July 2, 2021

Understanding charity fundraising regulations

As you probably know, charity fundraising is subject to numerous guidelines, laws and regulations. When donors hand over not only their money but also personal (and at times, sensitive) information, they do so in good faith. Therefore, we need standards to maintain trust between charities and the general public. 

If you’re a fundraising manager, we’re sure that you’re well-acquainted with many of these regulatory guidelines. But if you’re unfamiliar, fear not. This article will tell you all you need to know about how rules and regulations keep fundraising fair and equitable.

Who regulates charities?

The main regulatory body for England, Northern Ireland and Wales is the Fundraising Regulator. This independent third party ensures that fundraising activities are ethical and sustainable. In Scotland, this role is overseen by the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel. These organisations not only set the code of fundraising practices, they also respond to public concerns about fundraising conduct. For instance, they may get involved if a charity is excessively contacting prospective donors.

The vast majority of fundraising strategies utilise a range of tactics across multiple channels. Standards can differ based on how money is being raised, whether it’s at events, door to door or using broadcast media. Therefore, many other regulatory bodies have a vested interest in ethical fundraising. Here are just a few examples:

  • Advertising Standards Authority (ASA): ASA is the UK’s independent advertising regulator. Its role is to make sure that broadcast and public advertisements are responsible, accurate and do not run the risk of misleading people.
  • Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO): The ICO regulates the usage of online data provided by the general public. Its mission is to protect consumer rights and uphold standards for the responsible use and storage of personal information.
  • Charity Commission for England and Wales: The Charity Commission registers and regulates charities in England and Wales, ensuring that the public donates to ethical and responsible institutions.
  • Ofcom: Many are familiar with Ofcom as a general communications regulator, charged with handling complaints regarding radio and TV broadcasts. Its role is to protect the public from scams, as well as potentially offensive or deceptive content. 

Who regulates the handling of donations?

The Fundraising Regulator sets the standards for the responsible collection and utilisation of donations. These standards are outlined and explained in the Code of Fundraising Practice, and can be roughly grouped into the following categories:

  • Responsibilities – How should charities go about accepting, returning or processing donations? How should they be looking out for the welfare of fundraisers and remain transparent about their operations and activities?
  • Behaviour – How can charities conduct themselves while carrying out fundraising? This includes treating people fairly (regardless of their decision to donate) and being respectful when requesting support or funding.
  • Processing DonationsHow can charities implement clear processes so that donations are not only handled correctly and securely but also used for their intended purpose? This goes beyond individual donations to include Gift Aid and regular sponsorship.

How do regulations differ across different types of fundraising? 

Regulations do vary according to different fundraising types. It’s important to understand how guidelines differ across telephone, social media or direct mail fundraising campaigns. Here are some examples to get you started:

Broadcast advertising 

All TV and radio advertisements must adhere to The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP). This stipulates that advertisements must be suitable for your audience and cannot cause offence, fear or needless distress. Furthermore, they should clearly state how donations will be used as well as meeting various trademark and copyright requirements. 

Digital campaigns

Online fundraising content like social media marketing campaigns, email campaigns, and paid digital advertising must meet the criteria of the Equality Act 2010. This content must also be in line with data privacy requirements about what kinds of data is collected from participants and how it will be used. Because these campaigns raise funds through donations, they must also meet Payment Services Regulations and relevant financial services laws.

Fundraising events

 In-person fundraising events need to be accessible to all and meet legal health and safety requirements, including COVID restrictions. You’ll need licenses and permissions for the event, depending on what you are offering. Your attendees should be made aware of fundraising targets, and organisers need to have cancellation and contingency measures in place. To take donations, you’ll also have to implement specific financial procedures in compliance with tax and VAT laws.

Street fundraising 

The UK government specifies that street collection involving cash may require a licence from the local council. This covers any funds raised in public areas, such as shopping centres or local parks. While a local council licence isn’t required for Direct Debit fundraisers, organisers should be wary that there may be Public Space Protection Orders in place. Therefore, you should check with your local authority before your fundraisers begin pounding the pavement.

Lotteries, draws and raffles

These events need to comply with the Gambling Act of 2005, be fully legal, and have the appropriate licenses. Your draw will have to be in line with current regulations that require the process to be witnessed, and to have all data of the process recorded for an audit if required. 

How have guidelines changed as a result of COVID?

COVID has had a significant impact on fundraising regulations and guidelines, especially in terms of large events and one-on-one fundraising (for example, collecting door to door donations). Because of the undercurrent of uncertainty with regards to COVID, these regulations can be subject to quick change with little advance notice. 

While the Fundraising Regulator has provided UK charities with in-depth advice related to COVID-19, the following points can provide some initial guidance:

  • Adhere to social distancing guidelines – While this can complicate certain fundraising activities, new fundraisers should be trained to maintain an appropriate distance. No donation, no matter the amount, is worth compromising personal safety.

  • Minimise contact when exchanging money and items – Charities must embrace innovative new methods, such as contactless payment technology, to reduce any risks associated with personal contact.

  • Reduce the number of fundraisers in a certain location – There should be boundaries in place to safeguard fundraisers from COVID. For instance, for street fundraising, it is recommended that no more than 4 fundraisers work in the same area at the same time.

  • Act with public interest in mind – Ultimately, fundraisers need to be considerate that they are operating in a public space. This includes wearing masks, providing access to hand sanitiser facilities and giving pedestrians ample right of way. Ultimately, fundraisers need to be respectful and allow members of the public to go about their day.

GoodBox provides contactless fundraising technology, helping charities and non-profit organisations engage donors despite current limitations. As well as reducing COVID-related risks, GoodBox uses simple and effective ‘tap to give’ technology to make the fundraising process. Better yet, contactless technology encourages donors to dig deep, with a larger average donation size than cash donations. 

Want to join the many charities that have transformed their fundraising with GoodBox technology? Contact the GoodBox team today.

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