Charity Street Collection Rules - how does it work?

One of the most simple and familiar approaches to fundraising, asking members of the public for money has always been a popular way to raise money for charity, whether by way of a collection box at your local pub or shop, or by shaking your bucket in the street. But there is a lot of confusion around charity street collection rules.

Although the actual collection of money may be easy, you need to make preparations. Before you embark on your fundraising efforts, there are two important questions you need to ask:

  • Is it the most effective way of raising funds for your charity?
  • What are the charity street collection rules?

Is charity street collection effective?

It depends!

There was a time when most people would happily put their loose change into a charity collection box without giving too much thought to what cause they were donating to.

Nowadays, however, people get what’s called “giving fatigue” and, while the public can brilliantly support a major disaster appeal, they can also feel pressurised by all the publicity for other charities and appeals whenever they’re walking down their local high street. With so many requests for donations, people are much less willing to give as a matter of course, even if they’re all for a great cause.

A charity collection can take a surprisingly long time to organise and a lot of volunteer effort. You need to weigh it up: are you likely to raise more by appealing to the wider public than you would from a fundraising event with your own members, family, friends and other supporters?

The success of a charity collection might depend on how well-known your charity is. That doesn’t mean you have to be a household name, but it would definitely help if people in the local area know you or your cause. People may be reluctant to support a charity that they’ve never heard of.

If your charity isn’t well-known locally (or even if it is!), it would be a good idea to try to get some publicity in the local newspaper shortly before your event. If people can relate to your cause and you create a human connection between the public and the people your charity helps, they will be much more inclined to spare some change.

It is important to make sure your collection volunteers know enough about your charity and the reasons behind the collection to be able to respond to any questions in a helpful and trustworthy way. Nobody will want to give their money to a stranger in the street who doesn’t know where the money is going.

If you have any branded promotional material, such as leaflets or posters, displaying or handing these out can really boost your charity’s visibility as well as perceived credibility. And of course the collection event itself will help to raise your profile locally and get you recognised by many more people.

What are the rules of charity street collection?

There are laws about charity collections with which you must conform. Most importantly this ensures that only legitimate organisations are collecting, but also aims to minimise disruption to the public and local businesses.

The laws vary depending on whether you are holding the charity collection in England and Wales, or in Scotland, or in Northern Ireland, but are mostly similar. Please check with your local authority for full details.

First and foremost, you must obtain a street collection permit from your local council. You may find it more difficult to be granted a permit for areas that are particularly popular for street collectors, so you should allow plenty of time for your application to be accepted before your event.

You must remain stationary, which means you can’t directly approach people. You must not position yourself somewhere which obstructs or endangers the public.

All buckets and tins must be sealed (with cable ties or stickers) and clearly labelled with the name of the charity. Contrary to popular belief, shaking or rattling your bucket/tin is perfectly legal, if perhaps a little annoying!