Collections – Licences & Laws
If you are thinking of planning a charity event to raise cash for your cause, whether it’s a small personal challenge or a big public event, the one thing we must ensure is that we are fully aware of the legalities involved in collecting for charity, especially if the intention is to collect in public.
The last thing you need when you are trying to do something good, is to get arrested by the police and get your name splashed all over the local papers for being a fraudster.
There can be a fine line between having a successful, legitimate charity event or collection and having a shady pitch that is going to attract suspicion from passers by and get you in trouble.
Spidey forgot his licence !
Often the difference between the two comes down to no more than what you actually say to the people you are collecting from or just a simple phone call to inform the necessary bodies of your intentions before you go out and collect.
Every town and city council tend to have their own specific regulations on what they allow in their streets and although they all steer generally in the same direction, there will be minor differences in the way they operate, which could make the difference between you stepping over the line and getting arrested, or remaining legal and doing something good.
When Do I Need A Licence ?
The main issue concerning any charity collection is whether or not the collection is publicly accessible.
If your collection is publicly accessible – you will most likely need a licence to collect.
What we mean by publicly accessible is for example, collecting from passers by in the street or perhaps in a car park, outside a supermarket or anywhere the general public can freely ‘access’ you without having to pay for entry or buy a ticket to get in.
This also applies with house to house or door to door collections.
Collecting Without A Licence ?
If your collection is NOT publicly accessible – you do not need a licence to collect.
An event that is not publicly accessible is generally one that is held on private property or an event that you would have to pay to get in to, such as a fate, fair or one that requires a ticket or reservations to gain access. If you are holding an event on private property, although you don’t need a licence it is usually necessary to gain the permission of the owner or landlord before hand.
There are circumstances where your event might be held in a publicly accessible place, but you don’t necessarily need a ‘charity collection’ licence to raise funds, however in these instances it is quite likely you will need a different sort of licence in order to proceed, which will still involve contacting your local council or police.
Getting Round the Licence
If your fund raising involves a charity street jam or some sort performance to raise money in a place that is publicly accessible, but you don’t have a charity collection licence, as long as you have permission to play (which may or may not require a busking licence, depending on your town or city) you can still go ahead and remain within the law if you collect without informing the public that the collection is for charity.
This is a great technique if you fancy just nipping out and quickly doing your bit for the cause without causing a fuss or needing any preparation, although you do have to be careful what you say to the general public from whom who you are collecting.
This might seem a little strange and you’d think that if you were out busking, there would be no harm in telling the people throwing you money that it was for charity. The problem is, although most people would be delighted that you were performing for a good cause and many others probably wouldn’t notice or care, there are always going to be a few weary folks who will immediately be suspicious of your intentions and think that without a badge or licence you are most likely a con artist trying to scam a few quid for your next can of super strength.
The absence of a badge or official i.d and a statement that you are collecting for charity will most definitely raise suspicions and lead to complaints, whereas if you are posing as a simple musician out performing for your daily bread, but underneath you are a shinning example of modern martyrdom who donates his earnings to charity without telling a soul, then you can collect as much as you like without fear of being prosecuted.
To tell you the truth, the last time I did a charity busk, I had official signs pinned up on the wall behind me, more notices pinned on my guitar case and was backed by an official world known charity, but every time someone threw a coin in my pot and I mentioned it was for charity, most people stated they hadn’t even noticed and were just giving some cash because they liked the songs… typical eh ! So sometimes you may be better off just getting out there and getting the job done without telling anyone it’s for charity, because as soon as you do, if you haven’t got a proper licence, you are technically breaking the law.
It’s Not Just About the Cash
Although the above idea is great if you want to go out and raise some money quickly, we should remember that if you are collecting for charity, especially when doing your bit for the 100 challenge, it’s not all just about raising money, the point is also to promote the causes we support and make others aware they exist, so if you have the time to plan your event in advance, it is best to make that simple phone call and secure a licence so you can really make a song and dance about it when you get there.
Many organisations get around having to apply for a collection licence by selling a product and donating the profits to charity. These can be things like poppy’s, badges or perhaps holding events like charity jumble sales for example. In these cases you don’t need a collection licence. This also applies to events where the fund raiser is charging in exchange for a ‘go’ on something, which could be anything from a tom bowler or prize draw to an instant raffle or something similar.
In these instances, although you may not need a collection licence to legitimately sell your fundraising item in the street, you will most likely need a street selling licence, which can also be obtained from your local council or the governing body that runs that particular area.
Getting A Licence
Luckily enough, getting a licence to collect for charity is generally very easy. Your local council will have a licencing department who deal with that sort of thing and if you give them a call they will generally give them out without too much of a problem.
They will also check up on your supposed charity to ensure that it is a legitimate cause and will have to be informed of the particular date on which you intend to collect.
Some councils do have their own guidelines on how many collectors they will allow in the street on any one day. I know that our local council in particular will only allow one charity ‘group’ to collect in the street on any particular day but they do allow more than one collector from that charity to collect funds.
So you could have a few collectors for Cancer Research booked in on one day and fundraisers for Save The Children the next, but not both at once. I imagine the bigger charities will have their collection dates booked well in advance so it is advisable to check your preferred date is available before you start organising your event.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, every town and city will have slightly different rules regarding collections, so you may find you are still o.k to collect even if there are other campaigners in town at the same time. A simple call to your council will save many potential problems on the day.
How Much & How Long Does it Take ?
Licences are generally free, but the time it takes to get one differs radically from county to county. My local council said they could get me one within a week or so but I have read on other .gov websites (mostly from the bigger cities) that it can take anything from 1 to 12 weeks to obtain one. The official period on one site said to allow up to 12 weeks to complete the licencing process (probably just to cover themselves in case of problems) but they did allow ‘tacit consent’ to apply and so do many other councils.
Tacit consent – Basically means that you will be able to act as though your application is granted, even if you have not heard from them by the end of their target completion period.
Flouting The Law
There shouldn’t really be any need for our fundraisers to get them selves in trouble if they follow the simple guidelines mentioned above. Obviously, organisers should check up with relevant officials to ensure their local districts don’t have other rules and regulations that we may have missed here, but just in case you were wondering, there are two acts, the Police, Factories, Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1916 and the Local Government Act of 1972 which can be thrown at you if you do step over the line or ignore the rules.
I recently witnessed a big scene in our local high street where a young lad was collecting for a particular charity. He looked pretty official and seemed to be doing a good job, but after a while I noticed he had attracted the attention of local police and a few other official looking people, along with one or two irate looking shop keepers.
This commotion went on for about an hour and the guy looked really racked off. He looked like he was with an official charity and I assumed he didn’t have the correct licence for what he was doing. I have since found out that the organisation he was working for was indeed an official charity, but was selling leaflets to raise money for charity under a news vending licence instead of a street selling or charity collection licence.
Apparently, his actions could not be classified as ‘news vending’ and that particular charity had previously been in trouble for doing the same thing in one or two other counties. The lad was not prosecuted but his ordeal was highly embarrassing and he was eventually kicked off the street. The charity he was collecting for has now been banned from collecting in this county.
I’m sure for most of you it won’t come to that, as with the smallest bit of preparation and a bit of common sense these troubles can be easily avoided.
That’s about it, but if you need any more information on the subject, contact your local council and make sure you and your fellow fundraisers know exactly where they stand regarding the law and their fundraising activities.
What ever you decide to do – whether it’s personal or public, whether you decide to tell the world or keep it to yourself, just go out and enjoy yourself.
If you’d like to get together with other musicians and like minded people interested in raising a bit of cash every now and then, make sure you check out my post on the 100 Musicians for Charity Challenge, join up and get out there and do something good.
Artist Amanda Dunbar paints a 10-foot fiberglass Gibson Les Paul Guitar sculpture to raise money for good causes.
ANYONE THINKING OF ORGANISING AN EVENT FOR CHARITY, HOWEVER LARGE OR SMALL, SHOULD CONTACT THEIR LOCAL COUNCIL’S LICENCING DEPARTMENT. THEY WILL INFORM YOU OF ANY LICENCES REQUIRED AND ADVISE OF ANY OTHER REQUIREMENTS NECESSASY FOR YOUR EVENT. YOU SHOULD ALSO VISIT THE CHARITY COMMISSION’S WEBSITE AND ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT THEIR F.A.Q’S. WHERE YOU’LL FIND PLENTY OF USEFUL INFORMATION TO HELP GET YOU STARTED.
The above guide contains advice on who to contact should anyone be thinking of collecting for charity, so if you have any questions, please read the post again in full and you should find what you are looking for. I’m afraid for obvious reasons I cannot answer legal questions about individual charity collections.