Trustees and fundraising: changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice

At the end of July 2017, the Fundraising Regulator (FR) announced changes to the Code of Fundraising Practice in six areas – full details are set out in the table below. To ensure charities (and for profit fundraising organisations) comply with these changes, we have outlined below the steps trustees, charity fundraisers and fundraising organisations should be taking now:

  • All fundraising organisations must have a policy in place by 30th November explaining how employees and volunteers can raise concerns about fundraising practice. This can be part of a wider whistleblowing policy but must cover five key areas set out in the Code. Steps to put this in place should begin now.
  • Guidance and training on delivery of charity collection bags should be updated to include that charity collection bags cannot be delivered if there is a “no charity bags” sign.
  • Guidance to fundraisers, in relation to all types of fundraising, should now emphasise that interaction with a potential donor should be terminated if there are reasonable grounds for believing the donor to be vulnerable.
  • Arrangements for carrying out due diligence on and monitoring third party fundraisers should be reviewed in the light of the suggested steps now included in the Code.
  • Trustees should be reminding themselves of relevant guidance for trustees about fundraising, and following this in relation to internal governance and trustee decisions around fundraising. In England and Wales, this includes the Charity Commission’s publication CC20 and also the recently updated Good Governance Code.

Further changes to the Code are anticipated. Specifically we are expecting a consultation looking at Code changes around donor data and consent, and there is likely to be a wider review of Code content and format generally.

Summary of Code Changes announced in July 2017

Area of fundraising

Date change came/will come into force


People in vulnerable circumstances

No change

The FR consulted on whether any changes were needed to the existing Code requirements around vulnerable people.  The majority of respondents agreed no change was needed – though note the change to Section 1.2 of the Code (see below) which introduces stricter rules around fundraising asks to people in vulnerable circumstances. 

The FR has resisted suggestions to cross refer from the Code to resources which may be useful to train fundraisers to recognise vulnerable persons.  These include the “Dementia Friends” initiative developed by the Alzheimer’s Society and the IOF’s e-learning modules on interacting with vulnerable people.

Interestingly, views expressed during the public workshops commissioned by the FR included that members of the public:

– recognised that identifying if someone is vulnerable is extremely challenging and, in many cases, almost impossible without an initial discussion with a person. 

– felt strongly that fundraisers should avoid pre-judging potential donors based on appearances or outward behaviour.

Charity Trustees – Section 1.2 (General principles)

“Trustees… MUST have regard to national guidance in overseeing the fundraising activities of their Charity and any third parties fundraising on the charity’s behalf”. 

Already in force – 31st July

The FR justified introducing this with immediate effect because “Organisations should already be following national guidelines as set out by the Charity Commission, OSCR and the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland”.  

The FR rejected one suggestion that the Code should include a recommendation for each charity to have a trustee responsible for overseeing fundraising activities and compliance with the Code, saying “While there may be merit in a Trustee being allocated lead responsibility for fundraising, the Fundraising Regulator is concerned that fundraising should be acknowledged by Boards as a shared responsibility and not the preserve of any single individual. It is for Charities themselves to decide the best way to ensure fundraising and the Code is given adequate consideration as part of their governance responsibilities. “ 

Third parties  – Two changes have been made:

– In relation to charities ensuring compliance with the Code by third parties fundraising on their behalf, the Code now includes a list of suggestions for how charities can check third party compliance (Section 4.2(b))

-In relation to monitoring provisions in agreements between charities and third parties, the Code now suggests certain polices and procedures of the third party which the charity should read and review e.g. complaints handling, whistleblowing, training materials and policy on vulnerable people  (Section 4.5(b))


Already in force – 31st July

These changes were introduced with immediate effect because the FR said “Organisations should already be making ‘reasonable efforts’ to ensure ongoing compliance of third party fundraisers”.

The suggestions include:

– establishing a named individual with lead responsibility for monitoring compliance;

– developing clear reporting requirements with the third party fundraising organisation and regularly reviewing progress against pre-agreed performance, quality assurance and compliance targets; 

– defining how monitoring will be carried out, including establishing an appropriate frequency for monitoring based on an assessment of the risk posed by the fundraising activity;

– approving and regularly reviewing agency compliance training including authorising content and materials for training;

– regularly conducting (and documenting the results of) call monitoring, mystery shopping, site visits and/or shadowing with third party fundraisers;

– setting out a clear policy for handling complaints and feedback

To some extent the suggestions are helpful but in our view the FR could do more to clarify (separate to the Code) what in practice it expects charities of different sizes to be doing.

The Fundraising ask – Section 8.3.1 (Telephone fundraising )

“Fundraisers MUST NOT, at any point in a telephone call, be unreasonably persistent or place undue pressure on the recipient to donate, and in particular, MUST NOT ask for a financial contribution more than three times during that call.”


Already in force – 31st July

The change here is quite small – this wording largely mirrors wording already in the Code save that “financial contribution” has replaced the previous wording “donation”. 

The FR has provided some useful clarification around the “three asks” rule:

– The “three asks” rule only applies to individual direct marketing calls. It does not place a limit on the number of separate conversations that a fundraiser may have with a potential donor.

– It is not an “ask” if a fundraiser tells an individual about what a donation will buy, e.g. ‘A donation of £5 could buy a mosquito net for a child’,

– It is also not an “ask” if, once an individual has agreed to donate, a fundraiser asks further questions regarding payment method and schedule.

The fundraising ask – Section 1.2 (General Principles)

This introduces two important new restrictions on fundraising:


“Fundraisers MUST NOT continue to ask an individual for support if:

that person clearly indicates – by word or gesture – that they do not wish to continue to engage; or

they have reasonable grounds for believing, in the course of their engagement with the individual, that they are in vulnerable circumstances which mean they are unable to make an informed decision to donate.




30th  September 2017

Previously the Code did not include a general requirement not to continue to ask (though the Rulebooks for Street and Face to Face fundraising did include this restriction).  By including it in the Code, it means it now applies across the board to all types of fundraising. 

The second requirement not to continue to ask on the grounds of vulnerability was not part of the consultation but was added by the FR following suggestions from some respondents to the consultation.

The FR said it thinks 2 months should give sufficient time for fundraising organisations to change training materials and implement compliance monitoring processes.  

Charity Collection Bags  – Section 16.10

“Organisations operating house to house bag collections for charitable purposes MUST NOT deliver bags to a property that displays a sticker or sign which includes the words ‘no charity bags’, ‘no clothing bags’ or any other words which clearly indicate that the householder does not wish to donate through this method.”

30th  September 2017

This was a “win” for some in the sector, with the FR backing down on a proposal to ban the delivery of charity collection bags to any households with a “no junk mail” sign.  But the Fundraising Regulator has laid a marker that it will revisit this area if this new rule is not adhered to.

The FR has allowed for a 2 month lead-in “to cascade information to bag collectors regarding expectations on door stickers”. 

Solicitation (disclosure) statements – Section 4.2e (Working with third parties)

“In all cases, the disclosure (or solicitation) statement MUST be made either before money is given by the donor or before any financial details relevant to the transaction are requested by the fundraiser (whichever is the sooner).”

30th November 2017


This is again a fairly minor change, confirming the timing of statements made by professional fundraisers or commercial participators.  For this change, the FR thought 4 months should give sufficient time for fundraising organisations to cascade information to fundraisers.

Bigger issues raised by respondents to the consultation (which hopefully will be addressed by the FR in further Code revisions) include how the Charities Act 1992 regime for professional fundraisers applies to lotteries and payroll giving, and aligning the Code more closely to the 2008 Cabinet Office guidance on the Charities Act 1992.

Raising concerns about fundraising practice (whistleblowing)  – Section 1.6

Fundraising organisations MUST have a clear and published internal procedure for members of staff and volunteers to report any concerns they may have regarding their organisation’s fundraising practice. This could be either a standalone policy or part of a wider whistleblowing policy made available to staff and volunteers. In either case, the policy MUST include:

i) the type of issues that can be raised and the process for doing so;

ii) how the person raising a concern will be protected from victimisation and harassment;

iii) how and what the organisation will do in response to receiving such information; and

iv) how an individual can escalate their concerns on fundraising practice to the Fundraising Regulator or the Independent Fundraising Standards and Adjudication Panel for Scotland in the event that internal consideration is not possible.

30th November 2017


This is one of the most significant changes.  For organisations with existing whistleblowing policies, this may be relatively easy to comply with.  Otherwise, organisations have just 4 months to put a whistleblowing policy in place and it must cover the five key areas set out in the Code.  The FR said “based on trustees meeting on a quarterly basis, 4 months gives organisations enough time for the trustees to see, amend and approve a whistleblowing policy.”


This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of August 23, 2017.