Supporting a safe and responsible return to fundraising

By Priya Warner, former Head of Policy at the Fundraising Regulator and Daniel Fluskey, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising

COVID-19 and the associated lockdown across the UK has had a huge impact on charitable fundraising. Following the introduction of social distancing and the cancellation of large gatherings, organisations rightly took action to pause face-to-face fundraising, postpone community and mass participation events, and shut charity shops. As we enter the summer months, steps out of lockdown are now beginning to be laid out by Governments across the UK, and fundraising organisations will be thinking about how they can restart and repurpose some of the fundraising activity they paused.

To support the safe and responsible return to fundraising, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and Fundraising Regulator have published the first two pieces in a new series of guidance. They cover 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). Future pieces of guidance will cover community and events fundraising, cash collections, charity bags, and other areas of fundraising impacted by continuing social distancing and safety measures.

Supporting you to make responsible and informed decisions

The guidance applies across the UK and sets out a framework to help organisations in their decision-making about when and how to return to fundraising that has been affected by lockdown and social distancing. It supplements UK Government guidance and should be read in conjunction with any additional guidance from the devolved Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, if you intend to fundraise in these countries. We haven’t published separate guidance for all four countries because the principles that underpin fundraising are the same, regardless of where the activity is carried out, although of course you will need to follow the relevant guidance that applies in the devolved administrations.

For fundraising to restart safely, each organisation will need to review their activity, undertake risk assessments and ensure social distancing is properly observed in their fundraising. Our guidance is there to inform, support and guide responsible decision-making. The variety of fundraising activity means that the guidance can’t be a fully prescriptive set of ‘rules’ to follow, as there is not a one-size-fits-all model that applies for all charities and all fundraising. However, the guidance does set out some measures that should always be implemented (for example, in relation to limiting the number of fundraisers in a public place, giving way to the public, as well as sanitation and hygiene procedures to follow). What is of vital importance is that the overall outcome  – safe and responsible fundraising – is achieved, but exactly how that happens will be unique to each organisation’s particular circumstances and the type of fundraising activity they choose to do.

That approach is why so much emphasis is put on the decision-making, preparation, and risk assessments that all organisations have to undertake. By making sure that you are actively considering all the relevant factors and applying the guidance to your unique context, each organisation will be taking responsibility for their own decisions, which will result in the best, and safest, fundraising activity.

This guidance concentrates on ‘how’ paused fundraising activity might restart and not ‘when’. It will be each organisation’s responsibility to properly evaluate the risks to make sure their activity is safe for the public, fundraisers, volunteers and fundraisers. Much of that will depend on the external context, the specific activity planned, the location it’s happening in, and having taken enough time to prepare and plan. It will also involve looking at what’s happening across society more generally (for example, the return of non-essential shops and the opening up of public spaces) and being aware of the mood and reaction of the public.

An agile and responsive return to fundraising

It’s important that charities and fundraising organisations think not only about a safe and responsible return to fundraising, but also have in place plans to stop fundraising in the event that restrictions are put in place once again. These restrictions could be imposed at a local or national level (for example, the continued lockdown measures in Leicester), and therefore charities should think about how they will respond quickly and effectively to any future announcements by the Government or devolved administrations if planned activity needs to be paused or cancelled.

Meeting the fundraising standards

All fundraising needs to continue to meet the standards set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice. And the Fundraising Regulator will continue to consider complaints in the same way that it currently does. Although the guidance doesn’t hold the same status as the code, it is clearly important that organisations and fundraisers follow the guidance as they adapt their fundraising practices. Not because of the concern that a complaint may be made, and not because the regulator is telling you to, but because following the guidance will help keep the public, fundraisers and staff safe. Following the guidance will ultimately help to uphold trust and confidence in the important work that the charitable fundraising sector is carrying out.

Guidance for now and the future

We know that Government guidance is likely to evolve and it is possible that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland could take different approaches in the coming weeks and months. We will update the guidance as needed – but it is also the responsibility of each organisation to ensure that it is up-to-date with the relevant Government guidance wherever you may be fundraising.

This guidance has been prepared in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive. We also sought feedback from DCMS, the Charity Commission, charities and fundraising organisations. We will continue to take feedback and suggestions so that the guidance published so far, and future pieces, take on board insight from real practice.

Check back to the Fundraising Regulator and Chartered Institute of Fundraising to see future guidance pieces and good luck with your safe and responsible return to fundraising. If you have any questions, please contact