The Charity Commission has updated its guidance on fundraising, warning charities over the reputational risks associated with using emotive language and distressing images.
The revised guidance in Charities and Fundraising includes advice for trustees on what to consider when choosing fundraising methods.
It states: 'The Commission encourages charities to be innovative in their approach to fundraising, but reminds trustees of the need to consider the advantages and disadvantages, including potential financial and reputational risks, and the ethical implications of any method of fundraising prior to adoption.'
The use of 'excessively emotive language' and 'distressing images of beneficiaries' are highlighted in the revised document, which states: 'Although the charity may see a short-term gain to employing such methods, donors may feel that they are being unduly pressured into donating and develop a negative perception of the charity and charities generally.'
In response, an RSPCA spokesman said: 'While the RSPCA never seeks to shock people for the sake of it, we also know a lot of people would be shocked at just how cruel some people can be to animals.
'People are constantly bombarded by adverts for all sorts of commercial services, so it is important that charities stand out from the crowd by reminding the public what it is they do, and in our case the vital work that the RSPCA does.'
Rosie Chapman, executive director for policy and effectiveness at the Charity Commission, said: 'To ensure continued donations and public trust and confidence in their work, it is important that trustees are aware of both their legal responsibilities and good practice when carrying out fundraising activities.'