Charities: disaster and emergency appeals

How your charity can respond to a disaster or emergency and how to run a successful appeal.

This guidance was withdrawn on

This guidance has been archived, and no longer applicable. Advice on emergency appeals can be found in our guidance Charity emergency appeals: starting, running and supporting charitable emergency appeals (CC40).

Applies to England and Wales

Response to a disaster

Your charity can only use its funds for the purposes that are laid out in your governing document.

By law, you must check that responding to a disaster appeal falls within your charity’s purposes.

Also, think about:

  • your charity’s ability to respond to the disaster
  • whether other charities are better placed to take action

How to change your charity’s purposes to respond to a disaster

Your charity may have purposes that only allow it to work within a specific region or with certain beneficiaries. If you want to change your purposes to respond to a disaster, you’ll usually need to ask the Charity Commission for approval.

You should be able to show that the change is in the interests of your charity and its beneficiaries. You should also think about the impact this change might have on your existing beneficiaries – for example, if responding to a disaster will mean you need to reduce the services you currently offer.

Writing new purposes can be complex. Asking the commission to approve them also takes time. If this is a problem, consider alternative ways to help.

Raise funds with other charities

Your charity can work with other charities to raise money for your own disaster relief activities, or to pass over to another charity or organisation already working in the field. Any fundraising collaboration must:

  • be in the interests of your charity’s beneficiaries
  • further your charity’s purposes

Make sure you put a written agreement in place between all parties involved. This should set out the practical details of the partnership, including:

  • the purposes of the collaboration
  • how long the collaboration will last
  • what will happen with any leftover funds
  • whether the funds raised will form a separate charitable fund
  • how each organisation’s funds and resources will be used
  • processes, roles and responsibilities for managing the funds raised
  • accounting and reporting arrangements

Read the commission’s guidance on working with other charities.

How to run appeals

Make sure you’re aware of fundraising law and good practice when running appeals. Your appeal should.

  • clearly identify your charity and what it does
  • explain what the funds will be raised for and how they will be used
  • let the public know how to donate to the appeal
  • explain the gift aid arrangements
  • say what will happen to any surplus funds and what will happen if not enough funds are raised

Personal donations

If raising money for a disaster does not fall within your charity’s purposes, you can still make a donation or organise collections in a personal capacity. Make sure you don’t:

  • collect money in the name of or on behalf of your charity
  • move any of this money through your charity’s bank account
Published 23 May 2013