Your rights as a fundraiser
Fundraising is an important job, and one that you should feel proud to do as you inspire people to support charities and good causes. But it’s equally important for you, as a fundraiser, to feel safe and supported as you go about your work – whether that’s in the office, out at fundraising events, or meeting donors. We want fundraisers to work in a positive and open culture, where everyone is treated – and treats others - with respect, where everyone is protected from discrimination, harassment, and bullying of any kind.
The guidance on these pages is designed to help you know your rights and what to do if things go wrong.
It’s not always easy being a fundraiser, but it’s one of the most important roles within any charity. Here at the IoF, we believe that everyone involved in fundraising is supported at work and in their role to feel safe, valued and nurtured in the workplace.”
Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the IoF
If you’re a paid fundraiser, you will have certain workers’ rights. This includes the minimum amount you can be paid, what annual leave you are entitled to, maximum working hours, protection against unlawful discrimination, the ability to report wrongdoing (‘whistleblowing’) and not to be treated less favourably when working part-time.
These can vary from one employer to another, so be sure to check the specific terms that apply to you and your role in your contract and your employer’s organisational policies, or find out more about your legal rights from the Government’s webpage on employee rights.
It’s worth knowing that there are different rights for ‘workers’ and ‘employees’ – an employee has extra employment rights and responsibilities that don’t apply to workers who aren’t employees.
When you work for a charity budgets can be tight, but it’s important that any employer meets the legal requirements for minimum pay and is fair and transparent in its approach. There is also a thriving volunteer community within fundraising and this is vital for the sector. Whether you are working on an employed basis, as a contractor or on a formal voluntary basis, what is essential is that these terms are clearly set out in either a contract (for paid workers) or volunteer agreement.
If you’re employed, your contract should also cover any benefits linked to the role, your pension provision and more. The organisation’s pay rates will typically be set out in a salary policy, which will help you understand the payment structure and how these decisions are made. There is also legislation in place stipulating that men and women are entitled to equal pay, (see Equality and Diversity). This should also cover the terms and processes in place for ending your contract (whether this be at your request or driven by your employer), as well as the policy for handling grievances and disciplinary measures.
You can find out more in NCVO’s Knowhow Nonprofit guidance on HR and employment law.
Everyone needs a break from time to time and, if you’re employed, your contract should clarify how much time you can take off for holiday, any rest breaks you are entitled to, parental and sick leave, and other likely causes for absence. You can check your contract and the charity’s organisational policies for more details.
Employees with 26 weeks’ service or more have the right to request flexible working. This doesn’t mean that there is always a right to have flexible working, but the employer does need to consider it and give you a legal basis if they reject your request. You can find out more about flexible working from the NCVO’s guidance.
If you’re working on a voluntary basis, charities will also want to do what they can to support you. If you’re working ‘on behalf of’ a charity, meaning that this is a formal arrangement between you and the charity, you aren’t required to have a contract, but you will typically have a volunteer agreement. This sets out what training and support you should get, how you will be supervised, what insurance is in place, any health and safety issues, and details of the expenses that the charity will cover. You can find out more about your rights as a volunteer in the Code of Fundraising Practice or via this Government webpage.
As a professional fundraiser, you should be offered the same opportunities to progress and develop in your career as the next person, and be remunerated accordingly. The Equality Act 2010 asserts your rights to equal opportunities. In other words, you cannot be discriminated against; whether that is on the basis of age, gender, disability, race, religion or any other factor. Any employer is legally obliged to protect you from discrimination.
A healthy workplace culture is one that strives not only for equality, but diversity. An environment that celebrates and respects people’s differences, their skills, competencies and ethos.
Just in the same way as a charity protects its beneficiaries, it is essential that you feel safe and protected in your workplace. A positive working culture will take a zero tolerance approach to bullying or harassment, no matter whether this comes from an employee, board member, a beneficiary or the charity’s most important donor. This might include making sexist jokes, excessive criticism, discriminating against or regularly undermining someone, physical abuse, or any behaviour that makes people feel intimidated or offended.
If you are being harassed at work, the first step is usually to try and resolve the problem informally, raising the issue with the relevant individual or your line manager. If this doesn’t work or you’re not comfortable taking this approach, you could talk to your HR team, a trade union representative or Acas. The next stage is to make a formal complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure or to take legal action at an employment tribunal.
If you have serious concerns about your organisation’s conduct, you are fully entitled to raise the issue with your employer or external authorities, and you should not have any fear of repercussion. This is known as whistleblowing.
When it comes to blowing the whistle on fundraising practices, the IoF offers this specific guidance.
But in the event that your organisation is breaking the law, someone’s health or safety is in danger, the environment is at risk or that someone is covering up wrongdoing, there is specific legislation setting out what your employer must do. This includes having a clear internal procedure for staff and volunteers, setting out how you can report concerns, how the organisation will protect you from victimisation and harassment, and what it will do in response.
If you cannot resolve the issue internally for whatever reason, this policy should advise you how you can escalate matters. This might include taking your concerns to the police force or regulators such as the Charity Commission, ICO, Fundraising Regulator or Adjudication Panel for Scotland, as relevant.
Fundraising organisations have a duty to look after their staff and volunteers, doing what they can to prevent accidents or harm. There are many health and safety requirements for employers, and these vary extensively depending on the working environment, related risks, the people you work with and the size of the organisation. This means that the responsibilities for a large international non-profit working in conflict zones will likely be very different from those of a small community-based local charity, with a handful of employees.
Your employer needs to consider what could potentially cause you harm in the workplace or in carrying out your duties and seek to protect you from those. This will likely include giving you the right level of training, information and equipment, making sure there are toilets, washing facilities, and first aid expertise, as well as more specific requirements linked to public events, charity challenges, travel or other activities. If you feel that your health or safety is at risk, talk to your manager or health and safety coordinator, or go to www.hse.gov.uk for more information.
Specific guidance is also available for those who work alone.
Your general wellbeing is important and can be a major factor for both your enjoyment in the role and your performance. Working in a positive organisational culture that nurtures your health and wellbeing will help you and your organisation thrive, staving off any unnecessary stress. This is a particularly important factor for fundraisers working in dangerous or emotional situations, with beneficiaries in need, or in crisis or emergency zones.
There are many ways that organisations can look after the wellbeing of employees. For fundraisers this might include celebrating strong performance, providing ergonomically designed working areas, helping employees find ways to integrate an active and healthy lifestyle and a good work/life balance, and encouraging them to keep learning. Find out more about wellbeing in the workplace from the CIPD.
As an employee or volunteer, your personal data should be kept safe, secure and up to date. This might include your contact details, qualifications, tax code, employment history, training and any disciplinary action. You have a right to be told what records are kept about you and how they will be used. An employer shouldn’t keep your data any longer than is necessary and they must follow the rules on data protection.
Your charity should provide you with access to the training and support needed to enable you to effectively carry out their role in a legal, open, honest and respectful manner. You also have the right to ask for time off work for training or study. You can find out more about your training at work rights here.