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Fundraisers should stick to the rules. But are they the right rules?

Having rules and sticking to them is a cornerstone of any profession. And then there has to be some method of ensuring fundraisers stick to the rules. The preferred method in many countries is through some form of self-regulation.

Self-regulation of fundraising tends to focus on protecting donors and non-donors from the potential harm that fundraisers could cause them (such as being subject to ‘undue’ pressure to give). This creates a possible tension with the theory of professional ethics we have been developing – Rights Balancing Fundraising Ethics – that requires duties to beneficiaries be balanced against duties to donors.

Ethics and regulation are therefore interlinked and while we don’t have a specific project focusing on self-regulation of fundraising, it has nonetheless been a core part of our ongoing work since it touches every part of fundraising practice.

Self-regulation can seem dry and a bit boring. But from a different perspective, it can be very interesting and exciting. At Rogare we think it’s a bit exciting.

Review of global fundraising self-regulation 

Rogare’s director Ian MacQuillin has co-authored (with Adrian Sargeant and Harriet Day of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy) on a review of global fundraising self-regulation for the European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL).

This is a genuinely ground-breaking review with many novel insights and recommendations for self-regulation of fundraising globally, including:

  • Those involved in self-regulation need to rethink their systems of accountability to devise a model of accountability to beneficiaries

  • Explore how the models of regulating a common pool resource can be applied more widely than just to face-to-face fundraising

  • Ensure all self-regulatory initiatives conform to the Better Regulation Agenda’s ‘five principles of good regulation’


The research included a comprehensive review of the literature into nonprofit self-regulation, and draws on theories, ideas and best practice from the wider general field of regulation; and conducted qualitative research through interviews with representatives from regulatory bodies and fundraising associations in Australia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, UK, USA, and individuals from China, Columbia, Mexico, Morocco and Norway.

The report – Fundraising Self-Regulation: An Analysis and Review – can be downloaded from the ECNL website. 

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  • Download the ECNL report: Fundraising Self-Regulation: An Analysis and Review

  • Read the Rogare press release.

  • Read about the report on the ECNL website.

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Further reading on the ethics of fundraising regulation

  • How put to beneficiaries first, without throwing donors out with the bathwater.

  • Radically rethinking fundraising regulation to include duties to beneficiaries.

  • Review of fundraising ethics must precede major changes to the code.

  • Fundraising regulation owes more than lip service to the rights of beneficiaries.

  • Read all blogs about regulation of fundraising on the Critical Fundraising site.

The Fundraising Preference Service

The United Kingdom operates an opt-out register for all charity direct marketing by post, phone and email, called the Fundraising Preference Service, which has not been without opposition from within the fundraising sector.

In 2015, we surveyed the views of fundraisers to the FPS and their perceptions of its potential impact on fundraising income.

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More information

  • Download the Rogare report on fundraisers' views on the FPS. 

  • All articles about the FPS on Critical Fundraising

Responses to consultations


Rogare has responded to a number of government and sector consultations, all in the UK. You can download these by clicking on the links.

  • Fundraising Regulator (UK): Code of practice, April 2017. This report will be available shortly.

  • House of Lords (UK): Select committee on charities, September 2016.

  • The Fundraising Regulator (UK): Fundraising Preference Service, March 2016. This report will be available shortly.

  • Charity Commission (UK): Revisions to CC20 – fundraising guide for trustees, February 2016. This report will be available shortly.

  • NCVO (UK): Etherington review of self-regulation, July 2015. This report will be available shortly.

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