Press release: ‘Trustees must take responsibility for fundraising’, says revised Charity Commission guidance

The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, has published new draft guidance which states more clearly than ever that trustees must take responsibility for the fundraising undertaken by their charities. The commission has today launched a public consultation on its revised guidance for trustees.

The commission makes clear that trustees have a key role to play in setting their charity’s approach to fundraising and ensuring it reflects their charity’s values. Sir Stuart Etherington’s review into the self-regulation of fundraising identified that charity trustees have too often been absent from discussions on fundraising practice or values.

Trustees have always had to lead in setting their charity’s approach to fundraising, by complying with the law and the charity sector’s own standards, protecting a charity’s reputation and making sure that the charity’s fundraising reflects its values. However recent widespread criticism of charity fundraising and the resulting damage to public trust and confidence in charities has shown that some trustees have not overseen fundraising effectively. The draft guidance signals a new approach to ensure improved oversight by trustees.

The commission supports trustees by providing guidance but will use its powers to protect charities which are at serious risk as a result of failures in fundraising leadership. It expects trustees to ensure that their charity’s fundraising complies with the law and recognised standards, and is carried out in line with their legal trustee duties.

The draft guidance identifies 6 key principles to help trustees fulfil their responsibilities for their charity’s fundraising. These are:

  • Plan effectively
  • Supervise your fundraisers
  • Protect the charity’s reputation and other assets
  • Comply with fundraising law
  • Follow recognised standards
  • Be open and accountable

Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy and Communications at the commission said;

We recognise that raising money from the public is vital to the success of many charities and that achieving this, whilst providing a positive experience for donors and the public, can be challenging. But we have seen this summer what happens when donor and public confidence in charity fundraising is damaged, and as a result the reputation of charities as a whole. No-one wants to see such critical headlines again.

The revised guidance reflects the need to put public trust back at the heart of charity fundraising. It makes absolutely clear that trustees are in the driving seat of their charity’s approach to fundraising. This doesn’t mean that we expect them to become expert fundraisers themselves – but the buck really does stop with them. This guidance explains what we as the regulator expect of them.

The guidance is more succinct and should be accessible for all trustees. The commission welcomes responses from trustees of all size charities as well as the public and other interested parties to ensure the guidance is clear to everyone.

The regulation of day-to-day fundraising activities, practices and methods that charities use will continue to be covered by a separate self-regulation system which supervises charities’ compliance with a Code of Fundraising Practice. Currently the Fundraising Standards Board undertakes this role. A new body, and new arrangements, are expected to come into being next year.

The consultation document along with explanatory infographic is now available on GOV.UK. The consultation will close on 11 February 2016.


Notes to editors

  1. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator and registrar of charities in England and Wales.
  2. We act in the public’s interest to ensure that charities know what they have to do, the public know what charities do, and charities are held to account.

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