An extensive study into how fundraising is regulated across Europe has been published by the European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law, a leading resource and research centre promoting an enabling legal and fiscal environment for civil society.
ECNL’s report, The Regulatory Framework for Fundraising in Europe, explores the regulatory framework of nonprofits in 16 European countries. Developed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), it looks at the common elements of laws related to fundraising across Europe, as well as state incentives for fundraising.
The report notes that some countries are seeking to reduce administrative burdens and regulatory controls on fundraising activities while others are increasing state oversight.
New, more liberal legislation on public collection was introduced in Poland and Slovakia in 2014. Over the past two decades, 13 German states have deliberately repealed their Collection Laws that imposed additional burdens on the organizers of public collections. The Finnish Interior Ministry has been working on a new fundraising act since August 2016, making fundraising activities more flexible and eliminating the prior authorisation procedure. On the other hand, however, the 2016 UK Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act conferred additional powers on the Charity Commission to regulate fundraising and proposed a new fundraising regulator.
The spread of digital fundraising methods triggered new legislation, too. In France, a new regulatory regime for crowdfunding came into force in 2014, and a special law on SMS donations was adopted in 2016.
In addition to mapping out the current state of play of fundraising regulation across Europe, the report also makes a number of recommendations for governments, including:
- Assessing whether the current legal framework supports the diversification of civil society organisation resources and allows fundraising activities to flourish.
- Strengthening the complementary role of legislation and self-regulation to strike an effective and appropriate balance.
- Revisiting the need for notification or permission requirements, and ensuring consistent and simplified procedures that enable fundraising activities without imposing burdensome administrative requirements.
- Encouraging the use of digital fundraising methods without creating additional administrative burdens for CSOs.
- Removing any barriers on cross-border philanthropy and guarantee the same treatment for cross-border and domestic donations.
- Supporting the development of philanthropy by introducing tax advantages for private giving.
The report is intended as a first step towards further research and initiatives. Over the next year, ECNL, working with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) through the Civic Space Initiative, continues its research to assess the impact and implementation of laws and self regulation initiatives on fundraising, and facilitates a multi-stakeholder dialogue on how best to regulate or self-regulate fundraising. Its plans include the creation of global guidelines and toolkits on the minimum standards of fundraising regulation and self-regulation to guide reforms.