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- Control of Charitable Fund-raising Activities

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FAQ 

Control of Charitable Fund-raising Activities in Public Places

  1. Under what circumstances that a fund-raising organisation is required to apply for a Public Subscription Permit (PSP) from the Social Welfare Department (SWD)? Is the SWD responsible for regulating all kinds of fund-raising activities? 

  2. How does an organisation apply for a PSP for flag day? What are the criteria for assessing its eligibility?

  3. How does an organisation apply for a PSP for general charitable fund-raising activities? What are the criteria for assessing its eligibility?

  4. Do the applicant organisations need to apply to the Lands Department (LandsD) for temporary occupation of government land (TOGL) if the application involves fund-raising activities to be conducted on government land administered by the LandsD?

  5. Do the applicant organisations need to apply to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) for temporary hawker licences if the proposed fund-raising activities would involve charity sales in public places?

  6. When the applicant organisations should submit their application to the SWD?
     

  7. What are the requirements of the SWD for the audited report to be submitted by the Permittee upon completion of the approved fund-raising activities?

  8. What are the consequences if the Permittee breached the PSP conditions?
     

  9. Any measures have been set up by the SWD to enhance transparency and accountability of charitable fund-raising activities?

  10. How do members of the public identify those charitable fund-raising activities issued with PSPs by the SWD?

  11. Are there any designated dates and times for flag-selling and general charitable fund-raising activities?



Control of Charitable Fund-raising Activities in Public Places
 

Q1: Under what circumstances that a fund-raising organisation is required to apply for a Public Subscription Permit (PSP) from the Social Welfare Department (SWD)? Is the SWD responsible for regulating all kinds of fund-raising activities?
 
A1: In accordance with Section 4(17)(i) of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228 of Laws of Hong Kong), an organisation is required to apply for a PSP from the Director of Social Welfare (DSW) if its proposed fund-raising activity is under all of the following circumstances –
  • collection of money or sale or exchange for donations of badges, tokens or similar articles is involved;
  • the activity is to be held for charitable purposes; and
  • the activity is to be held in a public place.

PSPs issued by the SWD mainly cover two types of fund-raising activities in public places, namely flag days and general charitable fund-raising activities. For flag days, there are territory-wide flag days and regional flag days. For general charitable fund-raising activities, they mainly include activities like setting up donation boxes in stationed counters; moving around solicitation with money-collection boxes/bags; door to door donation (especially in public housing estates); charity sale of badges, tokens or similar articles and charity ride etc.

In Hong Kong, there is currently no specific legislation governing the regulation of charitable fund-raising activities. The conduct of fund-raising in public places however requires application for permits and licences from departments concerned. For details, please refer to GovHK.

Q2: How does an organisation apply for a PSP for flag day? What are the criteria for assessing its eligibility?
 
A2: The allocation of flag days is an annual exercise conducted by the SWD upon the advice of the Lotteries Fund Advisory Committee (LFAC). Invitation for application for flag days in the coming financial year will normally be advertised in newspapers and announced in the SWD's website in April or May of each year with the closing date set after a month. Flag day applications will be considered and endorsed by LFAC around September of the year. Applicant organisations will be informed around October of the results of their applications. Eligible applicant organisations will be invited to witness the lot-drawing, which determines their order of priority for selection of flag days. Flag Day Permits will be issued around December. The list of flag day organisers and copy of the Flag Day Permits will be uploaded to the SWD’s website.

The applicant organisation for a PSP for flag day must be a charitable institution or trust of a public character exempt from tax under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance (Cap. 112), and after its registration for tax exemption, have organised charitable activities in each of the past three years by the closing date of flag day application, and it should have the ability to organise a flag sale effectively. Applications from charitable organisations which are associated with commercial organisations will be considered ineligible for this flag day allocation exercise. Closely-related organisations are not allowed to apply for flag day separately in the same exercise to ensure fair chances among all applicant organisations.

An applicant organisation should submit to the SWD, before the application deadline, the completed application form, together with relevant documents such as a copy of approval letter to certify that the organisation is a charitable institution or trust exempt from tax under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance, documents showing its track record of charitable activities held in the past three years including copies of the audited annual financial statements published, a consent letter from the Community Chest of Hong Kong (if applicable), etc.

The application form can be downloaded from this website or obtained upon request through the SWD's Hotline (Tel. No. 2343 2255) from April to May of each year. Applicant organisations should refer to the Explanatory Notes of the application form for details of the application procedures, eligibility criteria, permit conditions and other points to observe.


 
Q3: How does an organisation apply for a PSP for general charitable fund-raising activities? What are the criteria for assessing its eligibility?
 
A3: The applicant organisation apply for a PSP for general charitable fund-raising activities must satisfy established eligible criteria, including possession of a valid registration in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the Companies Ordinance (Cap. 622), the Societies Ordinance (Cap. 151), etc., or  being a charitable institution or trust of a public character exempt from tax under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance (Cap. 112), in order to be eligible.  The applicant organisation and/or the beneficiary organisation(s) (if applicable) must have at least three years’ track record of charitable activities from its registration for tax exemption under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance (Cap.112) up to the date of this application. Besides, the SWD must be satisfied that the applicant organisation and/or the beneficiary organisation(s) (if applicable) is/are suitable for organising the fund-raising activities under the application, taking into consideration the integrity, management capability, track record of the previous charitable activities, financial position, records of non-compliance with the conditions of a PSP (including flag days or other fund-raising activities), etc. of the organisation(s) concerned.

 

Q4: Do the applicant organisations need to apply to the Lands Department (LandsD) for temporary occupation of government land (TOGL) if the application involves fund-raising activities to be conducted on government land administered by the LandsD?
 
A4: The SWD, when processing the application for PSP, will apply to the LandsD for the TOGL simultaneously (only applicable to the general charitable fund-raising activities to be held at the spots as specified on the “list of designated spots” provided by the LandsD, e.g. public streets), on behalf of the applicant organisation. Applicant organisation should therefore submit the PSP application to the SWD at least 10 weeks before the commencement of the proposed activity. 

 
 
Q5: Do the applicant organisations need to apply to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) for temporary hawker licences if the proposed fund-raising activities would involve charity sales in public places?
 
A5: The organisation should consult the FEHD on whether a temporary hawker licence would be required if the proposed fund-raising activities involve on-street hawking of goods in public places.  Meanwhile, the SWD will forward the information in relation to the proposed charity sale (in particular, for sale or exchange for donations of badges, tokens or similar article) of the applicant organisation submitted via the PSP application form, to the FEHD for further processing of the application for “waiver of temporary hawker licence” and the organisation concerned will be notified of the result separately by the FEHD.

 

Q6: When the applicant organisations should submit their application to the SWD?
A6: For application not involving fund-raising activities to be conducted on government land administered by the LandsD, it should reach the SWD at least 4 weeks (but not more than 8 weeks) before the commencement of the proposed activity. For application involving fund-raising activities to be conducted partly or wholly on government land administered by the LandsD (for details, please refer to the “list of designated spots” provided by the LandsD), it should reach the SWD at least 10 weeks (but not more than 16 weeks) before the commencement of the proposed activity. The SWD will, on behalf of the applicant organisation, apply to the LandsD for TOGL at the specific locations as proposed.

The application form can be downloaded from this website or obtained upon request through the SWD’s Hotline (Tel. No. 2343 2255).  Applicant organisations should refer to the Explanatory Notes of the application form for details of the application procedures, eligibility criteria, permit conditions and other points to observe.


 
Q7: What are the requirements of the SWD for the audited report to be submitted by the Permittee upon completion of the approved fund-raising activities?
 
A7: The Permittee shall comply with  the related conditions in the ‘Conditions of Public Subscription Permit’, including deposit balance of donations into the bank account concerned as soon as possible (i.e. within 60 days of the last event day or before the commencement of auditing work, whichever is earlier); prepare an income and expenditure account of the fund-raising activities on an “accrual basis” with the amount of donation and the relevant bank-in date should be stated in the notes of the income and expenditure account; refer to the benchmark of the latest Practice Note 850 “Reporting on Flag Days and General Charitable Fund-raising Activities Covered by Public Subscription Permits issued by the Social Welfare Department” issued by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants for preparing the auditor's report/independent practitioner’s assurance report; submit the original copy and PDF file of the income and expenditure account of the fund-raising activity concerned, together with the auditor's report/independent practitioner’s assurance report thereon, to the SWD within 90 days of the last event day. The PDF file will be uploaded onto the GovHK for public inspection (for a period of 12 months); list separately, by respective Permit Number(s), the net proceeds from the fund-raising activities approved in the Permit(s) and the usage of funds, in the audited annual financial statements (AFS) of the Permittee for the year concerned. A copy of the audited AFS must be submitted to the SWD for record purpose. 

 

 
Q8: What are the consequences if the Permittee breached the PSP conditions?
A8: In the event of non-compliance with conditions of a PSP by the Permittee [ e.g. the original copy and PDF file of the income and expenditure account of the fund-raising activity concerned have not been submitted to the SWD by the prescribed deadline (i.e. 90 days after the last event day) ], the SWD will record the incidents of non-compliance, issue written warning of different levels to the organisation concerned, and may suspend or process in phases its submitted/subsequent PSP application for organising general charitable fund-raising activities according to the respective levels of non-compliance until the organisation has taken appropriate action to rectify the non-compliance (e.g. by submitting the related income and expenditure accounts).

 
 
Q9: Any measures have been set up by the SWD to enhance transparency and accountability of charitable fund-raising activities?
 
A9: The SWD, the Home Affairs Department and the FEHD have jointly issued the “Good Practice Guide on Charitable Fund-raising (Good Practice Guide)” to replace the “Reference Guide on Best Practices for Charitable Fund-raising Activities” previously published by the SWD for voluntary adoption by the charitable organisations and the public’s reference.  The Good Practice Guide covers areas on donors' rights, fund-raising practices and financial accountability issues. The public may make use of the Good Practice Guide to measure against the practice of a charity in fund-raising.

 
 
Q10: How do members of the public identify those charitable fund-raising activities issued with PSPs by the SWD?
 
A10: For both flag days and general charitable fund-raising activities, the SWD has stipulated a set of conditions for compliance by the organisations issued with PSPs so as to monitor charitable fund-raising activities in public places and facilitate the public to identify such activities.  The details of the charitable fund-raising activities covered by PSP (flay days/general charitable fund-raising activities) issued by the SWD, including the date, time and specific locations of the events, have been uploaded to the GovHK. For details, please click here. The public can scan the “QR Code” printed on the permit issued by the SWD to access directly to the concerned webpage of the GovHK, and make enquiries to the dedicated hotline for charitable fund-raising activities 31422678 provided by 1823, for details of the approved activities under respective PSP.

As required in the permit conditions for flag days, the money collection bags for flag sale should mark clearly and prominently the name of the Permittee and the statement “Approved by Social Welfare Department”.  The permit conditions for general charitable fund-raising activities require the Permittee to display the original copy of the PSP prominently at the approved locations of the fund-raising activities (except for those approved locations without the attendance of the fund-raisers).  Presentation of the photocopy of the Permit (except the appendices) to the public by the fund-raisers engaging in moving-around solicitation is prohibited.  Besides, the Permittee must ensure that there is sufficient publicity for the proposed fund-raising activities. Service information of the Permittee and the beneficiary organisation(s) (if applicable), as well as details of the fund-raising activities, must be displayed prominently at the approved locations of the fund-raising activities, whilst the purpose of the fund-raising activities concerned must be shown in a readily legible typeface.  Moreover, the Permittee must ensure that its fund-raisers wear identification badges in the format specified by the SWD and that a tag , also in the format specified by the SWD, must be prominently affixed on each of the donation boxes and/or other donation collection tools, so as to inform the public that such activities has been approved by the SWD.

 
 
Q11: Are there any designated dates and times for flag-selling and general charitable fund-raising activities?
 
A11: There are around 60 flag days in a year. Flag sales usually take place from 07:00 to 12:30 on Saturdays and some Wednesdays which fall on school holidays. For flag days, there are territory-wide flag days and regional flag days. On each regional flag day, three organisations will sell flags to solicit donations concurrently, one each on Hong Kong Island, in Kowloon and in the New Territories.

Applications for PSPs for holding general charitable fund-raising activities in public places may be submitted throughout the year. Nonetheless, the applicant shall still meet the established criteria to be eligible for a PSP for organising such activities in public places, for instance, prior approval should have been secured from the management authority of the proposed venue. Generally speaking, the starting time for general charitable fund-raising activities shall be at or after 13:00 if they are to be organised on flag days.
 
 
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