Charitable organisations, understandably, want to do all they can to raise awareness and funds for their cause. Marketers should, however, take care to ensure they don’t overstep the mark by misleading consumers about how donations will be used, or cause harm to children or the vulnerable. Read on for our top tips on how to stick to the advertising rules while fund-raising.

Be sensitive

While consumers may be more likely to accept upsetting content appearing in ads for charitable causes, marketers should remember that for many, the subject matter of some charity ads will be particularly distressing.

Marketers should take care to ensure ads strike a responsible balance between highlighting the importance of their cause and the need to be sensitive to those who are particularly vulnerable and may be affected severely by references to it; for instance ads for donations to fight serious medical conditions; those asking for aid to help children in worn torn countries or appeals to help prevent animal cruelty. Ads containing extremely graphic imagery could be considered problematic despite the worthiness of the cause.

Take care when targeting children

Ads targeted at or featuring children must not contain anything likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm (rule 5.1).

Marketers in the fund-raising sector should take particular care to ensure they don’t exploit children’s susceptibility to charitable appeals. Ads must explain how participation will help in charity-linked promotions (rule 5.3.2) and promotional marketing must not encourage children to buy a product that promotes charitable purposes, or exhort them to persuade an adult to buy it on their behalf (rule 8.33.9).

Don’t exaggerate

While consumers may want to support a charitable cause, they also want to know where their money is going. Marketers should be transparent about the nature of the cause and be honest and realistic when referring to how consumers’ donations will help those in need.

Be upfront about costs and commitment

Ads should state all relevant information likely to affect a consumer’s decision to donate, including call or text message charges (rules 3.17 and 3.18), any additional costs, opt-out information and how consumers’ data will be used.

Be clear when running charity-linked promotions

Marketers wishing to run promotions that benefit charities should ensure they communicate specific information to consumers, including the name of each beneficiary, its nature and objectives (unless obvious), what will be gained by the charity or cause, and any limit on the promoter’s contribution (rules 8.33 - 8.34.1).

Don’t imply you’re a charity if you aren’t

Marketers must not imply they are a charitable organisation if they are not. Charities must be registered with the Charity Commission or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and any implication that a commercial company is a charity is likely to mislead consumers. Ads for commercial companies seeking "donations" or inviting consumers to take part in an “appeal” are likely to imply that consumers would be donating to a charity.

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