Steve Cotterill: Digital giving platforms must be vigilant about fraud

08 Jun 2017 Voices

Online giving platforms help to salve collective grief, but operators must conduct thorough due diligence to prevent fraud.

Shortly after of the horrific attack in Manchester on the evening of May 22, several fundraising pages were set up to help support the families of the victims and those injured. The antidote to the cowardice and hate of this terrorist act was exemplified by the outpouring of generosity by the public in response to fundraising efforts. Within hours the pages had hit initial targets – first £5,000 then £20,000 then £250,000. As Fundraising Magazine went to print, the amounts raised were in the millions.

Two things have become clear: firstly, the unrelenting need for people to give in times of crisis. Despite doubt, despite loss of trust and cynicism, people want to help and they want to donate. Secondly, the way that people give has changed forever. The immediacy and accessibility of giving platforms such as JustGiving and Virgin Money Giving et al means that people can and will give in rapid response to current events. It has provided a direct conduit to the collective emotional state.

Speaking at a recent event in London, Charles Wells, chief marketing officer at JustGiving, said that donor behaviour has changed in response to new technology and “once behaviour changes it doesn’t change back”. This can be seen in how young people engage with the sector, he said. “Young people care as much, if not more, than some older people,” he said. But they prefer to support individuals and give spontaneously when prompted by something on Facebook or in the news, “when they feel that moment of caring”.

That “moment of caring” is where a lot of fundraising sits in the modern world. And giving at that moment of impact has been made a million times easier by online platforms. Unfortunately, this has also created an opportunity for those who want to defraud the public. Although some responsibility lies with the donor to be vigilant, it is essential that operators of these websites conduct thorough due diligence to prevent fake accounts being set up.


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