Safeguarding Digital Charitable Donations

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Safeguarding Digital Charitable Donations

Scammers have been using fake charity appeals to swindle the public out of their donations - how can we as the charity sector do more to help our supporters avoid these schemes?

Ben Roberts

Even back when I was a child, using the family computer and dial-up internet, the rule of thumb to follow was this: don’t believe anything you read on the internet. As long as there’s been internet traffic, there have been fraudsters looking to make money from the unfortunate among us who fall prey to their scams. As time has gone on, these fraudsters have become more sophisticated – I’d wager that just about everyone reading this has been given moment to pause over a very well-crafted phishing scheme, and hopefully have been trained in how to spot them. But, what happens when these scams enter the world of charity?

A report this week by the Fundraising Regulator, Charity Commission, and Action Fraud campaign revealed that this year a startling £2.7 million has been confirmed to be donated to fraudsters under the guise of legitimate charity donations. Despite the current high level of trust in charities (70% of the public trust the sector as of August this year) the concern of lost confidence in the donation process and the drain to donation income should be apparent.
As we enter the festive period and donations are expected to spike, this week we’re exploring how we can protect the public from these scammers and ensure that their donations make it to our beneficiaries.


Creating a reassuring donation process

Although online scams may attempt to look the part, you need to rely on the reassurance that your own website brings donors. Only one in every four members of the public trust digital charity appeals*. Our recommendation to help build this trust would be to commit to an audit of your donation process. Ensure that your payment page better resembles trusted sites like online stores, prominently features your branding, and has other stamps of legitimacy such as a reminder to always confirm the URL when donating.

Other steps can help build confidence in your process too: a donor portal can be used to show donation history, and confirmation messages are a great way to reassure donors of the impact of their donation. And if all else fails, a dedicated guide or support service can ease your less confident donors through the process.


Proactive donor education

We all know that scams are out there. 44% of the public have concerns about being duped when they’re asked to donate*. Empowering donors with knowledge is a key way to help them recognise fraudulent activities. Your organisation can do this through the development of educational materials on recognising and reporting scams, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Addressing wider concerns can take a human element, either through webinars or seminars. More and more, schools and community centres are opening to hosting collaborative workshops to promote digital literacy – attaching your charity’s name to this cause not only helps remove anxieties about donating, but also acts as a way to connect to new communities.


Bridging the generational trust gap

Out research has shown again and again that older individuals may be less trusting of online channels – in fact, 16-24 year olds are three times as likely to trust an online charity appeal than someone aged over 65*. This is largely due to a lack of confidence in the medium – but this is a hurdle than organisations like yours can overcome.

One of the best ways to bridge the gap between the generations is through targeted outreach. As we discuss in our Membership Report, the membership bases of charities are likely to be largely comprised of older individuals. Some charities have successfully reached out to these groups with educational campaigns that show them how to avoid scams and donate successfully, which could go a long way in building the confidence of these bases. You could share materials familiarising donors with secure online practices, as well as providing them with helpline numbers they can use if they want to verify the legitimacy of a digital campaign.


We’d love to hear about how you’re trying to bolster your donation process or build the confidence of your donors. Now more than ever, it’s vital that charities do all they can to uphold the online security of their supporters. If you’re looking to talk about public perceptions of your own website, brand, or outreach, consider getting in touch with us at or download a briefing pack below. 

*(CAM Sector research, February 2023)

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