Fundraising ethics

The principles governing how we approach donors and raise funds, and how we ensure that monies received do not compromise our integrity or people's trust in us.


The British Library actively manages the solicitation and acceptance of gifts, funds and sponsorship from individuals and from organisations, to support delivery of its strategy, as articulated in Living Knowledge. In undertaking these fundraising activities the Library has a responsibility to ensure that the processes of securing and receiving funds from third parties to support its work do not compromise its integrity, the trust of its supporters or its commitment to its diverse audiences, staff and the communities that it serves.


The British Library has a duty to the public to be transparent and accountable and always to act in the public interest. Our ability to maintain a strong relationship of trust with the public is critical to our ability to fulfil our mission, and is underpinned by adherence to the following key principles:
  • No individual should use his or her position for personal gain or to benefit another at the expense of the Library, its mission, its reputation, or the public which it serves.
  • The British Library must have authority over the content and presentation of all activities and services it delivers.
  • The Library will only accept items, whether as gift, bequest or on purchase, after performing the appropriate level of due diligence, and carrying out an appraisal against collection development priorities and policies.
  • Where commercial sponsorship is used to fund the Library’s events, training materials and general meetings, the sponsorship must be transparent, pursuant to a written agreement, for legitimate business purposes, and proportionate to the occasion.


Representatives of the Library who are involved in fundraising will abide by the Code of Fundraising Practice to ensure that all fundraising activities are respectful, open, honest and accountable. All involved in fundraising activities will:
  • Observe all appropriate legal and ethical requirements as laid down by the Library and such other appropriate bodies involved in fundraising
  • Follow all Library policies and codes relating to Equal Opportunities, Personal Harassment & Bullying, Health and Safety, Employment, Grievance, and Public Interest Disclosure
  • Report any conflict of interest, whether actual or prospective, to the Fundraising Leadership Group / Fundraising Advisory Group
  • Be aware that the Library reserves the right to reject any donation offered.
Fundraising solicitations on behalf of the Library will:
  • be truthful
  • accurately describe the Library’s activities and the intended use of donated funds
  • respect the dignity and privacy of those who benefit from the Library’s activities.


All fundraising by or on behalf of the Library will disclose the Library’s name and purpose for which the funds are requested. Written solicitations (however transmitted) will also include the Library address or other contact information.

Donors and prospective donors are entitled to know, upon request, whether an individual soliciting funds on behalf of the Library is a volunteer, an employee or a hired professional.

All Donor records maintained by the Library will be kept confidential to the greatest extent possible in accordance with all relevant Data Protection and Freedom of Information legislation. Donors have the right to see their own donor record, and to challenge its accuracy.

Donors’ requests to remain anonymous will be respected.

Donors and prospective Donors will be treated with respect. The Library must not exaggerate any material fact when making a solicitation, nor must it take advantage of any mistake, credulity, or vulnerability on the part of the prospective donor.

Donors have the right to request that their philanthropic donations are allocated to a specific area of Library activity.

Donors and prospective donors are entitled to the following, promptly upon request:
  • the most recent financial statements
  • confirmation of the exempt charitable status of The British Library
  • a copy of this ethical policy.
The Library will respond promptly to a complaint by a donor or prospective donor about any matter that is addressed in this ethical policy. A member of the Fundraising Team will attempt to satisfy the complainant’s concerns in the first instance. A complainant who remains dissatisfied will be informed that he/she may appeal in writing to the Chief Executive of the Library.


The British Library actively seeks gifts and sponsorship from a wide variety of public and private and charitable sector donors from across the globe; however there are occasions when it is not possible for the Library to accept a gift or sponsorship.

Before accepting a donation the Library will ascertain that the following criteria are met:
  • There are strong grounds for believing the donation will result in overall benefit to the British Library
  • If a gift is offered for a specific purpose, then this must be a charitable purpose that is within the Library’s objectives
  • It is feasible to apply the donation in a way that is consistent with the donor’s wishes, given the operational constraints of the Library
  • The Library can accept any obligations attached by the donor, e.g. requirements to report back to donors on impact of the gift.
The Library will take all steps possible to check the provenance of donations and will not accept gifts and sponsorship where acceptance would result in risk to the Library, for example:
  • Acceptance might lead to undue and inappropriate third party influence, or impression of such influence, on the corporate decisions of the Library
  • Acceptance is highly likely to deter actual or potential supporters from future support
  • Acceptance would result in reputational damage to the Library, or compromise to its status
  • There are grounds to believe that the support derives from the proceeds of crime, including fraud, tax evasion or money laundering.


The Library will carry out a risk assessment of all new prospective donations, grants or sponsorships, and make a further assessment where a relationship with a donor has been established but the donor’s conformance with the criteria above may have since changed.

High value, highly visible and/or potentially high risk proposals, once assessed to be worthy proposals by the Library’s Executive, will be submitted for approval to the British Library Board.


The Library’s financial affairs will be conducted in a responsible manner, consistent with the ethical obligations of stewardship and the legal requirements of national regulators.

All donations will be used to support the mission of the British Library.

All restricted donations will be used as agreed with the donor. If necessary due to programme or organisational changes, alternative uses will be discussed where possible with the donor or the donor’s legal designate(s). If the donor is deceased or legally incompetent, and the Library is unable to contact a legal designate, the donation will be used in a manner that is as consistent as possible with the donor’s original intent.

All donation accounts will be subject to regular Internal and External Audit.