These are thousands of charities in South Africa. The chances are that a significant number are not ‘registered’, but still collect money from the public for their cause – whether its abandoned children, the rhino, the elderly, refugees, or myriad others. Save for scam operations, they all perform a much-needed function in our increasingly financially-challenged society.

The Fund-Raising Act 1978 controls the collection of funds from the public, and is administered by the Minister of Social Development.

A ‘contribution’ is considered to be money, and any property, which can be converted into or exchanged for money, and which is not transferred in fulfilment of an enforceable obligation, or which gives rise to a right to claim anything other than participation in a game or competition (e.g. a raffle).

A. Fundraising obligations

  1. It is a criminal offence, in any manner whatsoever to solicit, accept, collect or obtain (that is ‘collect’) contributions from the public unless you have written authorization from the Director of Fundraising.1

  2. It is a criminal offence to go about collecting contributions otherwise than as provided in the Act.2

  3. No contribution may be used for any object other than that specified in the authorisation, and it is an offence to do otherwise.3

  4. Every fund-raising organisation, and a branch of such an organisation which is registered separately, and every holder of a temporary authorisation must keep record (as prescribed by regulation) of all moneys received and expended; of all assets and liabilities; and of all financial transactions. It is an offence to fail to do so.4

  5. It is also an offence to fail to furnish the Director with all reports, returns and financial statements (as may be prescribed) at the prescribed times.5

  6. If the Director of Fundraising suspects that contributions have been collected in contravention of the Act, he can order that the funds be returned, or be delivered to him, and he can require (of any person) that certain information be provided. It is a criminal offence not to comply with such an order.6

  7. Any unsolicited contribution, the collection of which would be in conflict with any provision of the Act must be returned (or, if this is not practicable, be dealt with as determined by the Director) and it is an offence to do otherwise.7

  8. When an authorisation from the Director lapses, or is withdrawn, or the organisation in question is dissolved or discontinues its activities, its management must furnish to the Director the prescribed returns, statements, liquidation and distribution account and any other information the Director requires. An offence is committed if any of these obligations is not met.8

B. Professional fundraisers

  1. No person may collect contributions for a fundraising organisation, in return for which he receives remuneration, unless:
    • he has, in his possession, special written permission from the organisation;9 and
    • he has entered into a written agreement with the organisation, a copy of which has been furnished to the Director.10
  2. He must produce the special permission if requested to do so by the organisation, or the Director, or a policeman and commits an offence if he fails to do so.11

  3. If a person collects contributions, and for which he is remunerated, he may not publish any advertisement or notice (for that purpose) unless it states:
    • clearly, and in a prominent position, that the collection is for remuneration;12
    • the places at which, and the times when, his written agreement with the particular fund-raising organisation may be inspected; and
    • his particulars, as required by regulation,

    and it is an offence to do otherwise.

  4. The organisation concerned may withdraw the special permission at any time (and must do so if required by the Director). The person in question commits a criminal offence if he does not return the permit itself within seven days.13

C. Statutory funds

There are certain statutory funds: the Disaster Relief Fund, the South African Defence Force Fund, the Refugee Relief Fund, the State President’s Fund, and the Social Relief Fund. These funds all have boards, appointed in terms of the Act, and one of their functions is to collect contributions. It is an offence to collect contributions on behalf of, or for, one of these funds if you are not granted special written authorization to do so from the relevant board.14

D. Inspectors

The Director may appoint inspectors whose function is to investigate – either generally or in a particular case – the affairs of any organisation which collects contributions from the public. These inspectors have wide powers.

  1. If an inspector calls for security to be furnished by the organisation, or for it to provide records, books, accounts and documents, it is an offence to fail to comply therewith.15

  2. Any person who hinders or obstructs the Director, or any member of his staff, or an inspector in the execution of his duties, commits a criminal offence.16

  3. Any person who falsely represents himself to be the Director, or a member of his staff, or an inspector, commits a crime.17

  4. Any person carrying out, or assisting in an inspection shall preserve the secrecy of all matters that may come to his knowledge in the performance of his duties. It is an offence to fail to comply with this obligation.18

  1. Section 2 read with section 34(1)(a). 

  2. Section 2 read with section 34(1)(a). 

  3. Section 11(1) read with section 34(1)(a). 

  4. Section 12(1) read with section 34(1)(a). 

  5. Section 12(1) read with section 34(1)(a). 

  6. Section 31(1) read with section 34(1)(a). 

  7. Section 31(3) read with section 34(1)(b). 

  8. Section 13(1)(a) read with section 34(1)(b). 

  9. Section 7(2). 

  10. Section 7(3). 

  11. Section 7(8) read with section 34(1)(b). 

  12. Section 7(6) read with section 34(1)(b). 

  13. Section 7(9)(b) read with section 34(1)(b). 

  14. Section 21(1) read with Chapter II(2) or the Act read with section 34(1)(a). 

  15. Section 30(8) read with section 6(9) and section 34(1)(b). 

  16. Section 34(1)(c). 

  17. Section 34(1)(c). 

  18. Section 30(11) read with section 34(1)(b).