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Charity Collections in Northern Ireland

Charity Collections in Northern Ireland

Charity Collections in Northern Ireland

You need a permit before you can:
collect money for charity on the street or in a public place.
carry out a house-to-house collection for money or goods like jumble.

You don't need a permit for a collection box on the counter at a shop or garage, or a pub, or at an office reception desk. But you do of course need permission from the proprietor. You don't need a permit to hold a charity collection on private land  though again you need the owner's permission. You also need to make sure that where you're planning to hold the collection doesn't fall within the definition of either 'street' or 'public place'. You might be able to hold a collection without a permit inside a supermarket but the shop doorway would be considered a public place.  Shopping centres, stations and airports are now considered to be public areas, so you will need a permit. If you're in any doubt whether you need a permit, then it's best to check. Remember too that even if you don't need a permit you want people to feel confident about giving money for your charity.  So it makes good sense to follow similar procedures to those required for charity collections when you do need a permit.

Street Collections 

Permits for charity collections are issued by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. You should apply to your local station. It is your committee which applies for the permit and you must have a committee of at least three members. You are the promoters of the collection and joint responsible for ensuring that the way that the collection is carried out complies with all regulations. You will be asked to give information about your group when you apply for a permit as well as your aims, the application form asks what percentage of the proceeds of the collection will go to the charity or fund you are supporting. You need to apply for a permit well in advance of when you plan to hold your collection especially if that's close to Christmas or other popular times of year for holding collections. At a minimum, you must apply no later than the first day of the month before the month in which you want you your collection to take place.

Collectors

the promoter has to give written authority to each and every collector - and in a form which they can produce if asked to do so. No-one else may help collect money. You may also want your collectors to wear name badges.
collectors must be at least 16 years old and must be volunteers i.e.: they cannot be paid.

Collection boxes

they must be closed and sealed in such a way that they cannot be opened without breaking the seal.
they must have labels - or printing on the box itself - which shows prominently the name of the charity or fund which is to benefit from the collection
they have to be numbered consecutively, with a record kept of which boxes have been allocated to which collectors

Only 2 collectors are usually allowed to stand together - and they must be 30 yards away from the next collectors. They should not walk around or move off the pavement. Apart from guide dogs, no dogs (or other animals) can accompany collectors. There are also regulations about not causing annoyance. It's good practice anyway to brief your collectors on how you expect them to behave.

Accounting for the money collected

collectors have to return all collection boxes unopened to the promoters
the collection boxes have to be opened one-by-one in the presence of one of the promoters and two other people. Apart from counting the money, you should record the amount on a list against the number of each collection box, and each record must be signed (certified) by all those present.
a statement of the amount raised has to be published in a local newspaper  which can be done by writing a letter for the "Letters to the Editor" section. You must include details of the amount collected, any expenses, and the net amount raised for your charity as well as details of when the collection took place and which charity it supported.
you have to complete a returns form and submit it to the Police Service of Northern Ireland within two months. This has to include a detailed statement of account, which has been audited either by your organisation's auditor or another "responsible person" not connected with your organisation, or the collection. You also include a copy of your entry in the local newspaper.

House-to-house collections

The law about house-to-house collections includes collections for jumble or other property door-to-door, as well as collections of money. If you are holding a house-to-house collection in your own community, then you need to apply for a licence from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. You apply to the local police station in which the collection is to be made. Charities intending to carry out house-to-house collections throughout Northern Ireland can apply to the Charities Branch in the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development for an exemption order instead.

Accounting for the money collected

There are detailed regulations which usually mean that:
collectors have to return all collection boxes (and buckets) unopened to the promoter
the promoter has to open collection boxes one-by-one in the presence of another person, and record the amount on a list against the number of each collection box, and each record must be signed (certified) by them both. Alternatively, the collection boxes may be taken unopened to the bank - and counted and recorded there.
the promoter has to submit a certified statement within one month to the authority which issued the permit - setting out the total raised, the amounts in each box, and a list of all collectors. That statement may also have to be certified by a qualified accountant, though some authorities relax this regulation for smaller collections
a statement of the amount raised may also have to be published in a local newspaper. 

House-to-house collections

The law about house-to-house collections includes collections for jumble, and selling goods or raffle tickets door-to-door as well as collections for money. If a permit is required, then the regulations are similar to those for street collections - but with the important difference that there are prescribed certificates of authority and badges for collectors, issued by HM Stationery Office once a permit has been given. For collections in a small local area, it may be possible to be granted a certificate from the police instead of a permit - but you do need to check.

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