legal duty to act in the interests of their charity when making decisions or taking actions in their role as trustees. In this context, this means that trustees should consider the impact on their charity of any activities undertaken to support civilians in need.

One-off collections

Generally a charity that provides grants to other charities must ensure that it only does so in furtherance of its own charitable purposes. However, OSCR has taken the view that it can be acceptable for a charity, in the course of an event or activity, to collect money for another charity or appeal that does not have purposes similar to its own provided that:

  • It is incidental to the event or activity;
  • The intended appeal or beneficiary is clearly indicated to potential donors to remove any likelihood of them being misled into believing their donation is for the charity itself; and
  • Where necessary the charity has the permission of the body on whose behalf it is raising funds.

For example, if you wished to pass a collecting tin around the audience during the interval of a show to raise funds for one of the DEC member charity’s appeals, you would not need to change your charitable purposes as long it was clear that the funds would be donated to that appeal.

It is important that potential donors know exactly what their donation is being used for. However, if you were holding events specifically to raise funds to support civilians affected by the conflict, as opposed to any fundraising being ancillary to the main event, this would require a change to your purposes.

We would recommend that incidental one-off fundraising is clearly recorded and accounted for so that it can be easily identified when your accounts are prepared.

Please note, all fundraising being carried out, whether for the charity in general or of the kind described above, should meet the standards set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice.