Door-to-door (or house-to-house) collections can involve cash, goods and direct debit commitments and may be carried out by volunteers, charity officers, professional fundraisers and commercial participators.
It is important to make sure the correct permissions are in place before carrying out collections. The relevant licensing authority is usually the local authority and/or the police. For more information on the regulations that apply and the standards set for door-to-door fundraising, go to the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice.
Some charities have National Exemption Orders which are issued by the Cabinet Office and mean they do not need to apply for individual licences to do door-to-door fundraising (although they are required to notify and report on fundraising activity).
Find out more about Exemption Orders
Frequency of door-to-door fundraising
It is important that collectors take steps to try to avoid overlapping with other fundraisers at the same place and time. Charities can check the frequency of collections with local authorities and should consider the impact of too many fundraising campaigns on members of the public and businesses you might be approaching.
There are certain rules around the credentials that must be visible to authenticate fundraisers (otherwise known as collection materials). In England and Wales, collections of both cash and goods have legal requirements around badges and certificates of authority, while in Scotland most of the legal requirements only refer to collections of cash.
Materials should be dispatched to collectors in good time and include contact details for the fundraising organisation and a third party agency if they are involved. Every collector should be given a collector’s badge and a certificate of authority that specifies the name of the collector, the period of the collection and the specific location in which that collection will take place. It is good practice to include clear contact details for the fundraising organisation on all donation requests. Personnel representing the fundraising organisation and, where possible, their vehicles, should be clearly identifiable as representing the fundraising organisation involved.
For more detail on what collection materials you need, take a look at the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice.
Keeping records and handling donations
You should make arrangements to ensure that records are kept of the proceeds collected by each fundraiser and details of the collecting materials returned (e.g. in the case of envelope collections, the number of envelopes containing cash that are returned by each collector and the total amount of money contained therein).
Where collectors are asked to count the proceeds of their collection, they should have written instructions to open the returned envelopes and count the proceeds only in the presence of the promoter or another responsible person who must confirm the proceeds of the collection in writing.
All proceeds from all collectors must be passed to the organiser of the collection together with the collector’s badge, certificate of authority and any unused collection materials as soon as possible. If the proceeds of the collection are not provided within one month of the collection, the charity ought to identify whether or not the collection took place and take appropriate action.
Additional requirements for collections of goods
It is essential that collection bags/sacks comply with relevant safety standards. Organisations should consider having a warning that these sacks are not toys and could cause suffocation. To aid transparency and understanding, collection bags ought to include a web address where donors can find out more information about the nature of the collection, including details about what happens to the donated goods.
It is essential that fundraising organisations ensure:
- Reasonable steps are taken to ensure collectors are fit and proper persons to collect
- All collectors are 16 years of age or over (In Northern Ireland, youth organisations can have collectors aged 12 or over if approved by DSD)
- Collectors follow their legal obligations
Effective training of all those engaged in public collections is critical in ensuring that all their activity follows the rules in place and delivers a high standard of fundraising for members of the public. Paid staff of fundraising organisations, including recruiters of volunteers, or third party agencies responsible for organising collections require a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities and clear guidance to ensure they work at all times within current legislation.
Training ought to be undertaken by an informed member of staff on a group or individual basis and be supported by a comprehensive reference manual. It is good practice for all organisers to be advised of any changes to legislation or procedures at the earliest opportunity.
The information given should include:
- Details of collections legislation relevant to their work
- A clear definition of their role and the extent of their responsibility and authority
- How to plan a collection on a geographical basis and as an annual or rolling programme
- The importance and necessity of appropriate contact with other relevant bodies e.g. other charities, police, local authorities, banks, local press
- Where appropriate, the recruitment, training, monitoring and payment of others engaged in house-to-house collections, e.g. recruiters
- Who to approach as potential volunteers and how to approach them, in particular the information and instructions to be given to volunteers
- Recording of collector details
- Personalised authorisation certificates and badges to collectors and the arrangements for their return
- Recording of the collection materials issued to each collector
- Arrangements for the receipt of income
- Recording of the receipt of income which should ultimately provide information for statutory returns
- How to deal with queries from the general public
It is important that all collectors are aware of and follow their legal responsibilities, and it is preferable to arrange face-to-face meetings with potential collectors. However, it is also advisable for all collectors to receive written instructions as to how to undertake their collection and the procedures to be followed when the collection is complete.
The written instructions should include:
- How to conduct the collection
- A contact name and address and a telephone number in case of queries or emergency
- The exact area in which the collection is to take place and that they can only collect in that area
- The specific dates and times the collection is to take place and that they must only collect in that period and no later than 9pm
- How to use the materials supplied, and emphasis that it is essential they carry a signed and dated Certificate of Authority, wear their signed collector’s badge and only accept sealed envelopes or donations made directly into a sealed collecting tin when collecting money
- What to do with the items collected
- Arrangements for the return of all unused materials and badges of authority after the collection
Where collectors intend to have direct contact with the public, they should be given sufficient information on both the work of the fundraising organisation and the collection to enable them to answer reasonable questions from householders or be able to direct them to where they can find out more information.
Conduct of fundraisers
All collectors must carry and display an identity badge and Certificate of Authority. Collectors should be courteous at all times and only collect at the times agreed. Where collection envelopes or sacks are delivered through letterboxes, it is good practice for these to be fully pushed through the letterbox, and every effort should be made to collect unused materials. It is good practice for collectors to avoid walking on householders’ gardens and ensure gates to properties are closed where appropriate. Finally, fundraisers should only knock the front door or main entrance to a house (usually the entrance closest to, or most directly accessible from, a street), unless directed to do otherwise by a resident.