This Is What Actually Happens To Donation Money After A Tragedy

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Neelam Tailor | UNILAD

Everyday there are countless tragedies taking place all over the world and the UK has seen its fair share over the past few months.

Though every life lost in the world should be equal in worth, people tend to be more generous when it happens closer to home meaning that crowdfunding pages have raised a lot of money for the recent attacks in London and Manchester.

When something shocking and heart-breaking hits us, many of us are quick to donate money online through the likes of Just Giving or GoFundMe.

These social fundraising platforms make creating a donation fund and sending money extremely easy and quick, making the donor feel greater proximity to the fund, but in reality, do we really know where the money goes?

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Because of the personal story, list of donors and live updating donation total, the crowdfunders feel much more direct, but the fact is they can be set up by anyone, and that is who receives the money in their account.

When I spoke to Rhys at Just Giving, he made the point that the platform is not responsible of distributing the money, just for connecting page owners and donors and creating a secure platform to send money through.

Though there are fraud and identity checks, thousands of people set up crowdfunding pages everyday for a host of different reasons, and Rhys said ‘it’s sort of impossible to police them all’.

UNILAD

Speaking to UNILAD, Rhys said:

We carry out fraud checks beforehand, we carry out identity checks, but in some cases you just cant vet people’s intentions and it’s better to raise as much money as we can and have 99.9 per cent of that get to the right place and then have that one per cent that doesn’t and deal with them further on.

Usually, except for events like the past few months, pages are set up by individuals and it is their own personal networks that donate. Most of the time these funds stay fairly small and the odd one goes viral, but 99 per cent of them don’t.

With situations like the incidents that have happened recently, it does throw up very complex issues.

We have one crowdfunder for Grenfell Tower which has reached over £1.2 million and it was started by a school teacher in the area and for any one of us that’s a huge amount of money to just drop into your account.

We’re offering as much support as we can and we try and get page owners to update their pages, tell the donors what they’re doing with it, and if the community asks, to provide whatever evidence they can in the form of tangible examples like receipts or something showing they have given it to a charity.

Ultimately, with over 800 pages, it’s sort of impossible to police them all.

Ordinarily, pages close and release their funds 30 days after they are launched, but with an emergency case like Grenfell Tower, Just Giving are working hard to ensure the victims can access funds sooner.

In order to withdraw the money, the page owner has to pass the ID and fraud verification and they are offered support or advice with distribution, but don’t have to be accountable to Just Giving.

The page owners are given the option of their fund being transferred to that of a large charity’s like The Red Cross, which happens in many cases.

Rhys said:

We can just transfer smaller funds directly to the charity accounts, but it is largely on a case-by-case basis, speaking to all of these people as quickly as we can so that we can make sure, particularly with Grenfell, we can get funds released because there are a lot of concerns for funds to get there as soon as possible.

With most of them, like Manchester and Westminster attack, a lot of them were quite keen for us to help them to get the funds to the right places, and that’s usually the response.

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Most of the pages provide donors with regular updates and the platform encourages people to show the donors tangible examples of how they have spent the money.

Many of the funding pages are quite small but with the 11 or so pages that have raised above £50,000 are placed in an ‘extraordinary account management’ category where staff work directly with the page owners to support them in how best to use these incredibly large funds.

Rhys said:

I think Grenfell may become a bit more complex because we’ve had over 800 crowdfunding pages created and I imagine there is the possibility of pages being set up that haven’t raised a huge amount of money (about a couple of hundred pounds), but the more likely people to have links to the community.

We have spent a lot of time with out team thinking about how is best to get the money to the Grenfell Tower victims as soon as possible, while also mitigating the risk of fraud.

When you start a crowdfunding page, the money is your responsibility and if you don’t hold the contract between yourself and the donor with integrity, you are liable for fraud prosecution.

The huge majority of crowdfunding pages are done for genuine charity and the money makes it safely to its rightful home, with the platforms raising millions of pounds per year.