No charity wants to curb the enthusiasm of its fundraisers and supporters – but what can you do if fundraising gets out of hand? Geoff Trobridge offers some advice.
A children’s charity had enjoyed the support of its ‘Friends’ organisation for many years. The trustees had welcomed efforts to involve children and young people in fundraising but latterly had become concerned that the fundraising activities were too ambitious and risky. Their concerns were brushed aside but matters came to a head after several children were lost on a sponsored hike; although they had been found safe and well, the emergency services had been involved and there had been adverse press comment.
The trustees started to ask questions. They discovered that the events did not appear to have been properly risk-assessed and may not have been appropriate for the age groups involved. The Friends did not have a child protection policy and not all volunteers had been CRB-checked. The publicity for the event had given the impression that the events had been organised or approved by the charity and although the charity had received donations it had little idea of the overall amount of money that had been raised.
The Friends became very defensive and were unwilling to admit that there was anything wrong in the way that the event had been organised or that there were lessons to be learned for future events that they were already planning.
There were clear risks to the reputation of the charity, both financially and from the point of view of child protection. Conversely the charity had benefited from the money that has been raised.
The ‘undiluted’ legal solution would be heavyhanded. A charity can apply to the court for an injunction to prevent unauthorised fundraising under Section 62 Charities Act 1992 if it is likely to continue.
The grounds are:
- the fundraiser is using methods of fundraising to which the charity objects;
- the fundraiser is not a fit and proper person to raise funds for the charity; or
- if representations are being made that charitable contributions will be given to the charity, that the charity does not wish to be associated with the particular fundraising event.
The charity must give the fundraiser not less than 28 days notice requiring them to stop the activities before an application is made for an injunction.
An injunction would solve the immediate problem – and destroy the charity’s relationship with a significant number of its core supporters and fundraisers. In this instance however Section 62 allowed the trustees to ‘speak softly but carry a big stick’, negotiating a better arrangement with the Friends organisation to strike a better balance between the two. The key points were:
- a new class of membership of the charity was created for those who wished to join as ‘Friends’;
- the charity set up a fundraising committee drawn primarily from the Friends;
- the charity’s child-protection policy and CRB checks procedures would subsequently apply to the fundraising activities; and
- the funds raised by the new fundraising committee would be accounted for as part of the charity’s funds.
Geoff Trobridge is head of the charity team at Lester Aldridge LLP