1.0 Key Principles and Behaviours

KEY: * denotes legal requirement


1.1 Legal References in this Section


The work of all of the Institute’s members will be Legal, Open, Honest and Respectful.


1.2 General Principles

a) A legal principle underpinning fundraising is that all funds raised for a particular cause MUST* be used for that particular cause.

b) Fundraisers MUST NOT denigrate other individuals or organisations.

c) Organisations MUST NOT exaggerate facts relating to the potential beneficiary.

d) Organisations MUST NOT take advantage of mistakes made by the donor.

e) i) Fundraisers MUST take all reasonable steps to treat a donor fairly, enabling them to make an informed decision about any donation. This MUST include taking into account the needs of any potential donor who may be in a vulnerable circumstance or require additional care and support to make an informed decision.

ii) Fundraisers MUST NOT exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge, apparent need for care and support or vulnerable circumstance of any donor at any point in time.There is more information available about responding to the needs of people in vulnerable circumstances and helping donors to make informed decisions in our 'Treating Donors Fairly' Guidance.

iii) If a fundraiser knows or has reasonable grounds for believing that an individual lacks capacity to make a decision to donate, a donation MUST NOT be taken.

iv) A donation given by someone who lacked capacity at the time of donating MUST* be returned.

f) Organisations MUST NOT engage in fundraising which:

-         Is an unreasonable intrusion on a person’s privacy;

-         Is unreasonably persistent;


-         Places undue pressure on a person to donate.


1.3 The Donation

1.3.1 Requesting Donations

a) When using donor information in a case study or any other type of publicity, organisations MUST* comply with any duties of confidentiality that they have and comply with data protection law if publishing a case study that includes information that could identify a donor.

b) Fundraisers MUST NOT encourage existing donors in any way to change an existing charitable donation to another fundraising organisation.

c) The Charities Act 1992, and Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 allow charities to obtain a court order preventing unauthorised fundraising where any individual is using fundraising methods to which the charity objects or where the charity believes that an individual is not a fit and proper person to raise funds on its behalf.


1.3.2 Acceptance and Refusal of Donations

a) The trustees (and their delegates) MUST* act in the best interests of the charity when deciding to accept or refuse a particular donation.


1.3.3 Rewards/ Incentives and Benefit Packages

It is common for organisations to engage a donor by offering them benefits related to the size and frequency of the gift.

a) Fundraising organisations MUST ensure that benefits are appropriate for the organisation to be giving, and proportionate to the size of the gift.

b) Fundraisers MUST be aware of when benefits nullify potential tax relief such as Gift Aid or top-up payments available under the small donation rules. If benefits do prevent the donation qualifying under Gift Aid or the small donation rules, organisations MUST NOT* attempt to reclaim tax on the sum.


1.4 After the Donation

a) Any specified reporting requirements to which a donation is subject MUST* be complied with.

b) Fundraising organisations MUST* only make a Gift Aid reclaim in respect of a donation if all of the Gift Aid conditions are met. One of these is that a donor's Gift Aid declaration MUST* comply with the new guidance issued by HMRC setting out the information that declarations are required to include from 1st January 2013. Where a donation is not eligible for Gift Aid and the organisation wishes to make a claim under the small donations rules, it MUST ONLY* do so if all of the small donation conditions are satisfied.

c) Fundraising organisations MUST* ensure that accepted donations are used to support the cause in accordance with the conditions attached to the donation, which may arise from donor’s stipulations or representations made by the charity as to the uses of the funds. 

1.5 Use of Funds

The law in relation to changing the terms of a gift is complex and organisations should obtain advice from legal advisers or the Charity Commission / Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) before seeking to change the terms, even if there is donor consent. In Scotland, in cases where donor consent cannot be obtained, OSCR can permit the restricted fund under which a gift is held to be 'reorganised' if certain conditions are met, but only where it is not possible to ascertain the donor's wishes in relation to the proposed change.

a) If an appeal is being run for a particular purpose, fundraisers MUST include a statement indicating what will happen to funds received if the total funds raised are insufficient or exceed the target.


1.6 Complaints

a) Organisations MUST have a complaints procedure which MUST also apply to any Third Parties fundraising on their behalf.

b) Organisations MUST respond to any complaints from donors, beneficiaries or other parties in a timely, respectful, open and honest way.

c) Organisations MUST ensure that the learnings from any complaints are acted upon.


1.7 Returning Donations

a) Fundraising organisations which are charities MUST* not return donations unless certain criteria are fulfilled. For all other fundraising organisations, donations MUST only be refunded in line with any policies or in exceptional circumstances. It may not be lawful to return a donation and fundraisers MUST take advice from legal advisers or the Charity Commission / OSCR before doing so.