How to complain about a charity (England and Wales)

Constituents sometimes ask Members of Parliament how to complain about a charity. This page outlines various options depending on the nature of the complaint.

The Charity Commission registers and regulates charities in England and Wales.

The Charity Commission will investigate some, but by no means all, concerns raised with it.

Issues to be taken up with the trustees of a charity

The trustees of a charity are responsible for the running of the charity. In most cases a concern should be raised with the trustees first.

Charity Commission guidance, Complaints about charities (CC47), provides information about when the Charity Commission will, and when it will not, take up the concerns reported to it about charities.

Some examples of issues to be taken up with the trustees of a charity are listed in Section 2.1 of this Charity Commission guidance.

The guidance includes the following information about procedure:

In most cases you should speak to the charity about your concern before you make any approach to the Commission. You may want to raise an issue that the Commission would not wish to take up so it will be right for you to approach the trustees direct.

Complaints to other bodies and agencies

In some circumstances, it might be appropriate to direct a complaint to another agency.

Fundraising Regulator

The Fundraising Regulator investigates complaints about charitable fundraising where these cannot be resolved by the organisation itself. A list of the issues which the Fundraising Regulator can investigate may be found in the Complaints process area of its website.

Generally, complaints should be made to the Fundraising Regulator within two months of the charity’s final response.

It is possible to complain on behalf of someone else who gives their consent.

Fundraising Preference Service

The Fundraising Preference Service, operated by the Fundraising Regulator, allows people to control the nature and frequency of the direct marketing communications they receive from fundraising organisations registered in England and Wales. The FPS website provides information on how to complain about charities who continue to send communications after an FPS request has been submitted: FAQ 8: I want to complain.

Advertising Standards Authority

The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. A constituent may contact the Advertising Standards Authority to complain about:

  • an advertising campaign which he or she thinks is offensive, deceptive or inaccurate
  • the quantity of mail or email he or she receives from a charity

[Gov.uk: Complain about a charity]

Serious concerns to be taken up with the Charity Commission

Some concerns may be very serious and it might not be appropriate to speak to the trustees first. For instance, criminal activity in a charity should be reported immediately to the police and to the Commission without informing the charity first.

The issues which the Charity Commission considers as serious are identified in the guidance Charity Commission Regulatory and Risk Framework.

Suspected fraud connected to a charity should be reported to the Action Fraud online reporting service, telephone 0300 123 2040. Possible terrorist activity connected to a charity should be reported to the Anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.

To make a serious complaint to the Charity Commission, you should use this Online form which takes you through a series of options and questions.

Hotline for Members of Parliament

The Hotline for Members of Parliament includes a contact name, telephone number and email address at the Charity Commission, only for the use of Members of Parliament carrying out constituency casework. These contact details should not be passed on to constituents.