As CEO of the specialist children’s charity, Tree of Hope, the growing popularity of the crowdfunding option is a concern and I believe that both fundraisers and donors could both potentially be losing out.

We support families of children with complex needs to help them raise money for treatments and therapies that are not freely available on the NHS.

The needs can be as varied as an £80,000 operation for a child with cerebral palsy, weekly sessions in spinal cord rehabilitation for someone who is paralysed and stem cell therapy to reduce debilitating seizures.

Fundraising through a charity such as ours means that Gift Aid is claimed on individual qualifying donations, an instant 25% boost.

Increasingly, however, we see families turning to crowdfunding as part of their campaign.

Parents of children who need constant care and attention have precious little spare time to organise fundraising and it’s no surprise they are attracted by the speed and simplicity of a crowdfunding page.

But the reality is that, for every pound raised through crowdfunding, page owners lose part of that pound-some sites charge a setup fee, most have debit or credit card charges.

A family faced with the overwhelming task of raising £80,000 for an operation that gives their child the one chance they have of walking unaided will have to raise the full amount without the added benefit of Gift Aid which can cover fees and still leave enough to give a much needed boost to the campaign.

Checking through different crowdfunding sites even those that have charities crowdfunding and state that Gift Aid can be offered this isn’t always the case and you don’t always get the option as a donor to add Gift Aid if it is appropriate.

On top of all that you usually have to wait until you hit your crowdfunding target before you can access your funds and if you don’t hit your target you often get nothing at all- something else to bear in mind when thinking of fundraising options and what works best.

And what about donors? A registered charity guarantees through detailed auditing and regulation by the Charity Commission that donations will be put to use for the purposes they were originally intended.

But go, for example, to JustGiving’s crowdfunding page and they make it clear that the site cannot guarantee donations will be used correctly.

If the JustGiving crowdfunding page has been set up by a registered charity, then donors should be reassured but what if cowboy organisations start to take advantage with convincing stories and marketing- we all know scams are getting more and more sophisticated.

But, if it’s an individual page owner, then how can you tell if the cause really exists? Or that the money will be used for the reason given?

Getting an email as a donor telling you that your donation will only be taken if a target is reached can also be very off-putting to those used to usual fundraising practices where donations are taken immediately when they are made.

Of course, many crowdfunders know the page owner personally and whether or not they can be trusted.

But the holy grail of crowdfunding is for a campaign to go viral and if you receive a link via a friend of a friend of a friend, how can you be so sure the cause is legitimate?

One last thing. While the Financial Conduct Authority regulates some crowdfunding, it does not regulate crowdfunding for donations to an individual cause. Another reason for donors to be wary.

I’m not in the way of progress.

Some amazing work has been done by crowdfunding sites with estimates of money raised running into millions of pounds.

But both fundraisers and donors need to be aware of the potential pitfalls.

To find out more about the work of Tree of Hope, go to www.treeofhope.org.uk

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