The Charity Commission has published new guidance for charities, urging them to ensure any close relationships with non-charitable organisations are made clear to the public.
It comes amid concerns that some relationships between charities and non-charities have damaged public confidence in charity, the regulator said.
Charities are being told to ensure people outside of their charity understand the relationship with non-charitable organisations is not used to advance non-charitable agendas and interests.
The Charity Commission said its casework identified examples where charities have not managed their links to non-charitable organisations with care, in some cases allowing charities to be misused to further non-charitable interests, including commercial or private interests.
It said whilst it recognises that many charities work successfully in close partnership with a wide variety of non-charitable organisations, such as trading subsidiaries, the guidance is designed to help charities reap the benefits whilst also managing the risks carefully.
The guidance will also allow it, and the public, to better hold charities to account against existing rules, the regulator added.
The new guidance draws together relevant law and practice in setting out six principles to help trustees ensure their arrangements for working with a linked body secure the charity’s interests and independence.
Commenting on the guidance, Charity Commission CEO, Helen Stephenson said: “As regulator, we want charities to thrive and inspire trust, and we know relationships with non-charitable organisations can help a charity deliver on its purposes. But operating alongside other organisations should always be well-considered and trustees must manage the risks that can arise carefully, and with probity.
"Charities hold special status in society and the public rightly have high expectations of them, including that they are driven only by their charitable mission and purpose and that they work to defend and promote their independence from non-charitable organisations at all times.
"No charity should ever use or be used by non-charitable organisations to pursue uncharitable interests.”
The guidance is available on gov.uk and includes an infographic and checklist to help trustees check and review their approach.