Collecting For Charity Guide

Collections – Licences & Laws

Collecting for Charity

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.

Arresting Spiderman

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.

Street Musician 2

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.

Song & Dance

Selling Licence

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.

Street Musician 2

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.

Guitar for Charity

Artist Amanda Dunbar paints a 10-foot fiberglass Gibson Les Paul Guitar sculpture to raise money for good causes.


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.

Thank You.

42 comments to Collecting for Charity Guide – Where You Stand With The Law

  • Michelle

    What about First Amendment rights – Freedom of Expression? If people are giving to a charity on the street, they are exercising their Freedom of Expression right (they are voicing an opinion by giving to the charity). Why should having people exercise their first amendment right require a license in a public space?!

  • Good point, I expect there does need to be some sort of legislation in place to deter opportunits and criminals from exploiting public generosity and bringing the whole issue of collecting for charity into disrepute. It only takes a few bad people to spoil it for the masses.

  • Will

    Erm First Amendment rights? Well for starters thats bo!#@cks in the UK and freedom of expression is all well and good as long as it doesn’t require any financial compensation from the public, if it does then licenses need to be used. It’s when councils start charging £30 a license that it takes the piss!

  • Megan

    Please help.I want to sell some home made things and then give the money to charity.What will I do because I am only 11 and I dont have 30 pounds ! Please help?

  • Don’t worry Megan, it doesn’t usually cost for a licence, but you may have to ask the right people for permission depending on where, when and how you want to collect or sell.

    Read the guide above and my post on Musicians for Charity to get some ideas. Your age might limit what you can do in public but if you are supervised then you should not have any problems. In fact, someone your age doing something for charity should do pretty well.

  • Georgina

    Im organising a Busking event to raise money for Cancer Research UK
    I have a letter of authority from the Charity and a pass that shows me as an official busker for ‘Busking Cancer’ (which is the name of the overall event organised by Cancer Research UK, the buskers themselves organise their events after registering with Busking Cancer)

    I was wondering, if i have a Letter of Authority from the charity stating that “All funds raised from the Busking Cancer event will be used to support the work of Cancer research UK”, will i need a charity collection Permit?
    The ‘registered busker’ pass has my own individual number on it BUT it does say that the pass does not replace the need for me to enquire about charity collection permits etc..

    What would be the best thing to do?

  • You’ll need to contact your local council and tell them if you are intent on collecting from the public in the street. The fact that you are registered with a well known charity and already have permission to collect on their behalf should mean they’ll issue you a permit without any hassle.

  • Lyndsay

    One of the big supermarkets have agreed to let our small charity sing christmas carols inside the store entrance. Will be need a licence as we will be on private property although it obviously has public access?
    Many thanks!

  • Hi Lyndsay, I think if you’re on the supermarket’s property which is private, you’ll be fine as long as they have given you permission. You should do quite well. Let us know how you get on. Cheers

  • jim kinloch

    Hi I am trying to get as many people in the U.S. and anywhere else in the world
    to have a yardsale in May 2011, to raise money for a fund to fight against child abuse,
    do I need a license?

  • Paul

    Hi, I am hoping to collect money for charity with a car club as we have a run/rally to a seaside resort this month, we are parking in a public car park and i am hoping to collect money with tins and buckets. i have permission from the charity, car club and have yet to speak to the council.
    Am i going to need a licence??

  • If it’s a council run car park, then yes, but if you already have permission from the charity and car club, I very much doubt the council will refuse you. Just give them plenty of notice incase there’s a problem or safety issues regading the car park.

    I hope it goes well.

  • Nelly

    Hi i wanted to raise money for charity by going door to door. Do i need a licence for that?

  • There have been various ammendments to the 2006 charities act which I believe now cover these issues to help protect the public. I think the law states now that door to door collectiors now need a certificate from the Charitiy Commission and a permit from the local authorities to collect legally from the doorstep. There may also be a requiremrnt to have permission from the police aswell. I think the requirements may differ slightly from council to council, just as the law on busking does.

    Also, from the charities point of view, collectors are obliged to know certain key eliments about the charity and where the money goes to. There are also codes of conduct the collector is supposed to follow regarding how they comminicate with the public and how they terminate door to door meetings to safeguard the home owner from abusive or intimidating collectors.

    Many of the guidelines charities work to regarding collections are not necessary legal requirements but often standards set by governing bodies such as the charities commision to improve the way collections are carried out and how fundraising is percieved by the public. A lot of it used to be self regulated but there are now certain laws you have to comply to to ensure you don’t get nicked.

    Just to be safe, I’d ring your council and see what they require from you. As always, the more proof you have that what you are doing is legitimate, the more successful your collection will be.

  • A.A

    I know someone who is collecting for their own benefit to make money and give as little of it to charity ! Sick I know ! I’m really upset about it and want something done ! What can I do, do I need to get evidence or do I report it. I just want to make sure this person gets caught with out any suspicion on their part !!!! What should I do ?

  • Hi, that’s bad, what a scumbag. He deserves to get nicked. Find out where he generally collects and report him anonymously to the police, the charity commission and the local council.

    It shouldn’t be long before he gets a tap on the shoulder and is caught in the act. Guaranteed he’ll get his name in the paper and be shamed for his disgusting act.

    Don’t feel bad about it, He deserves all he gets. :-)


  • Bex

    hello, i have registered to do strawberry tea for breast cancer research and want to sell cakes from the shop i work in. Do i need a license to do this? we always have collection boxes on the counter for macmillan etc so does that mean we would already be covered? thanx x

  • Hi, I believe you’ll be fine as long as the owner of the shop as given you permission to do so. Good luck

  • She

    Hi I’m of to look after troops in afgan soon as part of my leaving do we thought it would be fun to have a fancy dress pub crawl and collect for charity at the same time. Will I need to get a licence to collect in the pubs, or permission from them to collect on their premisis?

  • Gay

    With the permission of the land owner I was collecting for charity with a sealed tin(with a license) I asked this person once if she would like to donate. “No” was the reply no more requests were made to her. I was not obstructing anyone’s free passage over the privately owned shop front. This person subsequently complained to the license holder that I was breaching the collectors license. Is this true as I was not on public property, not obstructing people & I only seem to have annoyed her by asking once for a donation?

  • Hi, that’s a great idea. As long as you gain permission from the landlord of each pub you collect from, you’ll be fine.

    It might be an idea to plan your route and ring each pub a couple of days before hand and get permission. Just incase they aren’t happy about you just turning up and putting them on the spot, or the owner isn’t present to give permission.

    Say ‘Hi’ to the troops for us when yopu get there.

  • Hi, it seems to me she was just being a bit of a misery guts and probably would have complained what ever you did. Some people are just like that and like to complain about everything.

    I think it depends whether kindly asking people if they would like to donate counts as harassment. I’m not a lawyer and am not 100% certain, but I don’t think you have done anything majorly wrong, although I would say that directly asking people if they would like to donate does put them on the spot and might make people feel uncomfortable, so it’s probably best not to directly ask, but smiling and a shake of the tin will achieve the same result with out offending people.

    Also, you may have been on private land, but if you were collecting in a shop doorway, then it count’s as a public place as the public are generally passing by, so although you might not necessarily be breaking the law, the Charity Commission advises that it should also be licenced by the local authority.

    Take a look at the Charity Commission’s website and also their F.A.Q’s. There’s plenty of information there that will help you.

    I hope that helps. Thanks

  • jdw

    my query is a little off your subject but could you advise me about a matter thats caused some concern to my son

    he is a minor and with 5 other members of his karate club started fundrasing activities to raise money to attend a tournament in another country (bagpacking,sponsored competitions etc).the 6 all participated equally .2 weeks before the money was due to be paid for the trip,the club leader decided my son was no longer a member of the club(no committee to raise this with),despite the fundraising and 2 years of volunteering.the club leader will not let my son have his portion of the money raised (400)to be used towards the trip ,we are now having to fund the full cost of the trip.

    do we have a leg to stand on?

  • Hi Jdw, sorry for the late reply. Sounds a bit of a tricky one, but if the fundraising was done via events promoted by the club as a whole, then although your son raised £400 individually, the fact it was raised at events organised by the club may suggest that his participation was only recognised as being a team effort and not individually.

    I have been involved in various martial arts clubs throught my life and trained in different styles i.e. thai boxing, lau gar kiung fu etc. on and off over many years and to be honest, if a club leader is going to throw you out of the club two weeks before an international tournament, despite two years of fundraising and volunteering, then he’s either a complete A*”#hole, or something has happened to warrant that.

    I don’t know the details but either way, I’d forget about it and find another way of raising the cash as I think taking a club to court to regain money from a communial charity collection probably wouldn’t hold up.

    You are best off starting from scratch and getting your son more sponsors by holding your own fund raising events like fitness trials or fun martial art displays, or perhaps something awesome like fighting 10 adults in 10 minutes. That would raise lots of cash and get him fit for the fight at the same time.

  • Wes

    How many % can legaly in America keep Charity collector for his operation?

  • Elaine

    Hi I am going to do a collection for breast cancer, a pink friday event although my event will be on a thursday. I am going to be doing it at my local weightwatchers meeting which is held in a hotel. I realise that i am going to have to attain the hotel owners permission (weightwatchers leader has already agreed to have it if they agree), do i need a license and if so whom do i get it from. I live within Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland

  • dana

    I wanted to sell cakes at car boot sale for charity do you need a licene

  • Hi, we are a new charity, Uganda Child Education Trust. We are fully registered and official, which is great but I am a bit confused about the licensing issue. We are holding a small event in a nightclub next month to raise money for the charity and I was wondering if we need some kind of permit or license? The entry fee that people will pay (around £3) will all be going straight to the charity, as I’m a Trustee and deal with the accounts. I know you need permits for street collection but because this is a bit different, I was wondering whether the same rules apply. Thanks for any advice.

  • Jake Love

    im wanting to raise money to do a skydive for charity in the city center.. what do i have to do?

  • Hi, We’re a small charity that support adults with disabilities. We have been lucky enough to get permission to collect funds at several local supermarkets and have now been contacted by a 14 year old who would like to be our fundraising collector. Could you please confirm whether there are any age restrictions on collecting and also whether we will need to get a collecting licence (as far as we are aware all of the collections will be inside of the stores. Many thanks

  • rob

    me and somefriends are cycling lands end to john o’groats. i thought it would be a nice idea to collect monies for a charity. now if i took a collection box with me would this be against the law? (every pence of what is collected would be going to charity).

  • Amanda Rickard

    Hi! I was recently helping out a local charity by collecting with a friend and her 9 year old daughter at our local football ground and was told that the age limit for collecting is 16, and was told to take the bucket away from the child? Is this true?

  • I am a professional balloon artist and childrens entertainer in Lancashire.

    I have and continue to collect for charity in a public place without a charity license. (Please read on before reporting me to the police, etc.)

    For Children in Need, Sport Relief and Comic Relief (etc.) I often make my balloon models for donations and then give the proceeds to charity.

    However, I do not enter into a contract with the public. Neither do I advertise that the proceeds are to go to charity.

    Like anyone who works I have the legal right to donate my wadges to charity.

    I recall a few years ago when I was balloon modelling for charity in a public place. After I had finished I received news that the weather forecast for the next several days was to be so bad I wouldn’t be able to work outside. Not having enough bookings lined up for the week I knew I would need the £100 + I had collected that day. So I didn’t give the proceeds to the charity.

    I’m expecting a lot of nasty comments for stealing from the a charities and lying to the public about where the money was going but I have done nothing of sorts.

    REMEMBER its only a crime if I promote that it’s for charity which includes telling people, even when they ask me if it’s for charity. It’s no difference from a shop worker or police officer donating their wades to Charity.

    I ask that everyone read my post correctly so there is no confusion.


    If you see me in Blackpool or Cleveleys balloon modelling
    for contributions on the day of Comic Relief, Children in Need or Sport Relief please DO NOT assume that I’m collecting for charity. I rarely collect on the street during the official dates.

  • Greg Anderson

    How does this apply to tins? Im trying to collect money for a rhino campaign and need to find the exact rules regulations etc. Please email me or comment. PS I’m in south africa so if a none has any info it would be greatly apppreciated

  • laura

    hi there i`m raising money for local hospital and have got registered no on the collection buckets which are also sealed and want to know if i got permission from the towns nightclub to go and collect in the reception area would i need a license and would i need to inform local police
    thankyou x

  • Jayu

    We’ve collected money with a licence and want to know if the bank will open the collecting boxes and count the coins as we don’t have access to an accountant. Have any others tried to use a bank? Thanks

  • gemma

    hi i am planning on a mystery bus tour for a charity, i have advertised that its for charity and i have shown people how to donate. i have no permission am i in trouble now? i’m in ireland

  • Gillian

    I know a couple who have started taking in stray cats and dogs from the street and trying to rehome them and care for them, they are doing good work, but recently both have lost their jobs. They have now set up a facebook page with a ‘chip in’ asking for donations to help the cats and dogs. Over the last few months they have raised several thousand pounds, however is this legal? They are not an official charity and are not registered. How can we be sure the donations are going to the animals welfare and not to pay their personal expenses?

  • On Friday 15th of March 2013 I shall be fundraising for Red Nose Day. I will require confirmation from the charity and a permit from St Helens Council, as the street collection shall take place in their town. I shall be using a bucket for my donations. However, the bucket must have a lid and be sealed as these are the UK regulations for collecting for charity. I will be making balloon models and accepting donations, with all but my expenses going to Red Node day.

  • Kerry

    Me having breast cancer myself and have had a lot of help. I wanted to do something nice for Breast Cancer Charity so I wanted to do a few car boot sales and give a percentage of what I get to the charity. Do I need a licence or permission from anyone to do this? Can you please help me
    Thank you

  • Tracy King

    Hi.i want to make flowers for a local charity in my home.
    They have said that would be lovely. Can I sell something for £3 and take £1 for materials (costed)

  • richar jardine

    hi, i want to raise money to help groups sabbing the badger killing, which is likely to start up again in september. any money i would send to gloucester badger office and their equivalent in somerset. these are not charities, but simply groups that co-ordinate the sabbing, and they operate within the law. so what is my position if i just let passers by know that any money they drop i will donate to these 2 groups.

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