Fundraising self-regulation systems across the UK and Ireland

This article looks at the differences in how fundraising is currently self-regulated by the voluntary and community sectors in England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

2015 and the dawn of a new era...

In September 2015 the Cross-Party Review of Fundraising Regulation commissioned by the UK Goverment, concluded that a new system of fundraising self-regulation was required across the UK.  It recommended that the best format for this system was co-regulation, involving enhanced voluntary regulation in the first instance, overseen by a new, independent regulator working, where necessary, in conjunction with the relevant statutory regulators.  For England and Wales this is the Charity Commission for England and Wales (CCEW), for Scotland it is the Office of Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) and for Northern Ireland it is the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI) 

The recommendations of the Cross Party Review were accepted in full by the Government as a form of fundraising voluntary regulation which would be acceptable across the whole of the UK.  In July 2016 the Fundraising Regulator was therefore set up.  FRSB duly closed, the role of PRFA changed and it also began a merger process with the Institute of Fundraising (IoF). There was also a handover of the Fundraising Code of Practice from the IoF to the new Fundraising Regulator. 

However, despite the expectation that all charities within the UK would be governed by the Fundraising Regulator, subsequent developments have meant that this does not reflect our current reality.

England and Wales

Since its launch on 7 July 2016, all charities operating solely in England or Wales, along with all charities operating in Scotland and/or Northern Ireland which are registered in England and Wales are regulated by the Fundraising Regulator.

Its remit is to: 

  • Set and promote the standards for fundraising practice (‘the code’ and associated rulebooks) in consultation with the public, fundraising stakeholders and legislators.
  • Investigate cases where fundraising practices have led to significant public concern.
  • Adjudicate complaints from the public about fundraising practice, where these cannot be resolved by the charities themselves.
  • Operate a fundraising preference service to enable individuals to manage their contact with charities.
  • Where poor fundraising practice is judged to have taken place, recommend best practice guidance and take proportionate remedial action.

The Fundraising Promise outlines the commitment made to donors and the public by fundraising organisations who register with the Fundraising Regulator. Those who register with the regulator agree to ensure their fundraising is legal, open, honest and respectful.

The first adjudication of the Fundraising Regulator regarding the third-party fundraising agency Neet-Feet and the 8 charities that contracted with this agency to fundraise on their behalf can be found here.


In August 2015 SCVO carried out its own separate Scottish Review on voluntary fundraising regulation.  Since July 2016 Scottish charities, i.e. those registered in Scotland with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) have been regulated by the new Scottish system of voluntary fundraising regulation.  

This comprises the Scottish Fundraising Complaints website and free phone line up by SCVO and OSCR, with a voluntary Independent Panel acting as a third line of defence for unresolved complaints.  The Independent Panel’s members are now in place and it has limited company status. (For more details, including the skills, experience and background of its members see SCVO’s statement.)

The Independent Panel now hears stage three Fundraising complaints, i.e. those that cannot be resolved at the first stage by the charity or at the second stage by its trustees. Only after the charity involved has had a chance to respond to a complaint and the complainant remains unsatisfied with how their complaint has been handled, will the complaint be referred to the Independent Panel.  Decisions are final and there is no right of appeal to OSCR regarding decisions of the Independent Panel.

Charities in Scotland also use the "lead regulator" model, with complaints about cross-border charities referred to the Fundraising Regulator.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Fundraising Regulator and OSCR is now in place.  In practice, this means that some organisations fundraising in Scotland will be subject to the Scottish system of voluntary regulation, whilst others will be subject to the Fundraising Regulator. 

A new “fundraising guarantee” has also been developed which uses the same principles as that of the Fundraising Regulator but has been adapted to ensure it is "fit for purpose" in Scotland.  All Charities in Scotland can now sign-up to this guarantee, “highlighting that they are committed to best practice fundraising”.

A review of all aspects of the new voluntary fundraising regulation system in Scotland will take place late 2017. (For a more detailed article on Scotland's Fundraising self-regulation journey see here.)


In Ireland ALL fundraising regulation is STATUTORY. The Charities Act 2009 adopts a three-pronged approach to regulating charitable fundraising:

  1. All types of fundraising from the public in public places require permits
  2. A new Charities Regulator (An Rialtóir Carthanas) was set up in 2014 and all charities now have to give full details of fundraising activities to this regulator in annual reports and returns
  3. The operational and administrative aspects of fundraising are regulated by agreed Codes of Practice developed with the sector.

The Charities Regulator (An Rialtóir Carthanas) is currently carrying out a public consultation.  Fundraising Ireland and Irish Charities Tax Research have also now combined to form the Charities Institute Ireland. 

Northern Ireland

In September 2016 a consultation event was held in NICVA to consider the options for fundraising self-regulation in NI. At this the sector asked for consideration of all of the options available and a full consultation before a decision was made about which structure to choose.

A working group was established to develop an options paper, consult with the sector and come up with recommendations. At its first meeting in November 2016 the Working Group took the decision to accept an offer from the Fundraising Regulator to act as the pro-tem Fundraising Regulator for NI whilst a more detailed consultation on the way forward was carried out. 

An options paper has now been developed and consultation with the voluntary and community sector will take place in February and March 2017. After this recommendations will be made on the future structure for fundraising self-regulation in NI.

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