Charities rely on donations, so you’ll look to get out there and speak to people. Before you do, though, we’ve got some tips for you to guide your fundraising.

It could be cold, wet or even too warm (on occasion in the UK) — so aim to make every moment on the street count. The best way to do that is to prepare and be ready.

This guide discusses charity street fundraising tips, including:

  • Permits and rules
  • Location and time
  • Cash and card
  • Stand out

Permits and rules

England and Wales Licence

The first charity street fundraising tip is to ensure you have the proper permits to ask the public for donations.

In England and Wales, you need to apply for a street collection licence. It also covers your ability to collect in other public areas, including supermarket doorways or car parks.

You can apply for most England and Wales licenses if you ask your relevant council through the UK Government portal. If you are in London, though, you’ll need permission from the Metropolitan Police instead.

Without a licence, you could receive a fine of £200 while you collect for charity.

Scotland permit

If you collect for charity in Scotland, you’ll need a Public Charitable Collection Permit. It allows you to ask for donations in public but also on a ‘place-to-place’ basis, so you may need it to collect at home as well.

Unlike in England and Wales, the permit in Scotland does not allow you to collect in car parks or privately run shopping centres. But you can ask for donations in public meetings without one.

You can apply through another UK Government portal for each Scottish local council. But some require an application three months in advance, so consider that as well.

Fundraising regulations

According to the Fundraising Regulator, there are also rules to follow to ensure you comply with the law when you collect money for your charity.

These rules include:

  • Do not be dishonest or manipulate the public.
  • Do not collect whilst drinking, smoking or on illegal drugs.
  • Do not be aggressive or put pressure on the people.
  • Do not obstruct (e.g. like blocking roads).
  • You must be clear about the facts of your fundraising.
  • You can’t approach public members who are seated or in queues.
  • You must not go over to people while they’re working (e.g. police).

Location and time

Placement of collection

One charity street fundraising tip is to make sure you decide on the right location to place yourself. You want to give your charity the best possible chance to attract people.

Choose public areas that you know will be busy and if you have a specific audience for your cause, think about where they would likely be.

Different charities appeal to varieties of people, so you can look to understand your target audience. If you haven’t decided on who you’d like to target, see: What is a target market and how to define yours.

When you have a clear sense of the lifestyle of the people who might have the most interest to help your organisation, aim to place yourself in their path. 

For example, if your charity provides guide dogs for the blind, a park might be the perfect place to collect. You’ll come across many dog lovers on a walk, they may relate to the cause through their pets.

Time of day

While you plan fundraising efforts, another crucial point to consider could be the time of day you will start.

You could aim to target rush hour commuters on their way home, people on their lunch break, or early in the morning.

There are times of the week when people may have more time to chat and donate, like on weekends for those who work midweek. Again, who you would like to target may play a role in that.

For example, if your charity is likely to target students in cities, then maybe you’d aim to collect in the evenings when they head off to the pubs.

Cash and card

A straightforward charity street fundraising tip is to decide how you’d like to collect money. 

Traditionally, fundraisers hold sealed buckets that people can put their coins into. Since COVID-19, many businesses (restaurants and bars) now encourage customers to book and pay with apps.

That means that fewer people are likely to carry cash. So, you may want to consider if you want to use a card machine in your fundraising.

Some companies provide charities with cards and contactless readers. One of those is Good Box. They have options from stands, plates (for religious collections) and small carry machines designed for non-profit organisations.

Stand out

For the last charity street fundraising tip, put yourself in the shoes of the people you seek to get donations from. How often have you avoided eye contact with a fundraiser when you were busy and walked on? (it’s okay, everyone does it).

But that may be a reaction you receive while you start collecting for your charity. So prepare for that to happen, and don’t let it deter you from the vital work you do.

One way to be ready for people passing you by is to give them a reason to come to you. That might sound like a difficult task, but people often flock to free things in a crowded public.

Be creative

So if you provide the public with something to gain, they’ll come over to you. For example, you can create experiences related to your charity to make people more aware of the cause.

That’s the purpose of your fundraiser, to convince people of the importance of what you look to do. If you can do that, then you’ll receive whatever people can give.

Advertising grabs people’s attention or curiosity, then it provides them with a message. You can look to do the same creatively and uniquely through your collection.

For example, you could have posters or signs to show your cause visually. You can shock people with poignant images or make them feel good with photos of who it helps. 

Even if you dress up in a related costume (you might scare some off), many people will be curious and ask why? Maybe they’ll want a picture, you can explain, and then you’ve got a donation.

BONUS: clever financial management app

After you spend hours collecting, it’s essential to make the best use of those donations to help your chosen causes.

Many charities may not consider their financial management, but there are tools to make it easier.

One of those is Countingup, a business current account with built-in accounting software. With features like expense categorisation, you can see your costs in the charity and manage what’s important (the funds for your social objectives).

Get started for free.

For more information on running a charity, see: How to write a business plan for a small charity or Bookkeeping for small charity organisations