BT’s move to launch a no-fee fundraising website has drawn criticism from social entrepreneur and author Robert Ashton, who has accused the telecoms giant of using its financial muscle to deliberately undermine the market's creator JustGiving.
Ashton, who wrote How to be a Social Entrepreneur, said that with all the resources at BT’s disposal, it should have developed something genuinely new and innovative that could add real value to the sector.
Instead it just launched something that copies and undercuts the company that spent years building the marketplace from scratch, he said.
BT’s new site, MyDonate, will not charge a subscription or set-up fee for its services, so that charities will only have to pay debit and credit card charges out of the monies that donors raise for them. It will be in direct competition with JustGiving, which created the online giving marketplace in 2001 and Virgin Money Giving, which joined the market last year. Both of these operators charge charities a small fee out of the donations raised.
Ashton said: “Undeniably, increasing the amount of money available for charities is a good thing. But with the financial muscle available to BT they could have created something entirely new that could have grown into something even more beneficial to the charity sector.
“What they are doing goes against the grain of social entrepreneurship, which should be collaborative rather than competitive,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with social enterprises making reasonable profits.
“We need social enterprises to behave entrepreneurially: that’s how philanthropy can grow. What incentive is there for others to follow the brave example of the team behind JustGiving?
“They created a new concept, they did the marketing legwork and they finally set it to see it deliver them a return. JustGiving has made a colossal difference to the UK fundraising landscape and now, just as soon as things come good, someone comes along and tries to price them out of the market they’ve just created.”
Ashton added that: “BT should stand for Brilliant Thinking, not Bullyboy Tactics.”
BT said it simply wanted to increase the sums of money raised for charities, not to "bully anyone into giving to charity using MyDonate".
A spokesman said: "Justgiving should be commended for the fantastic job it has done by creating the UK’s online charitable giving market. Ten years on, since Justgiving was created, there are now multiple online charity donation platforms in the UK, offering fundraisers a choice of different and complimentary services.
"With only 7 per cent of the UK adults who give to charity currently making donations over the internet, we hope MyDonate will help provide greater awareness and choice, and grow the market further."