21 November 2017
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Fundraising activities online are regulated under the Charities Act

05 Nov 2017

We thank Dr Desmond Wai for the suggestions in his letter, “Online fundraising activities need some regulation for accountability” (Oct 31).

We share his view that there must be transparency and proper accountability of donations collected.

All fundraising appeals for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic causes, are regulated under the Charities Act. This also applies to appeals conducted online if the fundraising appeals target the community in Singapore.

The regulations under the Charities Act spell out the duties and obligations of fundraisers, which include the need for disclosure of clear and accurate information about the beneficiary and the purpose of the donation; ensure proper usage of donations; as well as keeping proper records of donations received and disbursed.

Anyone who contravenes the regulations shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both.

Should online crowdfunding platforms be used, we strongly encourage the platforms to work with the fundraiser and ensure due diligence by confirming the appeal is genuine.

Both the fundraiser and the platforms should be upfront and transparent on the proportion of donations which will be given to intended beneficiaries, as well as details of transaction charges, if any.

It is our goal to enable crowdfunding platforms to become trusted intermediaries for donors and beneficiaries.

Donors also play an important role. They should be vigilant and practise informed giving, which means finding out more about the beneficiaries before donating.

In addition to the questions proposed by Mr Wai, donors may also ask questions such as:

i. What proportion of the donations will be received by the beneficiary?

ii. Are there any administrative fees or charges involved?

iii. How will the funds be used in the event the donations exceed the targeted amount needed or if something happens to the beneficiary?

In addition, donors are also encouraged to follow up with the fundraisers on how the money is used after the donations are made.

The Office of the Commissioner of Charities takes a serious view of violations of the regulatory requirements under the Charities Act. We will look into cases where improper fundraising activities are suspected and reported.

We can also take action to restrict or prohibit the conduct of any fundraising appeal if there is reason to believe that the appeal has been improperly administered.

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