By editorial board • 

Crowdfunding provides aid, light in dark times

Crowdfunding was not born into the Internet. The practice by a community of people to contribute small amounts into what becomes a large pot was centered for ages around local banks. These funds can help pay medical expenses or replace items lost in a fire, for example. Setting up a charitable fund at the bank is still an option, but the online route is more common these days. 

Online crowdfunding began with artists (especially musicians) funding their work through fans support. Then,  rewards-based crowdfunding for business and innovation took off, through tools like Kickstarter. In the last few years, use of donation-based crowdfunding has grown exponentially. The website GoFundMe launched in 2010 and reached the $1 billion mark in October 2015 for money raised through its platform. 

At first, the News-Register was hesitant to publish GoFundMe campaigns. We preferred secure, tried-and-true practices of working with banks for charitable funds. It’s also slightly irritating that GoFundMe takes 5 percent of every donation and charges a processing fee on each transaction. Even charity has a price of doing business with convenience in the Internet age.

But it quickly became evident that Internet tools like GoFundMe would become the norm. They can be set up from your living room couch, and easily promoted via social media. Following tragedy, crowdfunding campaign provides financial aid as well as moral support.

That’s evident in stories like one last week about a local girl seriously injured in an alleged street racing crash. “Team Natasha” has a growing Facebook group of supporters and a GoFundMe account for people to contribute as medical bills accumulate.  “I wish she knew how many people care,” her mother told the News-Register. “There are tons of them, lots of people.”

In the next issue, we ran a story of a fire that gutted a local residence. A GoFundMe account was established the same day of the disaster that sent a family’s life into a whirlwind. The crowdfunding campaign was suspended earlier this week, “because there are people out there in much greater need than us,” wrote a family member on Facebook.

Online donation campaigns can involve trivial goals, like funding a teen’s “dream trip to Europe,” or, “help me buy a new baseball bat for the season.” Those arrangements may be more fun to chip in a few bucks. But your money would be better directed toward need-based campaigns, helping people with thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, without means to pay them.

Of course, there are always sleazy humans looking to take advantage of the compassion of others. Support campaigns strictly of people you know, or takes steps to verify the accident actually happened.

Crowdfunding shines a light on dark situations. It’s heartening to witness friends, acquaintances and sometimes complete strangers rally to support their fellow man, whether it be clicking a few buttons or walking to the bank to deposit dollars for someone else.

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