Setting up a Coronavirus appeal: What you need to know

By Priya Warner, former Head of Policy at the Fundraising Regulator

The British public is extremely generous when it comes to giving to charity – so much so, that fundraising activities, from coffee mornings to marathons, have become a key part of our social calendars. Since social distancing measures came into place, the public has continued to find ways to support important causes, with a vast amount of fundraising taking place online.  

I’ve seen a host of good news stories over the past few weeks as thousands of people across the UK raise money for frontline NHS staff, care organisations and people directly affected by COVID-19. Whether those involved are footballers, veterans, social media stars or the general public, seeing this is inspiring. Many people are thinking about how they can ‘give something back’, while still observing government guidelines. 

If you’re new to setting up a fundraising appeal, you may not realise that there are specific things you need to do to make sure your fundraising is legal and ethical, and has the best chance of success. To help you get things right, we have produced some guidance which you should read before setting up an appeal. 

Work with charities where you can 

Before launching an appeal, be clear about who you want to help. Then see if there already any local community groups or existing charities you could fundraise for, rather than starting something new. For example, many hospitals will have a charity that can accept donations. It is likely that these organisations are already set up to fundraise and deliver the services you want your appeal to support. 

It is also best to contact these groups, if you can, to let them know you want to fundraise for them. They may also be able to support you with materials or advice to help the fundraising you do have a greater impact.

Be specific about who you are fundraising for 

You need to be specific about who you intend to help and how you are going to do it. It’s a legal requirement that you use the donations you receive for the purpose you outlined in your fundraising appeal. Avoid using broad wording like ‘supporting those affected by COVID-19’. Instead, say something specific like ‘raising funds to buy shopping for those self-isolating in the local area’, or ‘raising money for [charity name]’.

Remember to include a timescale or target for your appeal. For example, if it is to pay for food for families affected by COVID-19, is that until the current lockdown ends or will it carry on until funds run out?

Make sure you have a back-up plan

If you do set up your own appeal, it is worth getting others involved from the start. This will mean you have the right support throughout so that you can make sure that the funds you raise can be given to the cause. For example, if you were unable to continue your appeal because you fell ill or needed to self-isolate, you may need to ask other people to get involved so that the purpose of the appeal can still be fulfilled. 

As charities see the demand for their services grow throughout the pandemic, fundraising appeals are a vital lifeline to many organisations. You can read our advice on ‘10 steps to setting up a fundraising appeal’ here. Please share it with anyone who may be thinking about setting up a fundraising appeal at this time.