Stephen Cotterill: The murky waters surrounding online giving regulation

09 Oct 2017 Voices

Online giving is a blessing and a curse. What you do with it will shape the industry.

With the rise in digital giving platforms, the way people donate has changed forever. This could have a significant impact on certain fundamental fundraising practices. Teams are having to reconfigure their relationships with their supporters in this increasingly online environment, while maintaining stewardship and personal donor engagement with the cause.

The danger is that as giving gets easier, connections between supporters and charities become weaker. Millions are raised though online platforms by marathons and other events every day. But to what extent are the individual fundraisers themselves engaged with a particular cause? They may do the Great North Run for cancer one year, Alzheimer’s the year after and stray puppies the next. Sharing the love is not necessarily a bad thing, but how do you convert them to regular givers? Do you even want to any more?

With the rise of the individual crowdfunder, there is a possibility of traditional campaigns becoming less relevant. Will trustees be tempted to slash fundraising budgets in favour of mobilising the masses through purely awareness initiatives? Is it better to just pour resources into wooing the next fleet of Tough Mudders?

There are other issues. With Facebook joining the ranks of online giving platforms in the UK and Europe, the marketplace is becoming increasingly dominated by massive international corporate entities. Blackbaud’s proposed takeover of JustGiving only goes to reinforce this state of play. How will this affect the relationship with donors?

To what extent are charities losing control of how funds are raised in their name?

The other question is: how are these online digital behemoths going to be regulated and by whom? Like all companies that hold personal data they will be subject to the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act. Consequently, their data usage and storage fall under the purview of the Information Commissioner’s Office. But what about policing individual pages and fundraising practices? The Fundraising Regulator has hinted that this may come under its remit and recently held a summit to debate its role as this channel expands. But does it have the resources or will to police corporates of this size when it comes to bad practice – by them or their users?

So many questions. But whatever happens, this method of giving is here to stay and fundraisers are in a position of having unprecedented access to enormous amounts of grassroots funding. How they go about developing that privilege will shape the future of the industry.



More on

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Read our policy here.