How CSOs can increase transparency and combat fraud

How CSOs can be more transparent in the way they collect money so as not to risk losing their donors


In July this year, the Surgut zoological movement, Dai Lapu, supported by the All Together charity, stopped collecting donations on their official cards, preferring instead to direct money raised into their own organisation’s bank account. Despite their concerns, this didn’t prove too difficult. Angelika Ivanova, a project manager at All Together, explains how Dai Lapu took this step.

Be motivated

Dai Lapu wanted to stop such collections being made in order to make its work more transparent to donors. CSOs that don’t collect money on their official cards are regarded as being professional.

A CSO’s openness is one of the conditions for it being put on sites where donations can be made, such as the Help is Needed charity and Having a presence on these sites enhances a CSO’s reputation, as well as making it accessible to a wider audience.

Another important aspect is the need to reduce financial risks. A card is issued to an individual, for example, to a project manager (no money transfers can be accepted on a corporate card). Although the human element can never be fully discounted, there is a risk that a card could be blocked by a bank. Collection of money on a card can incur charges, for example, as is the case for unpaid maintenance support.

Dai Lapu has often been a victim of fraud. On one occasion, after volunteers launched a fundraising appeal on the organisation’s activities page, fraudsters were able to “clone” the CSO’s website and channel all donations straight to their own cards.

Refusing to accept collections on a card has helped the organisation to distance itself from this method of collecting money. So now if an appeal for donations on behalf of Dai Lapu includes an official card number, it will be clear that someone else is raising money which will definitely not be for charitable purposes!

Assess your options

In order to raise money officially, it is better for CSOs to have a website which can explain the different ways in which money can be transferred to its deposit account, e.g. using their bank account number, by SMS or using a QR code. But most importantly, there are special plug-ins and widgets which enable single donations or monthly payments to be made directly via the website.

All Together conducts free audits of websites and social networks used to advertise CSO activities. In order to take advantage of this, you need to fill out a questionnaire. We look at what more could be done to make your organisation’s work more transparent. For example, avoid collecting money in the VKontakte social network group because it goes straight into someone’s purse in Yandex.Money, and include a privacy policy. If your CSO doesn’t have a website, we can tell you where donations can be made. We offer specific advice to organisations, as well as providing links to other useful resources.

Transparency assessments can also be done on your own

  • Founding documents, information on management structures and current contacts should be published on a CSO’s website;
  • Reporting is very important – make sure you do this at least once a year. Tell people all about your projects, achievements, income and expenses in a way that is clear to visitors to the site;
  • In order to collect money via the website, you should publish the organisation’s contractual agreement and personal data protection policy;
  • Collection of donations should only be deposited into your organisation’s current account. Card numbers should never be divulged, either on a CSO’s social networks or on employees’ personal pages. However, you can publish links to a donations’ page on your website or set up a collection in VKontakte using a special application for which you’ll need to be connected to CloudPayments.

Look after the technical aspects

There are ready-made technical tools available to CSOs. You can create a website on “Kadinsky” (a site designer for CSOs) and plug into “Lake” from where you can collect online donations and receive reports on how these funds are being used. IT volunteers can help in setting up these tools. The authors of the plug-in facility have organised a special chat room to help people in setting up “Lake”.

A manager at a bank where your CSO’s account is held can help in setting up an internet service. It should also be possible for you to create a special QR code with their help.

Talk to your supporters

Like a lot of CSOs, Dai Lapu is always in fear of losing its donors. However, their first month’s work did not see a drop in collections. No reports of difficulties in making donations to its account were received – on the contrary, there were only positive reviews and messages of support. No longer having the option of using a CSO’s card number, people found other ways of donating which were just as convenient. For example, there has been an increase in the number of SMS donations to Dai Lapu.

However, you can’t simply quietly do away with cards. Ensure that you explain your reasons on sites where people can make donations. You must be truthful. We want our work to be more transparent to donors, to stop fraudsters from stealing our money and to collect donations on various fora. Dai Lapu decided to explain the action it had taken on their VKontakte account.

One of the positive changes for donors is the potential for tax deductions. A lot of people are unaware that making charity donations is tax deductible. The rate at which this is calculated and how it can be claimed are explained on Dai Lapu’s social networks.

Dai Lapu’s experience has shown that not organising collections on a card is not as bad as some people might think as there are many tools that are available and free of charge which can help in making the painless transition to a more transparent collection system.


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