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Dos and Don’ts of Crowdfunding

After a tragedy, people want to help in any way they can. That often means contributing to fundraising campaigns that appear to directly benefit survivors, victims, and their families. 

The shooting at the high school in Michigan late last year, where students and teachers were injured and killed, resulted in multiple crowdfunding campaigns, as did the unprecedented tornadoes that leveled entire Kentucky towns. These days, many families start crowdfunding campaigns to help pay for medical expenses. Other families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 might be scrambling to pay medical bills or fund proper burial services for people they love. 

Crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe and IndieGoGo (both BBB-accredited) are used to help share the stories of individuals, families, and communities in need and to solicit funds from generous donors, whether they’re  from around the world or down the street.

Unfortunately, tragedies like these also provide an opportunity for scammers to set up fundraising accounts to misdirect funds intended for families in mourning and victims of tragedies and natural disasters. 

At BBB, we always warn would-be donors to be cautious when giving on crowdfunding sites, particularly if you do not personally know the individual or individuals who might benefit from the donation.

The team at GoFundMe reached out to BBB to share information on how to determine if a fundraiser is legitimate and about their organization’s centralized hub for identifying verified fundraisers.

Here are tips donors can use to make sure you are helping who you think you are helping:

1. Review the fundraiser page. Does the fundraiser have a clear title, image, and fundraiser story?

2. Understand the use of funds. What is the purpose of the fundraiser, and is the organizer transparent about how funds will be used?

3. Check the beneficiary connection. How is the campaign organizer related to the beneficiary of the fundraiser?

4. Examine the comments and donations. Are direct family, friends, or community members making donations and leaving comments?

5. Look for two crucial features on each and every GoFundMe: a contact button for the campaign organizer and a Report Fundraiser button. If you have any questions, you can easily reach the organizer directly. Clicking “Report Fundraiser” will result in a GoFundMe specialist investigating.

At BBB, we urge donors to support community endeavors and fundraisers. It’s our goal to provide tools so you can give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. 

Leslie Davis Blackwell is the director of public affairs at BBB serving Central Virginia, including Metro Richmond, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, and Petersburg, along with forty-two Virginia counties. Leslie lives in Richmond, misses her two adult children living in San Diego, and enjoys a good round of golf and riding her electric bike.
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