More people are turning to crowdfunding sites to ask friends, and friends of friends, for help with medical bills, accident costs and much more. But, surprise: Strangers give, too.
When Matthew Foutz helped co-found the Human Tribe Project, a crowdfunding website that helps people raise funds for medical or other kinds of crises, he never thought he'd end up using it for his own family. But two years ago, when his daughter Mia was 5, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a medulloblastoma. She had surgery, months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which left Mia, now 7, with permanent memory, mobility and endocrine issues "They cured the cancer, but at a heavy cost," says Foutz, 40, of Phoenix. "She's going to need tons of rehab, and insurance only goes so far. In this day and age, there's no recourse for families that are going through this, because insurance companies raise your rates and there's nothing you can do about it." Nothing, that is, except try fundraising. More and more people are turning to crowdfunding sites such as the Human Tribe Project (humantribeproject.com), FundRazr (fundrazr.com), GoFundMe (gofundme.com), GiveForward (giveforward.com) and others to ask friends, and friends of friends, to consider making a donation, or, in the case of Human Tribe Project, purchasing a necklace or key chain, where the item's cost includes a donation. These can include situations such as fundraising for a loved one's cancer diagnosis, aftercare following an accident, fertility treatments or even replacing a pair of eyeglasses held together with duct tape. Through crowdfunding, Foutz has raised $11,520 to date for Mia over two years. GiveForward, which notes that medical costs are the No. 1 reason for bankruptcy in the USA, estimates that more than $2.8 billion was raised by all types of crowdfunding websites in 2012. GoFundMe.com reports that in 2012 alone, its users will receive more than $30 million in online donations, and the "medical, illness and healing" category accounts for 17% of all campaigns, the largest category. FundRazr says it is on track to have raised $20 million since its inception in July 2010, and illness, medical and health-related causes represented 58% of money raised. Memorials/tributes represents another 12%. Human Tribe Project says it has gifted more than $175,000 since it launched in July, 2009, and the site's goal is to raise funds for medical causes only. Crowdfunding is "doing what has always been done, but taking the technology we have to make it viral," says Catherine Chapman, a philanthropic consultant with Fullanthropy, a Louisville, Ky., consulting firm that advises non-profits on charitable best practices. People give on these sites often because they have been asked to do so by a friend or a friend of a friend. "The personal element is a lot more compelling than sending a check to a charity," Chapman says. "Doing that is anonymous and you can't relate, but if it's your friend who has cancer, you want to help." Typically, people can use a crowdfunding site to tell their story about why they need money, using blogs and updates to keep potential donors informed.
"People know who they are donating to," says Daryl Hatton, the founder and CEO of FundRazr. "But one of the big surprises is that people saw how many complete strangers were donating to them." "The message has to really resonate with your friends, or else it won't go anywhere," says Hatton. "If you don't get that social proof, then people don't get donations. Our natural skepticism kicks in, and they hold back on hitting that button." Scams seem to be rare. "GoFundMe relies on its community of users and visitors to report any suspicious or inappropriate fundraising campaigns," says Brad Damphousse, the site's CEO. "Scammers tend to lack social-media followings, as they don't want to identify themselves," says Hatton. "Those with integrity have networks. To give you scale, approximately one in 5,000 medical FundRazrs get shut down." Most sites collect donations and forward them directly to the person in need. Sites can take out a small portion of the donation for administrative and other costs, which can range from 5%-20% of funds raised. Recipients typically have many bills when dealing with medical issues. "Beyond medical bills, money is often raised to assist with family travel, rent/mortgage/utilities and other daily living expenses during the recovery period," says Damphousse. The sites are not typically non-profits themselves, and donations are not considered tax-deductible unless a non-profit organization itself has set up a crowdsourcing request. What the recipient does with the money is their choice, says Jaclyn Foutz, one of Human Tribe Project's co-founders. The idea came after her friend Kindra McLennan was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and she helped raise $10,000 through the sale of necklaces and cards, as well as holding a garage sale, while her friend was sick, over a six-month period. The money helped pay off her medical bills in full. McLennan ultimately used some of the funds raised on the site to take a trip to Las Vegas for her 30th birthday, four months before she died. "If that's what you feel you need to use the money for, that's one of the things you can do when you know the people who are donating to you," Jaclyn Foutz says. The site launched six months after McLennan died in early 2009. Tips for effective crowdfunding The concept of online crowdfunding is fairly new, but there are many websites that will help you reach out to others to raise money. Some sites, such as GoFundMe and FundRazr, raise money for anything, including creative and artistic ventures, or recovering from natural disasters. Others, including Human Tribe Project, are focused more closely on health and medical issues. It's crucial to know how sites operate before picking one to work with.
Advice from those in the field:
• Do your research, says Vera Alexander, a non-profit consultant based in Los Angeles. "Know what the sites have funded, and look up any reviews of the site. It's the same as any other initiative. Things can look pretty online, but you have to do your due diligence."
• Look for online tips. FundRazr, for example, offers tips on how to write a compelling narrative about why you are asking for money, and why that money is important, says Hatton.
• Give frequent updates. "The more updates you give your tribe, the more awareness that's out there and the more successful your fundraiser will be," says Human Tribe Project's Jaclyn Foutz.
• Look for staying power. New sites launch every day, but those that have been around longer than a few months are more likely to to be credible, and to have fewer customer-service issues, says GoFundMe's Damphousse.
And finally, know that you are your best advocate — but that fundraising can be exhausting.
"You have to find a way to have the energy to survive it," says Matthew Foutz. "It's all-encompassing. That's why (using a crowdsourcing site) is so good — it connects you. I don't have to have the conversation in person — I can put it on the blog on my Human Tribe Project site. It's easier to type, and I get feedback from others that tells me, 'We're listening.' "
What it is Human Tribe ProjectHuman Tribe Project is a free website that allows friends and family to come together, show support and raise money for a loved one during a health crisis. It was founded upon the premise that all people belong to a larger Tribe comprised of their loved ones and acquaintances, and that this Tribe can be a powerful resource when one of its members is in need.Human Tribe Project was initially created to help cancer patients bridge the gap between insurance coverage and real costs, and to provide emotional support along the way. According to a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the American Cancer Society, private health insurance doesn’t protect cancer patients from high costs. Despite having insurance, many cancer patients incur large debts, in some cases causing them to file for personal bankruptcy, and even delay or forgo treatment simply because they can't afford care. In addition, research shows that recovery from cancer is significantly better if a patient receives emotional support during treatment.The need for emotional support and relief from a financial burden is not confined to cancer. Human Tribe Project can be used to help any person in crisis, whether that crisis is the result of a medical diagnoses, premature birth, natural disaster or personal hardship. Whatever the cause, Human Tribe Project can facilitate the support.Human Tribe Project is not a non-profit organization, and differs from many fundraising institutions. Instead of directing money toward research or through a large non-profit requiring extensive administrative and operational costs, Human Tribe Project gives money directly to individuals in need, at the time of their need. Unlike most other organizations, one hundred percent of the money gifted through Human Tribe Project goes directly to the individuals in need.
How it worksHuman Tribe Project enables people to unite as Tribes and mobilize support quickly and easily through this website the instant that a loved one notifies them of a crisis. A Tribe Leader sets up a Tribe Page, on behalf of the Beneficiary, and includes the Beneficiary’s story and an explanation of why funds need to be raised. The Tribe Leader then unites friends and family by entering in their email addresses, thereby inviting them to join the Tribe.Tribe Pages are used to keep the Beneficiaries and their Tribes connected. Each Tribe Page contains a blog, a guestbook, moveable web badges and an option to invite others to join the Tribe. Most importantly, Tribe Pages contain the Tribe Tag Store where Tribe Tags can be purchased to financially support the Beneficiary.Each Tribe Page has both semi-public and private portions. The Beneficiary’s blog, guestbook and all posts are private and only viewable by invited Tribe Members. The Beneficiary’s picture and story and the Tribe Tag Store for each Beneficiary are public and viewable only when a person searches the Beneficiary’s name. Allowing these portions to be semi-public maximizes the number of Tribe Tags that can be purchased and thus maximizes the amount of support a Beneficiary can receive.
For more specific information about how Human Tribe Project works, please visit our FAQs.
Tribe TagsTribe Tags are the foundation of Human Tribe Project because they offer both the emotional and financial support necessary to help a loved one through a time of crisis. They facilitate financial support in the form of Monetary Gifts, and emotional support by acting as a visible reminder of the constant encouragement and support the Tribe offers the Beneficiary. They unite the Tribe around the Beneficiary and exemplify how the humanitarian spirit connects us all.The Tribe Tag design is inspired by a traditional dog tag, which is emblematic of a group coming together to overcome a struggle and an iconic form of identifying one individual in a group of many. Tribe Tags include three charms: a Human Tribe Project tag, a Tribe Print charm symbolizing the common thread that connects us all, and a personalized charm bearing the initial of the Beneficiary in whose support it was purchased. Tribe Tags are steel charms strung on a ball chain. They can be worn as a sixteen inch or eighteen and a half inch necklace or carried on a two and a half inch key chain.Tribe Tags are sold in the Tribe Tag Store on each individual Tribe Page. Nickel Plated Steel Tribe Tags sell for $20, $15 of which is given directly to the Beneficiary as a tax-free Monetary Gift from the purchaser. Sterling Silver Tribe Tags sell for $100, $75 of which is given directly to the Beneficiary as a tax-free Monetary Gift from the purchaser. Monetary Gifts are paid out monthly, based on the number of Tribe Tags sold that month. One hundred percent of the Monetary Gifts, without any amount deducted for operations or processing, are given to the Beneficiary. For more information about the Monetary Gifts, please visit the Monetary Gift Policy.
To purchase a Tribe Tag in support of your Beneficiary, Find or Create a Tribe now.