The Fundraising Standards Board has ruled that the Race for Life fundraising event organised by Cancer Research UK, which prohibits men from taking part, does not breach the Fundraising Promise adopted by FRSB members.
The adjudication was made at board level after the charity and FRSB officials had failed to resolve a complaint that was first lodged eight years ago by a man who wanted to run in the event after his daughter died of ovarian cancer.
He argued that the charity was not being "fair and reasonable" – a key requirement of the Fundraising Promise – and was also in breach of the Human Rights Act and the Sex Discrimination Act.
The FRSB adjudication said that CRUK had been fair and reasonable in its efforts to provide events that catered for both men and women. It also said there was no breach of the requirement in the promise to comply with the law because the Equality and Human Rights Commission had told the charity that "no action was required in relation to this matter".
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, said this was a landmark case for charities that might wonder what the FRSB’s position was on fundraising events that catered for a specific group of society.
"A charity must have the freedom to choose whatever fundraising activity it likes, in line with the objects of the charity and the cause that it supports, while at the same time being mindful of rules and regulations and the law of the land," he said.
Claire Wilson, head of supporter services and operations at CRUK, said research had shown that the main reason for the high level of participation in Race for Life was that it was only for women.
The Equality Act 2010, which comes into force next month, includes a section that says single-sex fundraising events are lawful. Explanatory notes for section 193 refer to Race for Life as an example.
The complaint was only the third to have been dealt with at board level since the FRSB was opened more than three years ago. The adjudication commended CRUK for its sensitive handling of the complaint, including offers of alternative ways for the complainant to become engaged with the cause.