Key questions you should ask when donating to an online fundraising appeal

Sometimes charitable organisations will set up their own appeals using online fundraising platforms. However, it is becoming more common for members of the public to create campaigns themselves to raise money for charitable organisations. 

Although most appeals are genuine, you should take care when donating through a platform so that you can be sure that your donations go to a legitimate cause, and that they are used for the purpose you are told they will be used for.

Here are some questions you should ask before giving to an online fundraising appeal.

Is the fundraising for charitable organisations or for a personal cause? 

You should take extra care before donating to online appeals for personal causes (for example, medical treatment for the fundraiser’s friend or family member) as this is not regulated by the Fundraising Regulator. See ‘How are online fundraising platforms regulated?' below.

Who is raising the money?

You should carefully read the fundraising appeal to find out whether it is being organised by a charitable organisation, or by an individual or a group acting on behalf of the organisation.

What will the money be used for? 

The appeal should be clear not only about which charitable organisation will receive your donation but also how that donation will be used. If you have given a donation to a charitable organisation to be used for a specific purpose (for example, a particular project run by the charity), it must be used for that purpose.

Is there a target for the fundraising appeal? 

If the fundraiser has said there is a target for the appeal, they should also clearly state what will happen if they raise either too much or too little. You should expect to be informed of any plans before donating.

What will happen to my donation if it can’t be used for the original purpose in the appeal? 

Before you donate, the fundraiser should clearly say what will happen if the purpose you donated to can’t be delivered. This could mean you will receive a refund, or that your donation will be used by the charitable organisation for a purpose similar to the one you donated to.

How will I know my money has reached the charitable organisation? 

Platforms will often transfer your donations directly to the charitable organisation, either monthly, quarterly or when the fundraiser has reached a set level of donations. If the money raised is not going straight to the bank account of a charitable institution, the platform must make it clear, before a donation is made, that donors give at their own risk.

What fees will be charged? 

Platforms should tell you of any charges (including tips) that you, the person setting up the appeal, or the charitable organisation you are donating to, will need to pay when you donate.

For more advice on donating securely to fundraising appeals, please read our Tips for giving safely to charity.

How are online fundraising platforms regulated?

The Fundraising Regulator regulates all fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland carried out by charitable organisations. This includes charitable fundraising on platforms. We also regulate fundraising in Scotland by charities which are primarily registered with the Charity Commission in England and Wales. The Scottish Fundraising Adjudication Panel regulates fundraising carried out by charities only registered in Scotland.

We regulate fundraising platforms so you can donate safely to the charitable organisations you care about. Our Code of Fundraising Practice (the code) sets the standards for charitable fundraising in the UK. All charitable fundraising must be carried out in a legal, open, honest and respectful way.

What should I do if I have a question or concern about fundraising?

It is important that you feel confident that fundraising is being carried out in a legal, open, honest and respectful way. 

You can use our directory to find out whether a platform or a charitable organisation has registered with us and made a commitment to fundraising in a way that follows the standards in the code.

If you do have any questions or concerns, you should first contact the platform or the charity directly. This is often the quickest and most effective way to resolve an issue. If you do not think that the platform or charitable organisation has addressed your concerns or you do not feel comfortable speaking with them, you can contact the Fundraising Regulator.