$2 Million Boston Victims' Donations Raised by Crowdfunding Sites

Monday, 22 Apr 2013 10:25 AM

By Michael Mullins

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More than $2 million has been pledged online to different victims of the Boston Marathon bombings from 23,000-plus people, much of it raised via crowdfunding websites.

Nearly $500,000 has been raised for mother and daughter Celeste and Sydney Corcoran of Lowell, Mass., who were severely injured while standing near the finish line at the time of one of the blasts. Newlyweds Jessica Kensky Downes and Patrick Downes, who each lost a leg, have had more than $560,000 raised for them through the efforts of friends and family.

"All of us were like, 'How can we help?'" said Leslie Kelly, 56, of Pebble Beach, Calif., whose two daughters grew up with Jessica Downes, 32, reported NBC News. "We felt so helpless. I thought, we can’t all send flowers. I couldn’t sleep all night. I got up the next morning and started a Wells Fargo account and then got the word: You need to do something online."

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Kelly started an account for the Downes through GoFundMe.com, while other friends began similar charitable accounts through GiveForward.com. Such crowdfunding websites allow for the donations to flow directly from the giver to the specific victim with very little interference from a third party, except for a small transaction fee from the website.

"Crowdfunding is actually very empowering to the donors and supporters," Brad Damphousse, chief executive of GoFundMe, told NBC News. "It’s a way of being part of the solution instead of smoldering about the problem."

According to Damphousse, nearly $1.3 million has been raised through the website's various "Believe in Boston" campaigns. "It’s a way of being part of the solution instead of smoldering about the problem."

Charity experts, however, warn donors of the potential fraud that could exist in such cases in which donations do not flow directly to the intended individual.

"You want to make sure that the money you donate goes to the intended party," Allan Bachman, education manager for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, told NBC News.

According to the top three crowdfunding sites GoFundMe, GiveForward and YouCaring all those who begin accounts are fully vetted before donations are permitted and if anything suspicious occurs, the account is pulled immediately.

"We’ll suspend and investigate the fundraiser after one flag," said Ethan Austin, co-founder and president of GiveForward. According to Austin, the crowdfunding website has raised more than $41 million since it began in 2008.

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"The thing about crowdfunding is, it’s all based on social proof," Damphousse added. "There’s so many more eyeballs on these campaigns . . . If you’re a bad steward on the Internet, word travels fast."

Both GoFundMe.com and GiveForward.com each take a percentage of the transaction to cover operational costs and billing fees from PayPal or WePay.
YouCaring.com doesn’t charge fees, but allows donors the option of giving extra money to run the site, said says Michael Blasco, a spokesman for the company.

Related stories:

Officials Probe $15 Million Newtown Charities

IRS Audits of Charities Soar Under Obama

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