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What are the audit and risk elements that digital fundraising platforms need to consider?

Author: William Makower, digital and fundraising evangelist, Founding Trustee of National Funding Scheme

Published: 19 Nov 2021

William Makower*, founding trustee of National Funding Scheme, considers the audit control and risk elements of its DONATE fundraising platform.

The after-effects of the pandemic on fundraising have been well documented. Less cash and more digital services are obvious enough, but what is the impact on auditing, risk and data ownership?

Back in 2012 we set up National Funding Scheme as a charity to provide fundraising services to charitable organisations. In doing so, we had two clear objectives. Firstly, to simplify how charities accessed and benefitted from emerging trends in fundraising, and secondly, as the receiving charity, to own the risk related both to GDPR and financial flows.

As the primary charitable recipient, donors are donating to us with a clear instruction of which charity their funds are to go to. A greater level of nuance relates to the restricted nature of the gift which can be ‘undone’ when cleared funds are granted by us to the recipient charity. This of course is very much to the charity’s benefit and must be clearly communicated to the donor at the time of asking.

Along with the donation, the donor data also sits with National Funding Scheme. Whilst donors decide if and how the receiving charity may communicate with them, National Funding Scheme has no rights to market to donors. The benefits of this approach to the charities’ marketing and fundraising teams are obvious. What we perhaps had not realised was the benefit to charities of us owning the data risk. As Government legislation over data ownership has tightened (and will continue to do so as digital engagement becomes ubiquitous) so the GDPR challenges for all charities, but specifically small and medium sized ones, are an increasing headache. By outsourcing that risk to us, charities can be assured that they are not liable for an associated data breach.

Again, as the recipient of the donation, National Funding Scheme not only claims but also ‘owns’ the Gift Aid. This allows us to use some of the Gift Aid to offset the platform running costs and so keep fees to a minimum. As a charity with ‘charitable purpose’ we can also welcome non-charities. This is an area that requires careful attention to ensure it is not abused but does mean that organisations that have charitable intent can fundraise through us; something that is not available through other fundraising platforms.

Behind the scenes we have sophisticated data and financial controls providing an audit from receipt of funds through to the project that the donation is earmarked for. Likewise, our systems allow donors to amend their communication preferences at an individual charity level.

National Funding Scheme’s DONATE platform is unique in offering an integrated fundraising platform across SMS text, web giving and contactless units to which we have added auction capability, challenge event fundraising and we continue to add other services. The back-end systems and our charity self-serve portal provides charities with real-time data, reports and integration points so that they have a single view of all their fundraising in one consistent format. This is a benefit that we recognise is a clear and important differentiator to other point-solutions in the market.

An integrated platform also raises more Gift Aid by tying together donors who give via both text and web channels. We’re hopeful that, with the increasing move to contactless giving, that new and streamlined ways will be found to verify a donor’s tax status for Gift Aid when using a contactless donation device. This is an area that we continue to investigate.

During the pandemic, National Funding Scheme saw increases of up to 40x. Whilst some of that growth has flattened out, we are confident that the charity sector benefits from having a robust, innovative and transparent charitable donation platform to partner with.

Those wishing to find out more about National Funding Scheme or indeed register as a partner should visit www.nationalfundingscheme.org. Alternatively, please contact William direct at william.makower@nationalfundingscheme.org.

*The views expressed are the author’s and not ICAEW’s.