Guidance

Report serious wrongdoing at a charity as a worker or volunteer

Find out what sort of wrongdoing you can report to the Charity Commission, and how to report it.

How the Charity Commission can help

Your information helps us determine if a charity is at risk, and how serious it is. We will make a record of your concern, and investigate those that pose the highest risk. If we investigate a concern we usually work with the trustees and the charity to help get it back on track.

We only investigate how charities are run but do not investigate any crimes ourselves. For example if you report a criminal offence you still need to tell the police so that they can investigate it.

You can also report issues to your employer - check your charity’s whistleblowing policy.

There is a different process if you want to report serious incidents:

What to report to the Charity Commission

You can report things that have happened, are happening or are likely to happen. Only report issues to us that could seriously harm:

  • the people a charity helps
  • the charity’s staff or volunteers
  • services the charity provides
  • the charity’s assets
  • the charity’s reputation

Examples of serious harm include:

  • if someone’s health or safety is in danger, for example if a charity does not use its safeguarding policy
  • a criminal offence, for example theft, fraud or financial mismanagement
  • if a charity uses its activities as a platform for extremist views or materials
  • loss of charity funds, for example when a charity loses more than 20% of its income or more than £25,000
  • if the charity does not meet its legal obligations, for example if someone uses a charity for significant personal advantage

Who else to tell

You should also tell:

Protection from unfair treatment at work

If you’re a charity worker and report certain types of wrongdoing, this is known as ‘whistleblowing’. Your employer must not treat you unfairly at work because you blow the whistle. If the information you report, and how you report it meets specific requirements the law will protect you. You must:

  • be a worker, not a volunteer
  • reveal the information in the public interest
  • reveal certain types of wrongdoing
  • tell the right person or organisation

Read ‘Whistleblowing for employees’ to understand:

  • whether protection applies to your situation
  • what to do if you’re treated unfairly after whistleblowing

Get independent advice if you’re not sure you’re protected, for example from:

The Charity Commission cannot tell you if your whistleblowing disclosure is protected under the law, or give legal advice.

Report your concern to the Charity Commission

Email whistleblowing@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk and answer these questions:

  1. What is the name of the charity? Include its registration number if it’s registered.
  2. What is your name?
  3. What is your role at the charity? If you no longer work for the charity, please tell us when you left.
  4. Are you a charity employee or a volunteer?
  5. What is your concern?
  6. What impact does it have on the people the charity helps, its assets, services, staff or reputation?
  7. Have you followed your charity’s complaints procedure or raised it with the charity’s trustees? What was the response? If you have not raised it with your charity, please explain why not.
  8. Have you contacted other organisations, like the police or HMRC? Include reference numbers, the name of who dealt with it, and their response if you have.
  9. Do you give permission to us to reveal your identity to the charity’s trustees?
  10. If you attach evidence to your email, how is it relevant to your concern?

It is a criminal offence to knowingly or recklessly provide false or misleading information to the Charity Commission.

Support your information with evidence

It’s good to have evidence that supports your concern. Evidence can help us assess the risk your issue poses to the charity.

When telling us about your concern, try to include:

  • names and roles of people involved
  • names and roles of people who know about the issue, for example the charity trustees
  • specific dates for when events took place
  • specific amounts if you report a financial concern
  • links to articles if the press has reported on it

Do not break the law to give us evidence. If you’re not sure whether you should share information with us, get independent advice, for example from Protect.

Report concerns anonymously

You do not need to give us your identity or contact details, but it is helpful if you do.

If you report concerns anonymously it might:

  • make it more difficult for us to investigate your concern
  • be harder to argue that any unfair treatment at work was as a result of blowing the whistle, because we do not have a record of you
  • be harder for us to conduct an investigation in a way that could protect you from being identified

Confidentiality

We will not disclose your identity without your consent, unless there are legal reasons that require us to do so. For example, we may need to tell the police if a vulnerable person is at risk of being harmed.

In some cases it may be possible for the charity to identify the source of the information because of the details of the situation.

What we do with your concern

When we receive your email, we check the issue falls under our responsibility and consider the impact on the charity or those it helps. To do this we look at:

  • what the issue is
  • what impact it has on the people the charity helps
  • the impact on the charity’s assets and services
  • the impact on the charity’s staff and volunteers
  • the impact on the charity’s reputation or on public trust and confidence in the charity sector
  • who reported the issue
  • the supporting evidence

If we determine there is something seriously wrong in the charity, we will investigate and work with the charity to address the issue. If we need more information we will contact you. We do not give updates on our investigations, but when we finish our investigation we will let you know the outcome. If cases are complex they usually take several months to finish.

If we determine there is a lower risk to the charity or the people it helps, we will record your concern.

If you raise a concern about something that is not in our remit, for example personal grievances, we will let you know we will not investigate it.

Published 11 October 2018