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Commercial fundraisers :
EasyFundraising [Ltd]

Introduction

We first encountered EasyFundraising in 2010 - when we investigated "charitable" house-to-house clothing collections being carried out by a commercial company called "Air Ambulance Service" (AAS).  See our pages on AAS on the drop-down menus, such as :

We've colour-coded mentions of AAS on this page.

EasyFundraising are well-known, legitimate commercial fundraisers.  They raise money for good causes (eg charities).

Around early 2010, AAS signed up with EasyFundraising as a "good cause" - in order to raise funds.  AAS added EasyFundraising's animated banner links to their website.

Later, it emerged that AAS was "bogus" - it was not a genuine "good cause".
Various parties (including air ambulance charities) informed EasyFundraising of this.
As a result, EasyFundraising terminated AAS's membership (in August 2010).
We're pleased that EasyFundraising took this decisive action.

As you'll see on this page (and on the pages dealing with AAS), EasyFundraising were blameless.  They acted in good faith when they accepted AAS as a member.  Basically, AAS "conned" them.

Pile of coins - courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

We've written this page on EasyFundraising for two reasons :

Later on this page, we focus on the definition of "good cause" - and what happens when (occasionally) things go wrong - bearing in mind the issue of AAS.

Who are EasyFundraising?

"EasyFundraising" is a trading name of Easyfundraising Limited.
They're a commercial company, based in Walsall, West Midlands.

Website:  www.easyfundraising.org.uk  

EasyFundraising state on their homepage that they're an organisational member of the Institute of Fundraising (IoF).  (The IoF is a respected registered charity.)

How does the EasyFundraising system work?

Below is an extract from their homepage (at November 2010) :

Welcome to easyfundraising

We provide a FREE fundraising service where you can raise funds for any charity, trust, school, club, good cause or community group you support when you shop online.

Choose from over 2000 of the UK's best-known retailers including many popular names such as Amazon, M&S, Argos, John Lewis and HMV, and when you shop using the links on our site up to 15% from every purchase you make is donated to the cause you choose to nominate.

It doesn't cost a penny extra to shop and raise funds for your cause using our site, and as many retailers now give extra discounts when you buy online, you can even save money!

Below is an extract from their "How it works" page (at November 2010) :

How it works

We provide a FREE service where you can shop with your favourite online stores and at no extra cost raise funds for any charity, good cause or group you choose to support.  You still shop directly with each retailer as you would normally, but simply by using the links from our site first, each purchase you make will generate a cashback donation to the cause you wish to support.

For example, spend £25 with WH Smith and 3.5% will be donated.  You will have raised £0.88, at no extra cost to your purchase.  Make any purchase from Amazon and 2.5% will be donated.  Insure your car with Direct Line and raise £35.00, or purchase a mobile phone from O2 and earn £17.50, and so on.

You can shop with 2000+ Brand Name retailers and to raise funds you just use the links from our site first - it's that simple!

If you ALREADY shop online, why not help good causes at no extra cost from purchases you would make anyway.

EasyFundraising operate a cashback donation system - linking good causes with online retailers.  EasyFundraising act as a bridge/intermediary between these two groups - see the diagram below :

"good cause" (eg charity) <---> EasyFundraising (EF) <---> retailer (eg M&S)

EasyFundraising have several thousand "good causes" signed up (who pay them a membership fee).

EasyFundraising have over 2,000 retailers signed up - including respected names such as M&S, Asda, Argos, Sainsbury's and Tesco.  The retailers pay a commission to EasyFundraising per transaction (see below).

As far as we know, EasyFundraising's cashback/click-through system operates as follows :

  1. Each signed-up "good cause" website has links to EasyFundraising.
  2. If you click on one of these links you go to EasyFundraising's site.
  3. You choose an online retailer and go to their website - eg M&S.
  4. On the retailer's website you make a purchase.
  5. The retailer makes two payments to EasyFundraising :
    • a donation to the good cause (eg 2% of the sale) - which EasyFundraising passes on.
    • a commission - to be retained by EasyFundraising, to cover administrative costs.
  6. EasyFundraising pass on the "donation to the good cause", to the good cause (thus completing the "circle" - from the good cause to the retailer - and back).

What's their definition of a "good cause"?

EasyFundraising define a "good cause" in at least two places on their website :

Below is an extract from the "Terms and Conditions" page of their website (at Nov 2010):

1. Meanings of certain words or expressions

. . .

"Good Cause" means an identifiable grouping of more than one person having a common interest, whether an unincorporated or incorporated association, a charitable body, a firm or partnership, a company or any other organisation or body;

Below is an extract from their FAQ page (at November 2010):

For Organisations

Do we have to be a charity to use easyfundraising?

No.  Any charity, organisation, association, trust, sports club or team, school or pre-school, religious group, community group including Scouts/Guides/ATC/Boys Brigade/etc, theatre, arts, dance or musical group, Rotary/Rotaract/Lions club can use our service, no matter how small or large.

You can also use our service if you are an individual raising funds for a sponsored event, or if you are a school or group raising funds for an expedition.

Any group or individual wishing to raise funds can use our FREE service.

Please note that without prejudice, we reserve the right to decline or withdraw any organisation's membership at our discretion or that of any featured retailer.

So, EasyFundraising's definition of "good cause" is wider than just charities.
There's a parallel here with :

Dealing with questionable "good causes"

Substantial funds are going to genuine good causes via EasyFundraising's cashback system, and we're confident that the vast majority of their members are bona fide.

However, the case of "Air Ambulance Service" (AAS) (see the top of this page) indicates that occasionally there can be problems.

1.  Vetting of organisations applying for membership

No doubt, some questionable or ineligible organisations have applied for membership of EasyFundraising (and similar organisations) in the past - and they've been declined membership.

2.  Problems which emerge after a "good cause" has joined

What happens if an ineligible organisation manages to sign up as a "good cause"?

Who loses out?

Four parties lose out here if a "good cause" is not bona fide :

  1. Genuine good causes which would have received the money otherwise.
  2. The 2,000 or so retailers concerned.
  3. The customers of these retailers who purchase goods/services via the EasyFundraising hyperlink on the good-cause website.  Part of their purchase money is going to the alleged good cause.
  4. Easyfundraising - whose reputation may be damaged.

Credibility:  The case of "Air Ambulance Service" (see top of page) shows that the issue is more than just money:  If you're a "good cause" member of an organisation such as EasyFundraising, it adds to your credibility.  In other words, it strengthens the impression that you're a bona fide good cause - because people assume that the membership organisation is scrutinising their members.  It's like a seal of approval.

Checkatrade logo (our thanks to www.checkatrade.com)

The same issue arises with many other membership schemes - eg "Checkatrade" (marketed as being "The answer to the UK's rogue trader problem").  See www.checkatrade.com  

What action can be taken?

EasyFundraising's Terms and Conditions (T&C) indicate they have the right to terminate membership.

If someone suspects that a "good cause" member of EasyFundraising is not bona fide, clearly they can raise their concerns with EasyFundraising direct.  In addition, they can do the following :

In the case of AAS, EasyFundraising responded to public concern, terminating AAS's membership.

Should EasyFundraising use ".org.uk" in their web address?

For more on this issue, see the following page :

We raise this issue in passing - regarding EasyFundraising.

EasyFundraising Ltd is a commercial limited company (trading as "EasyFundraising").

However, their website has the suffix: ".org.uk".
Their address is :  www.easyfundraising.org.uk  

Traditionally, ".org" and ".org.uk" suffixes are used only by not-for-profit organisations (eg charities or professional bodies).

However, EasyFundraising is a for-profit, commercial fundraiser.  So this is potentially confusing.

So, we suggest that EasyFundraising consider :

  • changing their web address from ".org.uk" to (say) ".co.uk"
  • making it clearer on their website that they're a commercial company

Commercial organisations which fundraise for charities and use ".co.uk" (or ".com") include :

Banknotes and coins - courtesy of freeimages.co.uk