There have been numerous research reports demonstrating that members of the public are influenced by emotional stories which propel them to donate money. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong, for example, studied the development of charitable crowdfunding and individuals’ donation behaviour between April-July 2017, and found that people are much more likely to donate to a crowdfunding project when they feel empathy for a credible cause.
While the sense of community spirit and generosity that online fundraising fosters is of course to be welcomed, it can also be open to abuse. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, GoFundMe reported that it had detected and removed a small number of “suspicious” campaigns from its platform. JustGiving also recently confirmed that criminals are targeting its site for money laundering purposes and that it has shut down nearly 100 fundraising pages in the last 18 months as a result.
Ultimately, any loss in public trust as a result of fraudulent activity is to the detriment of the charitable sector as a whole, which is why the online fundraising industry must take urgent steps to boost transparency and accountability.