Ethics in fundraising has become an increasingly important issue for charities. It important to be open an transparent about the use that resources are put to in order to deliver the objects of the charity and it is also very important that recources are raised in an ethical way.

Ethics in Fundraising

The recent report by the Parliamentary Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee:  The 2015 charity fundraising controversy: lessons for trustees, the Charity Commission, and regulators shone a light on the ethics in fundraising in charities.  It states,

"Trustees are ultimately responsible for every aspect of their charity’s activity, including fundraising. No system of regulation can be a substitute for effective governance by trustees. Good governance in general is about sustainability of reputation in the long-term, as well as the sustainability of finances. Each of the charities that gave evidence to us should re-examine their governance of fundraising and other charities should learn lessons from this episode. Trustees must have the right skills, information and attitude to prevent poor practice in the future. They are responsible not merely for fundraising within the charity but for fundraising by sub-contractors as well. We welcome the Charity Commission’s new guidance on the duties of trustees over fundraising, in particular their emphasis that trustees need to ensure that charities (and their sub-contractors) always act in accordance with their values."

Openness and Transparency

It is important that funds raised are used for the purposes for which they were given.  Charities in Northern Ireland registered with the Commission are required to report annually on whether they have raised funds from the public and if they are members of a recognised self-regulatory charity fundraising body. If a charity fundraises from the public and is not a member of a self regulatory body they must provide details of how they ensure best practice is applied in fundraising activities. See Commission website.


Management committees need to ensure that the organisation is clear about why money is needed and is honest and truthful, not exaggerating need.  

Respectful of Donors

Management Committees need to ensure that they are repecting the rights of donors in relation to data protection, privacy and not being put under pressure by overly dramatised images or requests for funds too frequently.  Charities need to give consideration to whether the individual is able to give consent to providing a donation.

Being Committed to an Ethical Approach

Management Committees need to follow high standards in fundraising and deal with complaints about their fundraising processes.

A new self-regulation system for charities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has been set up.  The Fundraising Regulator is the independent regulator of charitable fundraising.  It was set up following the Etherington review of fundraising self-regulation (2015) to strengthen the system of charity regulation and restore public trust in fundraising.  A separate system has been established for Scotland.

The Fundraising Regulator has set out a Fundraising Code which provides useful guidance for charities.

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