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Why a CharityGiving situation shouldn’t occur with your chosen online donation platform

Why a CharityGiving situation shouldn’t occur with your chosen online donation platform

Earlier this week Blackbaud Europe’s Martin Campbell wrote about the impact of online giving platform CharityGiving’s suspension over missed donations, urging donors not to be put off online giving. Here in the second of two posts, he seeks to show charities and trustees how to ensure that the same does not happen to their own organisation.

Industry reaction to CharityGiving’s missing £250,000 in donations was most likely a mixture of horror and relief. There can be no doubting that the revelations were horrible for all concerned but I would imagine that many NFPs were also thinking ‘thank goodness that didn’t happen with our online giving platform’.

One bad apple

Attention has inevitably focused more on online giving in the wake of CharityGiving and it is important not to let one bad situation damage perceptions of what is a powerful and growing channel for many charities.  But when an organisation chooses the online giving platform they would like their supporters to use, there are many considerations to take on board.

The value of digital, engaged fundraisers

Earlier this year we analysed 86,000 online fundraising pages to get a detailed picture of what works and what doesn’t with online fundraising and found that an engaged fundraiser (those that blog, share pictures / videos and use thank you emails) raised on average 264% more than those that were set up automatically and not engaged with. Sharing details of fundraising efforts raises more money but raises more awareness too. Every update a supporter puts on their Facebook or Twitter profile is seen by all of their friends, family and contacts, spreading the word about your cause all the while.

Online giving also makes it much easier for organisations to build relationships that last. Capturing the data of people who sponsor your fundraisers is far easier with online giving and gives you the opportunity to feed that data back into your own CRM systems. Data is a valuable tool for charities and having the details of people who have actively shown an interest in your cause by sponsoring could be the start of a life-long relationship.

Due diligence

But currently the focus is naturally very much on security with online giving.  Whilst it shouldn’t be beyond the industry to collaborate and agree a standard across all platforms – something that would provide genuine reassurance for charities – until that happens, any charity thinking of using an online giving platform should do the required due diligence.

The PCI compliance standard (the industry standard for handling credit cards on line) is the starting point for online transactions, but this standard provides only very limited protection against the mismanagement of funds once they are transferred from the donor, and other steps are necessary. As a charity or organisation operating in the not for profit space it is important to ensure that the processes employed by the company processing your payments are robust. For instance, if you find a customer on-boarding process feels like opening up a new bank account, this demonstrates the company is taking the ‘Know Your Customer’ requirements seriously and is most likely undertaking anti-money laundering checks that will help protect your funds against Fraud. The charity should also regularly reconcile the reports they receive from their online giving platform with actual funds reaching their bank accounts – this enables them to act swiftly if something looks amiss.

'Online is effective and very safe'

So charities must keep using and promoting online giving, as it is only going to increase in use. But trustees should be kept informed that not only is online a hugely effective donation channel but it is one that’s very safe as well. Funds are arguably better protected when people donate online than via other channels, with most of the major online giving platforms having in place rigorous security measures that make CharityGiving an exception rather than the start of a worrying trend.

Martin Campbell is director of strategy and innovation at not-for-profit software and services firm Blackbaud Europe

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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