Regulating fundraising as pandemic restrictions ease

By Charlotte Urwin, Head of Policy at the Fundraising Regulator

Last week Governments in England and Scotland laid out their plans for cautiously moving out of nationwide lockdown. Although the announcements signify that changes to restrictions on public fundraising activities may be in sight, this is a timely reminder that we are not out of the woods yet.

The Coronavirus pandemic is continuing to have a huge impact on public fundraising methods. Many organisations have had to pause, postpone and even cancel activities that involved face-to-face contact. At the same time, some charities have reported increased demand for the services and support they provide. 

We know that organisations have adapted their fundraising activities throughout the pandemic, showing just how committed they are to carrying out their work in a safe and responsible way. In 2020, we published guidance jointly with the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, to support fundraising organisations to make decisions about their fundraising activities. The guidance covered the key principles for fundraising which can be applied to all methods of fundraising, as well as specific guidance for public fundraising (including street, door-to-door and private site fundraising). 

We are currently in talks with central Government about how we might update our existing guidance, to make sure it reflects the latest announcements. We will issue updated versions of the guidance in the coming month to help organisations with their planning. 

While many organisations are keen to restart their full range of activities, it is important to remember that there is not a clear timeline for which public fundraising activities can resume. The variety of fundraising activity means that we can’t create a prescriptive set of ‘rules’ to follow, as there is not a one-size-fits-all model that applies for all charities and all fundraising. 

Instead, organisations must make their own reasoned and informed decisions to restart or adapt their fundraising activities. Here are some key points that all organisations should have in mind as they make those decisions: 

1.    Keep up-to-date and follow UK Government guidance, including from the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Restrictions and advice are likely to change over time. There are also differences in the plans being put in place by the devolved nations to move out of lockdown. It is therefore important that you keep up-to-date with announcements and apply any new requirements and limitations to your fundraising activities. 

We all hope that this is the last time we will be coming out of a national lockdown. But it is possible that more restrictions may be put in place in the future (for example, next winter), so you should plan with flexibility, in case you need to cancel or adapt activities again.

2.    Carry out risk-assessments

All fundraising organisations should carefully consider the risks associated with each type of fundraising activity they carry out. It is each organisation’s responsibility to properly evaluate the risks to make sure their activity is safe for the public, volunteers and fundraisers. Risk assessments should be properly documented and reviewed regularly, as appropriate.

3.    Make reasoned and informed decisions

Decisions to fundraise should be thoroughly considered and carefully evaluated. All fundraising organisations must weigh up the benefits and risks of their ongoing fundraising activities and exercise judgement when deciding what is in the best interests of the public, supporters, staff, volunteers and beneficiaries. It is important to have appropriate management and oversight of all decisions that are made and these decisions should be properly documented. 

4.    Protect the public

Sufficient measures must be in place to protect the public, fundraisers, staff and volunteers. Depending on the method of fundraising, you’ll need to consider what changing Government guidance means for staff and volunteer safety, whether it is putting in place social distancing measures, increased sanitation or other measures. 

5.    Comply with the code

All fundraising must continue to meet the standards set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice. The Fundraising Regulator will continue to consider complaints in the same way that it currently does. 

There is more information on other points to consider as organisations restart their fundraising activities in our guidance. Our Covid-19 guidance is there to help to keep the public, fundraisers and staff safe. Following the guidance will ultimately help to uphold trust and confidence in the vital work that the charitable fundraising sector is carrying out.

Look out for new and updated guidance on our website. Good luck with your safe and responsible return to fundraising. If you have any questions on the fundraising standards, please contact enquiries@fundraisingregulator.org.uk.