Key behaviours expected of fundraisers: guidance for fundraisers

What’s covered in this guidance?

How fundraisers ask for support can affect trust and confidence in fundraising. This guidance is intended to help any person or organisation fundraising or planning to fundraise in the UK for a charitable cause to comply with the standards set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice (the code). 

The obligation to meet certain requirements in the code will often depend on the type of fundraising activity (from street or static collections to lotteries and events) and the category of fundraiser (from charities and volunteers to professional agencies). This guidance sets out the four key values in the code to which all charitable fundraising must adhere: open, honest, respectful and legal. Fundraisers are responsible for ensuring that all relevant standards and legal requirements outlined in the code are met.

What is the status of this guidance?

This guidance neither replaces nor supersedes the code, and it is not intended to act as a substitute for the code itself. 

Who do we regulate?

The Fundraising Regulator regulates all fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland carried out by charitable institutions, as well as the agencies and businesses they work with to fundraise on their behalf. We also regulate fundraising in Scotland by charities which are primarily registered with the Charity Commission in England and Wales. The Scottish Fundraising Adjudication Panel regulates fundraising carried out by charities only registered in Scotland.

Not every fundraiser in the UK is raising funds for a specific charitable institution. Members of the public can fundraise for any personal benefit cause (for example, new equipment for a disabled family member in need) and are free to ask for donations from the public. Because these causes are about personal benefit, they are unlikely to be charitable in law.

While members of the public are free to ask for donations for a cause that is not connected to a charitable institution, this type of activity is not regulated by the Fundraising Regulator.

Members of the public fundraising for personal benefit causes can, however, follow this guidance to support their own fundraising. 

The key values of the code’s fundraising standards and how to demonstrate these in fundraising

The four core values are key to developing a culture of honesty, openness and respect between fundraisers and the public: that fundraising be open, honest, respectful and legal. These values should guide your fundraising to create a meaningful and positive experience for both fundraiser and members of the public. Before you ask for donations, consider how your fundraising reflects the four core values which support all standards in the code.

Fundraising openly means being clear with the public about your processes and willing to explain, where appropriate, if they are asked for more information. This means, for example, that:

  • You must take all reasonable steps to help donors make an informed decision about donating. Members of the public should be free, within reason, to ask for more information about the cause of the charity. Some donors might ask about how much money the charity spends on administration or the cost of the fundraising campaign to support the delivery of its charitable activities. Section 1.3 of the code outlines further standards around informing donors and treating people fairly. 
  • You must be open about your relationship to the charity. For example, if you are a paid professional fundraiser raising funds on behalf of a charity, do not claim to be a volunteer. There are legal requirements about professional fundraisers and the costs charities incur when they employ them which aim to make these costs transparent (see section 7.4 of the code).
  • Online fundraising platforms supporting a fundraiser to procure donations from the public and charging fees for hosting a fundraising campaign must make their charges clear to donors before they are asked for their financial details to donate. Section 10.2 of the code sets out the standards applicable to online fundraising platforms.

Fundraising honestly means acting with integrity and not misleading the public about the cause you are fundraising for or the way a donation will be used. This means, for example, that:

  • You and the fundraising materials you use must not mislead anyone, or be likely to mislead anyone, either by leaving out information or by being inaccurate or ambiguous or by exaggerating details. Fundraising materials include any item used to promote an appeal, such as letters, website content, emails and TV advertisements. Where applicable, you must also follow any rules set by the Committees of Advertising Practice and administered and enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority.
  • You must not take advantage of a donor’s mistake. As a fundraiser, when someone makes a donation, you should make sure that the donor’s wishes are reflected accurately as to how the donation is completed. For example, if a donor accidently wrote £50 instead of £5 on the donation form in front of you, having already discussed what they could afford, you would need to correct this with the donor before you process the form.

Fundraising respectfully means demonstrating respect whenever you have contact with any member of the public. This means, for example, that:

  • You must be polite to people at all times.
  • You must not make a donor feel unduly pressured to give to your charity or cause.
  • You must not communicate in a way that is likely to cause offence, fear or distress, whether in person or in your fundraising materials. You should not, for instance, make a claim or use an image that some people may find shocking just to attract attention (see section 9.1 of the code).
  • You must respect a member of the public’s wish to not receive fundraising communication and materials. For example, if a member of the public clearly displays a ‘No charity bags’ sign, charities and clothing collection companies must stop delivering charity bags to that address. 
  • You must not unfairly criticise or insult other people or other organisations, and you must not encourage a donor to cancel or change a donation in favour of a donation to your charity or cause.
  • You must not exploit the trust or lack of knowledge or awareness of any donor in vulnerable circumstances.

Fundraising legally means that all fundraising must meet the requirements of the law. 

While the code includes standards which reflect the law, it is not designed to be a legal handbook. Fundraising law is complex and comes from many sources. Fundraisers are responsible for making sure they get the advice they need to meet legal requirements. 

The following examples represent just some of the legal requirements which fundraisers must meet:

  • You must have the appropriate permits or licences to collect donations, whether on the street, on a private site or collecting from house to house. Be mindful that the public may ask if you have permission to fundraise in their area. When collecting regular gifts, you must wear an ID badge that clearly shows the charity for which you are fundraising. Section 8 of the code sets out standards to ensure fundraisers respect both members of the public and the places in which you are fundraising.
  • You must protect donor details. Understandably, donors can have concerns about their personal data. If you’re taking personal information from members of the public to process donations, you need to do so in line with data protection regulations and in a way that keeps their details secure.
  • If you are a third-party fundraiser, such as a professional fundraiser, a commercial partner or commercial participator, you must have a written agreement with your charity partners in place before fundraising on their behalf. You must also issue a solicitation statement, which informs donors of this partnership and explains how much you are receiving to carry out fundraising for the charity. The regulations around working with third-party fundraisers are outlined in section 7 of the code.

What to do if you receive a complaint about your fundraising

Section 2.4 of the code sets out the requirements around complaints procedures and we have produced guidance on complaints handling. This guidance has been designed to help fundraising organisations when dealing with complaints about fundraising, setting out how the Fundraising Regulator defines a complaint and how organisations are expected to handle the complaints they receive. This guidance is relevant for all fundraisers, including those employed by a charity or working for a third-party fundraising organisation. 

In the event the Fundraising Regulator intervenes, we investigate complaints about a suspected breach in fundraising compliance against the Code of Fundraising Practice. Fundraising organisations are expected to cooperate with us when we are investigating a complaint made about their fundraising activity.

What if I have questions about my fundraising activity? 

If you have a question about the standards set out in the code, please contact our code advice service for more information.