Working with volunteer fundraisers
Volunteer fundraising is hugely important to charities. Having people freely give their time to help charities raise money, whether that’s directly collecting money, organising events, or making connections with local businesses, is one of the most significant ways of involving people and communities in your cause and can bring about long-term support.
While it’s fantastic to have people volunteering for your charity, there are certain things for you to be aware of to ensure any activity they do follows all the right rules. It’s also important to think about how your charity can best support people who volunteer for you so they get the best experience possible and feel valued.
'On behalf of' volunteers are volunteers who have authority from the fundraising organisation to fundraise. The organisation knows that they are raising money and will often help the volunteers by providing advice and resources.
'In aid of' volunteers have no authority from the fundraising organsiation and are acting on their own initiative. Often the fundraising organisation will not have any knowledge of the volunteer activity until they receive the money that has been raised.
The distinction between the different types of volunteer establishes the role of the charity in overseeing the volunteers’ actions and activities, and determines who would be responsible if something went wrong.
It’s not always so clear whether a volunteer is acting ‘on behalf of’ or ‘in aid of’.The more the charity knows about the fundraising activity – particularly if they’ve asked existing or potential volunteers to take part in an activity and have had an active role in coordinating an event or providing support, the more likely it is that the volunteer will be acting ‘on behalf of’ the charity.
The Code of Fundraising Practice sets out the legal requirements and standards expected of fundraising organisations when working with volunteers, for both ‘on behalf of’ or ‘in aid of’ volunteers. It’s recommended that you review the Code to make sure you know all of the rules that you need to follow.
For the purposes of this guidance, a volunteer is someone who, without payment or other material benefit, raises money or engages in fundraising activity for a charity or other philanthropic or benevolent institution. (The reimbursement of reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred by a volunteer is not a material benefit).
There can be a range of people, or groups of people, who do voluntary activity for charities. As well as people helping to put on community events or collect money, you might also have a company whose employees do a programme of activity to support a cause, or a high profile celebrity or major donor who also acts as an ambassador or patron for your charity. If people are doing this without material benefit or payment, then they are still volunteers for your cause, although your charity may have different policies and ways of working with companies or celebrities to make sure they are appropriately supported.
It is best practice for organisations to have written role descriptions for volunteer fundraisers that establish the terms and boundaries of the relationship, what the volunteer will be doing, and what they can expect in support or management from the charity. Just because a role or activity might be done voluntarily, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or simple. Organisations should think about what skills or experience would be needed and if there are any particular requirements of the role that a volunteer would need to be aware of.
Organisations should think about how they can best advertise roles and ensure the process is fair and accessible and attracts people with the right skills and experience – using formal applications and/or interviews as well as volunteering brokerage agencies such as Volunteer Centre when necessary.
It is important for organisations to check the suitability and credentials of volunteer fundraisers to act as responsible people on an organisation's behalf, for example, by taking up references and carrying out CRB/DBS checks.
Volunteers should be provided with the training and support they need to effectively carry out their role, including guidance on compliance with fundraising law.
People who already support the charity financially may also want to give their time as well as money. As well as offering opportunities to volunteer to your existing supporters, or through your normal communication and marketing programmes, there are organisations and websites that can help you find new volunteers and provide you with support.
There are important things to think through when your organisation is working with volunteers. This includes ensuring that they are supported and managed appropriately, that they are aware of how to fundraise in a way that you are happy with and follows the rules, and that you are acting properly with regards to their rights and health and safety.
The starting point to help your organisation identify issues and decide how you will work with volunteers is to have an organisational volunteer policy that adequately covers volunteer fundraisers.
The policy will need to adequately reflect your organisation and the types of voluntary activity that you intend to involve people in. It should be put together with support and in partnership with other teams and individuals in the organisation (including HR and finance) and be approved by the Board.
The volunteer fundraising policy should be a starting point to set out the organisation’s approach – it may not be able to cover all eventualities, but should include procedures for how issues will be resolved if they were to arise. There is no set list of things to include in the policy, but most will include:
- Reasons for involving volunteers in fundraising and what type of activities they might be involved
- Definition of a volunteer fundraiser
- Volunteer recruitment policies
- Equal opportunities and diversity
- Induction and training
- Support and supervision, including regular review meetings
- Reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses
- The transfer of funds raised from volunteers to the organisation they have fundraised for e.g. how quickly should the money be handed over and recognition of receipt
- Insurance, including arrangements for cover for children and young people and vulnerable adults
- Health and safety
- Risk assessments
- Confidentiality and data protection
- Handling conflicts of interest when paid fundraising staff volunteer to fundraise for another organisation
- Procedures for dealing with complaints made by volunteers and problem behaviour by volunteers, including dealing with allegations of theft and terminating the relationship between volunteers and an organisation
While volunteers are not ‘employees’, there are key elements of employment law for organisations to consider, including:
- Be careful not to discriminate on grounds of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age or disability when recruiting and managing volunteer fundraisers
- Have clear policies and procedures in place to protect children and vulnerable adults involved in volunteer fundraising, and ensure everyone is aware of them
- Provide volunteer fundraisers with written information that clarifies the terms and boundaries of the relationship and also covers other requirements such as use of the organisation's logo and brand. In some cases this relationship may be with groups of volunteer fundraisers which are recognised as separate, independent groups
- Offer training appropriate to the relationship with the volunteer fundraiser and have clear guidelines on the handling of money, particularly cash
- Take action if it becomes apparent that volunteer fundraisers are behaving inappropriately. For example, if theft or fraud is taking place, organisations should terminate the relationship with the volunteer fundraisers and inform the police
- To consider, where paid fundraisers act in a voluntary capacity for another organisation, whether a conflict of interest could arise and, if so, they should discuss this with their employer prior to their involvement
- Any written agreements with volunteers should be phrased in terms of hopes and expectations about the relationship, not in terms of binding obligations to provide or do work
Although most volunteering will not affect the receipt of state benefits, it is a good idea for organisations to tell all volunteers that if they are in receipt of state benefits, they should confirm this with Job Centre Plus or their benefit advisor. More information on volunteering and benefits can be found at GOV UK.
It is advisable for organisations to consider taking legal advice if they have further questions on issues relating to volunteers and employment law.
Fundraising collections are a common method of raising money for charity, particularly among volunteers. They can be particularly effective because they:
- Offer a positive opportunity for the general public to participate actively in supporting fundraising organisations within their own community
- Enable supporters to raise funds for all sorts of fundraising organisations in an ethical and secure manner
- Provide an important mechanism for information exchange between fundraising organisations and their donors
There are many different forms of charitable collections, and all have different rules associated with them. Some of the most common are:
- Street collections – If you are holding a collection in the street, you will need to obtain a licence, either from your local authority, or if in greater London, the Metropolitan Police
- Private collections – If your collection is still open to the public, but being held on private property such as within a shopping centre or rail station, you must obtain permission from the landowner or manager
- Static collection boxes – Boxes must be secure and tamper proof. You do not need a licence to place these in a shop or business, just permission from the business owner
- House-to-house collections – Licences must be obtained from the relevant local authority or Metropolitan Police
Collectors in public places (on the street or house-to-house) generally require permission from the local authority or, if within its district, from the Metropolitan Police. Some charities hold exemption certificates for public collections which means they do not need to obtain a licence for public collections. A list of exemption holders is available on the Cabinet Office website.
If collections are taking place on private land, such as in a shop, or at a sports event, permission needs to be sought from the owner or the individual who is responsible for the premises.
It is important that you have secure collection buckets and tins. As with all fundraising activities, contact the organisation that you wish to fundraise for as they may be able to supply you with suitable collection materials and/or additional guidance.
The charity can supply materials (tabbards, collecting buckets) to volunteers and often will liaise directly with the site owner/manager and then coordinate volunteer activity (organising a rota of volunteers). Charities should ensure that volunteers have the necessary and relevant information to hand and be briefed in advance (such as where to stand, what to do if they have questions), and also ensure that volunteers understand any rules and requirements of the venue they are collecting in. Volunteers also need to know relevant sections of the Code of Fundraising Practice.
If volunteers are carrying out cash collections (e.g, at a train station, football match, or at your own charity’s event) the permission of the site owner/manager must be obtained. Fundraisers also need to have appropriate procedures for keeping the cash that is raised safe and secure before banking and should have arrangements with the charity as to when and how money will be passed to the charity.
If the volunteer is collecting money from a ‘static collection’ point (at a shop or in a pub), are acting as ‘on behalf of’ volunteer they must have a badge stating:
- the collector’s name
- the name and contact details of the organisation benefitting from the collection
- the name of the organiser (if different to collector or organisation benefitting)
Transferring funds raised to the charity
A volunteer who raises money from others for an organisation is a trustee of the funds raised and it is essential that they ensure the organisation receives all that money.
It is good practice for organisations to ensure there is a proper arrangement for money to be transferred to the organisation as soon as practicable; the sooner the money is transferred, the safer it is. Cheques should be made payable to the organisation (this will assist in reclaiming Gift Aid). If money is collected over a long period, it’s reasonable for an organisation to request it be transferred at reasonable intervals. Organisations should have a system in place for volunteers to follow to transfer funds, and ensure volunteers are aware of how and when this should take place.
It is good practice for organisations to have a policy, which includes involvement of celebrities and high profile volunteers. Before accepting an offer from a celebrity, it is a good idea for organisations to:
- Research the celebrity and consider whether any aspect of the celebrity’s reputation might prove harmful to the organisation’s reputation before making any approach
- Consider the appropriateness of the celebrity for the fundraising activity proposed, any issues relating to the desired length and depth of the relationship with the celebrity
- Clarify and document the benefits and main purpose of involving celebrities in their fundraising on a case by case basis
- Clarify the expectations of the charity and the celebrity including levels of support and PR opportunities
- Provide the celebrity with a full briefing on the organisation and the activity with which they will be involved
- Consider the risk to a fundraising event involving celebrities as volunteers if those celebrities do not turn up
- Have a written agreement with celebrity supporters, which might take the form of a letter of confirmation from the charity to the celebrity