Fundraising with the public

Charities are only able to make the difference they do thanks to the remarkable support of the public.

People in the UK are very generous, donating billions of pounds to charities each year. This has helped create what is almost certainly the strongest and most effective charity sector of any country in the world.

Most people give to a charity when they are prompted to in some way – whether that’s through direct contact with a charity, or through friends or family who are raising money on its behalf. Charities need to invest some of their money in fundraising order to support this. But they get back much more than they invest.

What are the different ways charities raise money with the public?

There are a number of ways that charities fundraise with the public. Charities often try to raise money from a variety of sources so they’re protected against drops in income from any one source. Most fundraising falls into one of two main categories: donations or trading.

Donations

This includes one-off donations people make to charities, regular direct debits, sponsorship for events like marathons, and legacies – the money left to charities by people in their wills.

Trading

Some charities sell goods or services to raise money. This could be from doing things that are part of their mission, such as a theatre charity selling theatre tickets, or when you buy a National Trust membership. Or, increasingly, many charities are running their own businesses that donate all their profits back to the charity. For example, the RSPB runs a business that sells bird food, bird boxes and binoculars. This is a way of ensuring they have a sustainable source of income for the long term.

How much money do charities raise from the public?

Income from the public to charities was around £19.4bn in 2013/14:

  • £9.4bn from public fundraising
  • £10bn from trading with the public

The level of donations has remained broadly static in recent years, while income from trading has grown.

How much do charities spend on fundraising?

Different charities spend different amounts on fundraising. But for most charities, some expenditure on fundraising is essential.

Very few people give to a charity without a prompt of some kind, whether that’s a personal request from a friend or family member, or an advert or appeal of some kind. So if charities didn’t ask in some form or another, they wouldn’t raise any income.

On average, for every £1 charities spend on fundraising, for example in the administration of sponsored events or in advertising posters, they raise £4. If a fundraising method wasn’t efficient for a charity, they wouldn’t do it.

Charities always need to strike a balance – if they didn’t spend some of their money on fundraising, they wouldn’t be finding the new supporters who will help them continue their work in the future.

Concerns about fundraising

Charities take concerns about fundraising very seriously, and how they fundraise is subject to various rules.

Following revelations in 2015 about how some agencies working for charities were operating, charities have created a tough new regulator to ensure that high standards are always followed. The Fundraising Regulator ensures that charities follow a clear code of practice and can take action against them if they do not.

If you have concerns about how a charity is fundraising, you should raise it with the charity itself in the first instance. Charities will not want you to have a bad experience of their fundraising and will be keen to put things right. However, if you are not satisfied with their response, you can raise the issue with the Fundraising Regulator. You can read more about how to do this on its website.

You can read more about how charities have toughened up fundraising regulation to ensure they always work to high standards.

 

Charity finance data

All the charity finance figures used on this website are derived from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ UK Civil Society Almanac. Read more about the data.