Charities setting up fundraising appeals must ensure that their objectives are clear to the public, according to updated guidelines issued by the Charity Commission.
The guidance stresses the importance of charities and individuals considering carefully the way in which appeals are worded, and how they need to be clear on issues such as what can realistically be achieved and what happens to surplus funds.
The commission has produced updated guidance in conjunction with the Disasters Emergency Committee, the umbrella organisation of 14 aid agencies that responds to major humanitarian emergencies.
The commission said that recent disaster appeals, such as for the Haiti earthquake and the Japanese tsunami, had "underlined the need for clear guidance on how best charities can set up and administer urgent appeals quickly and effectively".
In a statement, Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: "It is important that charities are clear about the aims of any appeal for public donations and are able to be transparent when demonstrating how such donations are being used.
"The Charity Commission hopes that this new guidance will help inform the general public about the best ways to give, as well as providing clear information to charities about how to run disaster appeals legally and effectively."
The guidance is aimed at both charities and individuals, and includes details about the processes involved in setting up a new charity or non-charitable fund, as well as how to go about assisting an existing charity through volunteering. It also provides details to existing charities regarding disaster appeals including risk management, how raised funds should be effectively managed, and how to protect against fraud and demonstrate that funds are used properly.
Kathryn Hindley, deputy chief executive of the DEC, said: "This guidance makes the proper administration of disaster relief appeals of fundamental importance, to ensure money donated is being used where it is intended. The new guidance should help make this process clear so that resources can be more focused on disaster relief."