If you have a concern about a charity’s work, you should first speak to the charity. The Charity Commission regulates charities in England and Wales and only gets involved if there’s a risk of serious harm to a charity.
When you should speak to the charity
You should raise your concern with the charity unless the issue is serious. The Charity Commission makes sure charities in England and Wales comply with charity law. It can’t get involved with concerns about:
- the services a charity provides
- employment issues, eg unfair dismissal
- fundraising methods
- internal disputes, eg disagreements with decisions
- contracts the charity has with other organisations
- policies or things the trustees have done that are within their powers
If you have a concern about a charity’s fundraising activities you should read the guidance on Directgov:
What’s a serious issue?
Tell the Charity Commission if there’s a risk of harm to a charity or its assets or the people it is set up to benefit. Serious issues include:
- the charity loses a lot of money
- serious harm to people who benefit from the charity
- threats to national security, eg terrorism
- criminal activity within or involving the charity
- sham charities set up for illegal or improper purposes
- charities being used for private advantage
- when a charity is not following charity law and this has serious consequences, damaging charity reputation or the Charity Commission’s reputation
When the Charity Commission will consider a complaint
The Charity Commission only considers complaints if:
- it’s appropriate for the Charity Commission to get involved
- there’s enough evidence to take up the case
- the level of wrongdoing or harm is serious
You’ll need to provide evidence that charity trustees haven’t carried out their legal duties as trustees to protect their charity. For example, trustees haven’t put suitable financial controls in place to stop funds being misused. The Commission’s Risk and Proportionality Framework explains where it’s appropriate for the Commission to get involved:
If there is criminal activity or tax fraud, you should also inform the police or HMRC:
Reporting serious issues to the Charity Commission
Use the online complaints form (see link). Make sure you have all the information and evidence ready to complete in one go – it can’t be provided in several parts.
The information you need includes:
- the charity’s name and registration number (if you know it)
- details of attempts you have made to get the charity to address this issue
- details of any previous correspondence with the Commission or other public bodies
- a summary of the serious issue, clearly setting out the facts
- evidence to support your complaint
- details of any legal proceedings or litigation involved
- your connection (if any) to the charity
It’s a crime to make a false or misleading complaint.
Only fill out the form once. We won’t look again at complaints we have already dealt with unless the situation has changed or you’ve found new evidence.
If you want to keep your report confidential
If you don’t want the charity to know it was you who complained, tell us when you fill out the online form. We will not usually tell the charity the name of the person who made the complaint. However the charity is entitled to know the details of the complaint against it and what evidence there is. This information might give the charity an idea of who complained.
How the Charity Commission handles reports about serious issues
We will decide whether to take regulatory action. If we don't take action, we will keep a record of your report but won’t take it further. If we do become involved, we will let you know, but we won’t necessarily give you full details of how we will handle the issue.
You’ll get a letter explaining the outcome once our investigation is over.
Making a complaint under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (whistleblowing)
If you’ve got evidence of serious wrongdoing happening in a charity where you work you can ‘blow the whistle’ on the behaviour. This will protect you from losing your job and being victimised by your employer.