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Using the code

Introduction

The Code of Fundraising Practice (the code) sets out the responsibilities that apply to fundraising carried out by charitable institutions and third-party fundraisers in the UK. The terms ‘charitable institution’ and ‘third-party fundraiser’ are explained below. For the purposes of the code, fundraising means to ask for money or other property for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes, and it covers a wide range of fundraising methods.

The code was initially developed by fundraisers through the work of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and the Public Fundraising Association (PFRA). We have been responsible for the code since 7 July 2016.

The code aims to:

  • promote a consistent, high standard of fundraising;
  • make sure charitable institutions, their governing bodies and fundraisers know what is expected of them;
  • set out the standards we use when considering complaints;
  • provide a benchmark for organisations and fundraisers to assess their practices against so they can identify necessary training and monitor and set policy priorities for their fundraising; and 
  • develop a culture of honesty, openness and respect between fundraisers and the public.

The following four values support all standards in the code. 

Legal: All fundraising must meet the requirements of the law.

Open: Fundraisers must be open with the public about their processes and must be willing to explain (where appropriate) if they are asked for more information.

Honest: Fundraisers must act with integrity and must not mislead the public about the cause they are fundraising for or the way a donation will be used. 

Respectful: Fundraisers must demonstrate respect whenever they have contact with any member of the public.

The code and the law

The code includes standards that reflect the law, but it is not designed to be a legal handbook. We have revised the code to make it as clear and understandable as possible for everyone. But fundraising law is complex and comes from many sources. Laws and regulations also change over time and new methods of fundraising are developed. 

You are responsible for making sure that you get the advice you need to meet the requirements you have to meet by law. If there is a difference between the code and the relevant legislation or regulations, you must follow the law rather than the code.

Applying the code

Each standard uses the term ‘you’ (and ‘your’). To make it easy to use, we have set out who we mean by ‘you’ at the beginning of each section, and the code includes a glossary of terms. Unless we say otherwise at the beginning of a section, ‘you’ (and ‘your’) means the following. 

  • A charitable institution which asks for money or other property for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes. ‘Charitable institution’ means charities (registered or unregistered) and voluntary organisations established for purposes which may not be strictly charitable, but which are benevolent or philanthropic. This includes ‘exempt’ charities, such as charitable higher education institutions. (Exempt charities are those which are not required to be directly regulated by the Charity Commission for England and Wales because they are regulated by another body or authority.) 
  • A third-party fundraiser which asks for money or other property for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes. ‘Third-party fundraiser’ means an organisation or person a charitable institution has authorised to ask for donations on its behalf. This may be a volunteer, professional fundraiser or commercial partner if they are fundraising.

The code also applies to other organisations that carry out fundraising and online fundraising platforms

You must make sure you meet the standards in the code and must be able to justify the decisions you make. You must make your staff and volunteers aware of the standards and adequately train and monitor them if the standards are relevant to their responsibilities. 

We use ‘must’ and ‘must not’ for all of the standards in the code.  

  • Standards where ‘must’ and ‘must not’ are in bold text indicate a standard based on a legal requirement (for example, a piece of law or case law).
  • Standards where ‘must’ and ‘must not’ are not in bold text indicate a regulatory standard that is not based on a strict legal requirement. 

All of the standards are equal, and trust and confidence in fundraising could be undermined if they are not met. The code also highlights other industry codes of practice and standards that apply to fundraising. It is designed to add to these rather than replace them. 

Commitment to the code

By registering with us, charitable institutions, third-party fundraisers and online fundraising platforms agree to meet the code. In doing so, they support the system of voluntary regulation to make sure that all fundraising organisations work in line with the code’s values. 

Organisations who register also commit to the Fundraising Promise. The promise sets out the commitment that those who register with us make to donors and the public to meet the standards in the code. We consider complaints about meeting the standards in the code.

Investigating complaints

We may investigate:

  • complaints from the public about fundraising, if these cannot be resolved by the charities themselves; or
  • fundraising that has caused or could cause significant public concern.

When considering complaints we will use the version of the code that was in effect at the time of the incident. Our complaints process provides more information about how we investigate complaints.

In Scotland, complaints about Scottish-registered charities are dealt with by the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel. 

We and the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel follow a ‘lead’ regulator model in considering complaints. This means that when a complaint is made, either we or the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel will consider it, depending on which country the charity is primarily registered in. There is more information in our Memorandum of Understanding.