Crowdfunding in Singapore: Refunds

Syazana unpacks some of the frequently asked questions on seeking a refund

1. Can I get a refund on my donation?

There is unlikely to be a legal obligation for the donee to refund the money. Donations to a certain cause are regarded as “gifts” in law. Gifts which are voluntarily given, cannot generally be revoked or recovered. This is because once there has been a voluntary transfer of a gift, and a full intention that the gift shall not return, the donor parts fully with the property. The property is no longer his.

There are very limited circumstances under which a donor can reclaim their gifts. One example is where the donation was a “conditional gift” (ie, a gift which fails if the specified condition fails to materialize). In this case, the donor may possibly argue that donation was made on the condition that it be used for medical treatment. Now that such treatment is no longer possible, the gift should be revoked. However, Singapore law does not easily recognize “conditional gifts”. There are many instances where “conditions” on gifts were struck down as they are not true contingencies.

2. Can I request for the fundraising websites to issue a refund?

Generally, the issue as to whether a donor has a legal right to reclaim their money is one between the donor and the beneficiary. Insofar as the fundraising websites are concerned, the issue is whether they have an obligation to facilitate the refunds to the donor.

Some fundraising websites do state clearly they have no refund obligations. For example, GoGetFunding specifies in their Terms & Conditions that: “GoGetFunding is not responsible for issuing refunds for funds that have been collected by Project Creators. All donations are non-refundable.”

Other fundraising websites do not state this as clearly. In such a case, it is a question of what is the implied obligation on the fundraising website.

The general practice on refunds seems to vary depending on how the fundraising websites release monies to the beneficiaries.

Some fundraising websites release money throughout the campaign (as opposed to at the end of the campaign). Since the monies are in the hands of beneficiaries, refunds can be processed by the beneficiaries themselves.

However, there are other fundraising websites which only release money at the end of the campaign. If the campaign comes to a premature end, and there is a need to refund the monies, the general practice seems to be that the fundraising websites will assist in processing the refunds.

3. Should I be prepared to not get my money back when making donations?

When donors make a voluntary donation, they would have intended to give up their rights to the monies. It is unfair to expect the beneficiary to process each and every refund request because an unfortunate event (not the fault of the beneficiary) has materialized.