Regulators meet online giving platforms to discuss fraud prevention

The Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator are meeting representatives from 14 of the biggest operators, including JustGiving and Virgin Money Giving, to agree principles

The Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator are meeting senior representatives from online giving platforms to discuss issues such as how to combat fraud.

The meeting, which is taking place today, brings the regulators together with 14 of the biggest fundraising platforms, including JustGiving, BT MyDonate, GoFundMe and Virgin Money Giving.

In a statement, the commission 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, help 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."

The commission said these issues were especially important in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the UK this year and the Grenfell Tower fire, which prompted the public raise to more than £38m for those affected, largely through online fundraising platforms.

But concerns were raised about the veracity of some of the fundraising pages. In April, JustGiving seized control of a fundraising page on its site that purported to have been set up in memory of Aysha Frade, who was killed the previous month in the terrorist attack on Westminster, after users spotted it had been started by a woman who had the same name as someone convicted of fraud.

Attendees at the meeting will discuss how to protect charitable funds from fraud or misrepresentation, how to ensure individuals understand the responsibility they are taking on in setting up a fundraising page and are supported to do so, and how to provide transparent information about fees and the amount of money will go to the platforms themselves.

The meeting will also explore whether the self-regulatory regime set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice was the appropriate way to assure the public and parliament that major giving platforms were adhering to high standards and transparency, the commission statement said.

Online platforms that allow private individuals to collect donations for their chosen causes and share their fundraising appeals with friends and family have become increasingly popular. JustGiving’s chief operating officer, Charlie Wells, predicts that online donations will represent 50 per cent of online giving by 2020.

Jo Barnett, executive director at Virgin Money Giving, told Third Sector the platform was aware of the importance of keeping charitable donations safe.

"The key thing we would like to see progressed through the summit is an understanding of how fundraising platforms can work together to provide greater transparency, minimise fraud and support charities in driving up new income," she said.

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said the emergence of new crowdfunding and online giving sites had had a positive impact on charitable giving in the UK and she hoped the meeting would allow the organisations involved to build on this success and to identify what steps were needed in the future.

"We want to ensure that the public are sufficiently informed about online giving and can set up appeals and donate with confidence," she said.

Stephen Dunmore, chief executive of the Fundraising Regulator, said it was important that online platform operators supported both the legal requirements and the good practice set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice.

"We look forward to building good working relationships with the online platforms to ensure that they support the code and can help develop it in future, as well as to assure the public that they can donate safely when they use the platform of their choice," he said.

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