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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Commission publishes top tips for giving safely to charity

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has welcomed a new research report looking into the financial abuse of older people.

The report, published by the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland (COPNI), revealed that 4% of respondents, the equivalent of 14,320 older people, had encountered problems in relation to their contributions to charity.

According to the report:

  • 2% said they were victims of a scam involving giving money to a bogus charity and 2% believed they may have been a victim of this kind of scam
  • 3% disclosed that they were persuaded to contribute beyond their means to churches or charities and a further 1% suspect that this had occurred.

Chief Charity Commissioner, Tom McGrath, said the report, which has been entitled The Unsettling Truth, was a sharp reminder to everyone of the need to undertake some simple checks when giving to charity.
Mr McGrath commented: “While incidents of fraudulent fundraising may be rare, they do occur, and they can have a devastating impact on people who believe they are giving to a good cause, only to find they have been scammed. They also have a damaging impact on public trust and confidence in the charity sector as a whole.
“That’s why it’s so important that everyone understands the basic checks they can take to ensure they are giving to a bona fide charity, and what they can do if they believe they are contributing beyond their means.
“Many charities depend on the goodwill of the public to survive and, to coincide with the COPNI report, we have published our top ten tips to support people of all ages, and in particular older people, to give safely to charity.”

Top Ten Safe Giving Tips

1. Check the registration list (available here) to ensure the charity has made itself known to the Commission and is prepared to meet its legal duty to apply for registration. This list also highlights if a charity is registered, refused registration or is closed, to date.

2. Over 5,100 charities have been registered by the Commission so far, with more registered on a weekly, often daily, basis. If a charity has been registered by the Commission you can search for it via the public register of charities to find out important information on what it does.

3. Ask questions – ask if the charity has registered with the Commission yet and, if so, what is their registration number. All registered Northern Ireland charities should have a charity number, beginning with NIC, and should clearly display the fact they are a registered charity on fundraising materials.

4. Try not to feel pressured into giving to a charity when you are unsure, particularly an amount that seems higher than you would like to contribute. If they are a genuine charity they will be happy for you to take the time to carry out some basic checks first, and will appreciate any donation, no matter how small.

5. Charities should not engage in fundraising which is an unreasonable intrusion of a person’s privacy, is unreasonably persistent and/or places undue pressure on a person to donate. If you feel a line has been crossed then advise the person that you feel uncomfortable and are going to end the conversation.

6. Be careful when responding to emails or clicking links on emails. Always check emails are genuine by looking out for spelling mistakes or other signs that the email is not genuine. If you have any concerns, don't hesitate to contact the charity directly.

7. Check whether a street/door-to-door collector has the authority to collect. A permit or license is usually required if raising money in a public place. These permits are obtained through the PSNI at present.

8. If you find you are struggling to pay an agreed amount to a charity, for example through a direct debit, then contact the charity and tell them you wish to reduce or cancel the amount. This is your decision - you don’t have to explain why if you don’t wish to.

9. Ask the collector for more information about what donations will be used for. A genuine charity will understand that you may wish to know more and should be happy to answer questions.

10. Ask the collector how much of your donation goes to the charity. There's no fixed rule about what percentage should be given to charity, but our advice is for people to ask what proportion of gross profit goes to the charity. This allows you to make an informed choice before you give.


For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland Communications Officer, on telephone: 028 3832 0169, mobile: 07827338978 or email:

Notes to editors

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland began compulsory charity registration in Northern Ireland for the first time in December 2013, with the register of charities going live on the Commission’s website on that date.

According to estimates there are over 10,000 charities operating in Northern Ireland and the Commission is managing the registration process by calling organisations forward in tranches to apply for registration.

As at 30 September 2016, there were 5,143 charities listed on the public register of charities.

Organisations can also check to ensure the Commission has their details for registration application purposes, by checking the Commission’s registration list, available here. This list details if an organisation:

  • has been registered by the Commission (and is therefore also listed on the public register of charities)
  • is closed
  • has been refused registration by the Commission
  • is required to provide further contact details for registration.