A spokesman for the Fundraising Regulator has said it is currently “assessing” whether or not commercial crowdfunding and giving platforms fall within its investigatory remit.
In a statement issued to Civil Society Media, a spokesman for the Fundraising Regulator said that it was assessing its remit regarding commercial crowdfunding and digital giving platforms in the wake of concerns that a JustGiving page set up in the memory of one of the victims of the Westminster attack had intended to defraud supporters.
The spokesman said: “The Fundraising Regulator maintains the standards for charitable fundraising and investigates cases where fundraising practices have led to significant public concern. We aim to ensure that fundraising is respectful, open, honest and accountable to the public.
“Where criminal activity is alleged, we refer complaints on to the police as the appropriate statutory authority. If members of the public have any doubts about the legitimacy of an online appeal then they should raise their concerns with the online giving site as well as Action Fraud. Further information on giving safely in relation to charity collectors can be found here.
“Beyond the alleged fraudulent activity reported, we are currently assessing whether any aspects of the case cited fall within the scope of our remit.”
Fraud concerns over JustGiving page
The regulator was referring specifically to concerns around a page set up for Aysha Frade, one of the victims of the Westminster attack on 23 March.
Donors to the page raised concerns to JustGiving after finding that the name of the person who’d set up the page originally had the same name “as a woman who had been convicted of benefit fraud in 2013”.
As a result, JustGiving took control of running the page and of all the money that had been raised up until that point.
The spokesman said that the regulator was “not clear” at the moment as to whether or not commercial fundraising operations do fall within its regulatory remit which is “first and foremost about fundraising by charities”, and ruled out the possibility of the regulator opening an investigation into JustGiving until the issue was settled.
JustGiving would ‘welcome’ chance to talk to regulator
A spokesman from JustGiving said that the digital giving platform had not yet been approached by the Fundraising Regulator, but said the organisation would “welcome” the chance.
In Fundraising Magazine
He also said that JustGiving was currently “arranging some time to meet with the Fraud Advisory Panel to give them a better idea of the processes we have in place, and share ideas” about better protecting crowdfunding pages in the future.
David Clarke, trustee of anti-fraud charity the Fraud Advisory Panel, said he "appreciated that the issue falls into a grey area, given that organisations like JustGiving are commercial bodies and might fall outside the Fundraising Regulator's remit", but said the charity was keen to help "in anyway we can to make giving safe online".
"We're not calling for regulation for regulation's sake," said Clarke. "But what we are supportive of is governance and this is what a regulator can bring."