“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
― Winston S. Churchill
I have used a crowdfunding website to ask for donations two times. Once when Los Ramos needed help recovering from a devastating landslide. Help Los Ramos Rebuild
The other time was to help Los Ramos get uniforms and supplies for the Divine Women’s Soccer Team.
Both times I was thrilled by the success of the fundraisers. But, like Winston Churchill says, “We make a living by what we get and a life by what we give.” Sometimes both are intertwined in a scam from a crowdfunding website.
For example, a crowdfunding website in which a guy named Nigel asked for donations to help Los Ramos during the landslide. He posted his GoFundMe webpage on a Facebook forum of expats in Nicaragua. I’ve been actively involved with the community of Los Ramos for over 12 years, so I contacted Nigel on Facebook. We became Facebook friends, and I asked what he was planning to do for the people in Los Ramos with the funds.
He gave me a song and a dance and my gut told me something was fishy about his GoFundMe website. I went to Los Ramos and asked if they knew a guy named Nigel who delivered medicine and paid for the bulldozer to grade a new road into their community. No one had ever heard of him, no medicines were delivered, and they said that the mayor in Altagracia had paid for the bulldozer.
Further investigation led me to a police website in Florida where he was wanted for fraud. I contacted the GoFundMe website administrator, gave them all the information I had, and his webpage was shut down the next day. A week later, I saw him on the island and personally confronted him. He disappeared from Nicaragua and deleted his Facebook account.
My point in writing this article is that we have to be very careful when we give to a crowdfunding webpage, especially if we are not familiar with the person.
So, Let’s Get Real about Crowdfunding Websites with a list of pros and cons.
1. Anyone can reach out to a global audience for a successful campaign.
Anyone who has a bank account, credit card, and internet can take part in
crowdfunding. You can reach out to the world as an individual, organization, or an NGO.
2. Crowdfunding allows small charities and individuals a way to reach supporters through the internet and social media.
Traditional fund-raising and grants require many documents and accountability. Often small charities are overlooked in the traditional fundraising avenues. Crowdfunding cuts out the middleman.
3. Crowd funding can help causes all over the world.
Small businesses, theater, dance, education, and music are a few groups or individuals who have used crowdfunding. I know of several crowdfunding pages where individuals have collected donations to help victims in a house fire, to pay medical expenses, or buy school supplies for disadvantaged children.
1. There is no accountability.
Once you give to a crowdfunding website, you never know if your donation has been used appropriately. There are no rules where one has to specify how the money has been spent. When a cause has reached its specific cash target, and had its month of fundraising expire, the money becomes entirely the property of the project leader, and donors having second thoughts are out of luck.
2. You will pay fees on the money raised.
Crowdfunding platforms take a commission for your ability to raise funds. There are also credit card processing fees that are taken out of the pledges that are contributed. On some crowdfunding platforms, the combination of fees can exceed 10%.
3. It takes a LOT of work.
To have a successful fundraising campaign, it requires hours of prep work, then
responding to every donor, and marketing your fundraising campaign on different
social media websites. It isn’t easy and requires a commitment to your donors, if
you are transparent and honest about how you plan to spend the donations.
Crowdfunding Tips for Donors
1.Be extra vigilant when donating online in the wake of natural disasters or national tragedies.
When Nigel started his GoFundMe page, I contacted him to see how familiar he was with the Los Ramos community and if he knew the needs of the community. Some charities have the best of intentions during a tragedy or natural disaster, so, look for a track record
to see if they have responded to an emergency in the past. Be aware that sham charities pop up to take advantage of people’s generosity during these times. Sad, but true!
2. Make sure you are donating to a genuine charity or individual.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Contact the individual or charity through an email and ask them how the donations will be spent. Ask them for pictures, videos, letters, etc. so you know where your money has gone.
Verify the individual before you donate. Check out the person’s Facebook page, do a Google search with the person’s name, or find someone who knows the person and verify
that this is a real effort on the part of the individual requesting funds. Sometimes you will be surprised at what you discover through a Google search, like I did with Nigel.
A genuine fundraiser will be happy to send you pictures, letters, videos and account for every penny donated. When I received the funds for both of my crowdfunding pages, I felt like I had an obligation to the donors to account for the money. Since I have a blog, I made video cards of thanks from the individuals who received the funds. I wrote blog posts describing our shopping trips and then sent my post in a link to those who donated, but didn’t subscribe to my blog, and I posted my blog posts publically on Facebook so everyone could see where their donation money went.
Finally, which are the best crowdfunding sites for 2017?
Happy crowdfunding! Whether you are a fundraiser or a donor, always remember that we make life by what we give…but do it wisely!