Fundraising Regulator Calls for More Transparency from Giving Platforms

By Carmen James

12 Oct 17

The Fundraising Regulator and Charity Commission is cracking down on online giving platforms that aren't transparent about the fees and charges associated with their services, and is working to improve public trust in online giving.

The Fundraising Regulator and the Charity Commision recently held a meeting with key online fundraising platforms including Wonderful, to start drafting a revised code of practice for the online fundraising sector. Public trust in general online giving has recently been brought into question in the media and in Parliament. Online fundraising pages raising huge donations (such as those following tragic events like Grenfell Tower) have brought into question the fees and charges involved when a member of the public makes a donation, and the increased incidence of scammers, who have fraudulently set up fundraising pages in the wake of devastating events for their own gain.

Online fundraising platforms met with the Charity Commission to start the process of establishing new guidelines for the sector, and to discuss the best ways to promote understanding and transparency about the different forms of donating online. Platforms agreed to work with the regulators to spread clear and consistent advice to the public about their choices. The meeting reinforced the legal obligation for online platforms that earn profits from online donations to make it clear to fundraisers and donors about what proportion of their donations will reach the chosen charity. Platforms were urged to recognise that although the charities and the individuals who set up fundraising pages may be clear about associated fees and charges, many of the donors (the ones giving up their money) may not be.

Sites such as GoFundMe and JustGiving recently had to suspend a number of fundraising pages for tragedies such as the Westminster attack. New proposals could result in stricter checks for anyone looking to set up a donation page and require more detailed information on exactly where the funds are going to be delivered. It is required that funds raised for charitable purposes through such pages go to a registered charity, however there are major concerns that a large number of fundraisers and donors are unaware of this condition.

The Charity Commission has stated that at times there is a delay prior to paying out any money raised from such appeals to the page organiser if he/she has not organised a way for it to be adequately distributed. It added that it wishes to increase public trust and confidence in charity and online giving, and ensure that charitable resources in the short, medium and long-term are used as effectively as possible".

"These issues have been accentuated in the wake of major incidents in the UK such as the four terrorist attacks in London since March, the Manchester Arena attack, and the Grenfell Tower fire," it said.

"The publics extremely generous response to these incidents has raised over £38million for victims."

In a statement, the commission also said: "The aim of the summit is to collectively agree some principles that will ensure individuals are supported when setting up or donating to online appeals, to help increase public trust and confidence in online giving, and to ensure that charitable resources in the short, medium and long-term are used as effectively as possible."

Earlier this year, GoFundMe revealed that they had been forced to suspend two fundraising accounts set up for the Manchester bombing, following fears that they had been created fraudulently. They assured any donors that they would reimburse anyone left out of pocket by a scammer.

Similar concerns were raised about the legitimacy of some fundraising pages when in April, JustGiving seized control of a fundraising page on its website which claimed to have been created in memory of Aysha Frade, who lost her life the previous month in the Westminster attack. This is as users spotted that it had been set up by a woman who shared a name with someone convicted of fraud in the past.

It is imperative that online fundraising platforms improve the clarity of their offering to member of the public who might want to raise money for a charity or for an individual. As the new code of practice for online fundraising comes into fruition, members of the public should be clearer about their choices when it comes to fundraising, and fundraisers and donors should be clearer about how to maximise charitable donations by choosing the appropriate fundraising platform.

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