Charity law and regulation

We are fully committed to championing the sector to help shape the development of law and regulation relating to charities. We do this by seeking and listening to the views our members and the wider sector and influencing policy and legislative decision makers on their behalf.

Find out more on the top issues in charity law and regulation below, along with our most recent blog posts

If you’re looking for practical advice on law and regulation, check out these sources:

What we’re working on

Charity law and regulation - the Charity Commission

2016 saw the introduction of the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016, which brought about significant change to the regulation of charities. It gave the commission new powers to:

  1. issue official warnings
  2. actively disqualify people from serving as trustees
  3. extended powers to direct that charity property be used in a certain way (winding up and property applied to another charity) and remove a trustee who is disqualified from office, without the need to open an inquiry.

The Act also:

We frequently respond to and comment on the commission’s consultations and draft guidance. We also engage with it on a number of regulatory developments, such as the:

Data protection law and regulation- the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

The sector has come under increased scrutiny in recent years for its poor practices in processing donors' data and breaching the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).

In 2016 NCVO published a report on recommendations for Charities' relationships with donors (pdf, 365KB) and a blog post summarising them.

EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Data protection law will change from 25 May 2018, when the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force (despite Brexit), giving enhanced protection of individuals’ data.

For practical high-level tips, see ICO’s guide to the 12 steps to take now (pdf, 540KB). Among other changes, the GDPR gives a much tighter definition of consent, as outlined in the first piece of detailed ICO guidance, as part of a series of practical guides to be developed in the ICO’s plans. Read NCVO’s take on the guidance in Elizabeth’s blog post and for more analysis on consent see this guest blog post.

For more information and practical tips on how the GDPR will affect how charities work with data, check out our training and events page, where our series of interactive courses on GDPR are listed for signing-up.

Fundraising law and regulation - the Fundraising Regulator (FR)

Sir Stuart Etherington led a review into regulation of fundraising over the summer of 2015. For more information, see our press release: Tough new fundraising regulator to ensure high standards – review. You can also download the full report (pdf, 630KB) and read more background in Stuart's blog post Regulating fundraising for the future.

After the review, the code of fundraising practice (pdf, 852KB) was transferred to the FR at its launch on 7 July 2016, and was updated in June following a consultation. Also developed post-review - the public will be able to opt out of charity fundraising communications through a fundraising preference service (FPS) after its launch on 6 July 2017. You may find the FAQ section of the FR website a helpful resource.

House of Lords Select Committee on Charities

We published a series of blog posts (including our take on regulation and charging recommendations) following the publication of the House of Lords select committee on charities’ report, which considers issues related to sustaining the charity sector and governance challenges, (see Stronger charities for a stronger society (pdf, 1.7MB) or Karl’s overview).  

See more detail on the role of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities (pdf, 382KB).

Campaigning law and regulation - the Electoral Commission and the Charity Commission

Campaigning and political activity are legitimate and valuable activities for charities to undertake, (see some great examples in Mary’s blog post). However, political campaigning, or political activity, must be undertaken by a charity only in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purposes according to charity law. Unlike other forms of campaigning, it must not be the continuing and sole activity of the charity. Read the Charity Commission’s guidance on campaigning.

Once an election is called, we enter into a pre-election ‘regulated period’ during which specific rules apply both in charity law and election law. If you are a charity, you should first of all be reading the Charity Commission’s guidance on charities and elections, the Electoral Commission guidance for non-party campaigners and this guest blog post on their view of charities and the Lobbying Act.

To help you better understand the rules and what they mean for your campaigning, we published this briefing on how to campaign and stay within the rules in the run up to the General Election held a free webinar on practical support which you can watch again here.

It should be clear that the Lobbying Act doesn’t stop charities from campaigning, we have written to the new minister for the Cabinet Office Damian Green calling for the implementation of Lord Hodgson’s recommended changes in his report on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (A/HRC/35/28/Add.1). Here is Elizabeth’s summary of the changes proposed and why they would improve the Act.

Latest charity law and regulation blogs

Latest charity law and regulation press releases

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