Crowdfunding for Individual Medical Costs Becoming More Common

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July 1, 2013; Washington Post


NPQ has been watching the process of disintermediation in fundraising, not only in terms of more direct gifts given by donors instead of through intermediaries like a United Way, but also sometimes in that donors can and do now give to individuals directly, instead of through nonprofits who might be helping those individuals.

An article in the Washington Post highlights the growing practice of people raising money over the Internet to defray personal medical costs. It opens with the story of one man with lung cancer who has decent insurance coverage, but as co-payments and out-of-pocket costs mounted, the family turned to the internet and their own network to eventually raise $56,800 from 325 friends and family members. The donations to his fund ranged from $10 to $2,000. The campaign was run on the site GiveForward, which charged seven percent.

This article asserts that such sites are growing and becoming more profitable; for instance, GiveForward raised $225,000 for 359 campaigns in 2008, the year that it was launched, and that has grown this year to 15,000 campaigns raising $20 million.

Other such sites include,,, and, raising money not just for medical costs, but also for tuition, travel, disaster relief, pets’ medical care, and funeral costs. Contributions to individuals through these sites are not tax-deductible, however, and there is little accountability to how the money is spent.

Though crowdfunding executives say that they check for fraud and that it is uncommon, it does occur, which is why many sites urge donors to give only to people they know or are familiar with.—Ruth McCambridge

  • CrowdFundingGuide

    Everyone should check out this article outlining some of the top crowdfunding websites and their descriptions to help choose which one might be most suitable for certain campaigns. Very informative —

  • Michael Wyland

    I remember speaking in 1990 with a friend who was, and is, a conservative evangelical Christian. He and his wife were part of a group that contributed to covering the medical expenses of families in their giving circle. They were very affluent and, I’m sure, had access to traditional health insurance. They chose this approach as an expression of their faith in a time when appeals were made by phone, mail, and the relatively new innovation – the fax machine .

  • Robert Olcott

    Michael Wyland writes of a common practice in “its time”. One recent development was how the Occupy movement in some locales got in the practice of buying up “bad medical debts” and just “cancelled the debt”!

  • aria

    A lot of people often hear about crowdfunding, soliciting a large number of people for money online, and a number of things it is getting used for. Some people have lately been crowdfunding medical bills recently, and there are some things crowdfunding or crowdsourcing appear to be able to overcome.