Whiskey5jda [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

October 15, 2019; TechCrunch

GoFundMe is expanding its services to offer a “free” fundraising platform to charities of all sizes. However, it is not necessarily free, and it is not necessarily going to be a good solution for all nonprofits.

GoFundMe was born from the vision of Brad Damphousse and Andy Ballester to help individuals and small groups raise money. From medical emergencies, to legal fees, to even booze money, GoFundMe has helped a variety of causes through its online platform. GoFundMe continued to grow and take on bigger names and bigger causes as more and more people became ingrained in its giving structure.

In 2017, as TechCrunch notes, GoFundMe took a first step to move from individual and small group campaigns by buying CrowdRise to serve nonprofit organizations. They have now begun to sunset that brand to pave the way for their own nonprofit arm.

This move is a smart one for the company, as, according to TechCrunch, “ramping up its business for nonprofits…catapults GoFundMe into a much bigger, older and potentially more resilient sector of the charitable donations market.” Online giving has increased over the years, and vendors motivated by profit are smart to follow where donors are going. Creating a nonprofit part of their business will allow them a broader client base, and help them compete with existing popular fundraising platforms popular with individual donors, like Facebook’s.

GoFundMe Charity will serve nonprofits’ customers as a fundraising platform and will include a special donate button that can be integrated to any site for donors to contribute wherever they are, reports TechCrunch. Nonprofits will have more design power over a GoFundMe page, or can use a customizable button for their own pages. Unlike other nonprofit fundraising platforms, nonprofits will not be charged upfront service fees; they can choose to use donor-covered fees or GoFundMe’s tipping Feature.

There will still be limitations, as Merchant Maverick shows in their article comparing different fundraising platforms. GoFundMe Charity nonprofits must be registered in the PayPal’s Giving Fund Network. It appears that processing fees will also be applied.

This move is definitely motivated by money, not necessarily to use an existing platform for a greater impact. GoFundMe’s Charity page advertises the service as “the fast and easy way to raise money for the nonprofits you care about.” As the saying goes: good, fast, cheap; you can pick two. This GoFundMe platform sounds like it’s advertising that you can have all three. As mission-driven nonprofits, we know better.

The company is hoping that their existing audience will lure nonprofits in as customers looking to more easily and quickly attract individual online donors.

At the start of the year, NPQ published an article on the border wall GoFundMe campaign. The campaign creator raised millions of dollars, 20 million to be exact. When it became apparent those dollars could not be used to actually build part of the border wall, the campaign creator wanted to use the funds for a new nonprofit. GoFundMe refunded the money instead. That same individual had been using the site to create multiple conservative campaigns, gathering thousands of emails of potential donors. This “rogue” GoFundMe user understood the value in the platform’s ability to single out potential donors for similar causes. It was quick and easy for the individual to create campaign after campaign to raise money and create campaign contact lists while doing so.

GoFundMe isn’t just filled with bad faith campaigners. As an Atlantic article points out, GoFundMe is also riddled with donors that have a white savior complex.

GoFundMe campaigns that go viral tend to follow a similar template: A relatively well-off person stumbles upon a downtrodden but deserving “other” and shares his or her story.

Nonprofits should be cautious when using this type of fundraising platform. For one, mission-based fundraising is not about chasing as many donors or dollars as quickly and easily as possible. It’s about connecting the joy of philanthropy to causes making a difference. Platforms like GoFundMe Charity are beholden to the users and their giving whims. GoFundMe’s culture, while somewhat diverse, is still whimsical and dependent on each individual’s preferences. While still a potentially useful tool, there are several others out there.

Fundraising is at its best when nonprofits are able to make meaningful connections with the people that want to sustain their mission and programs, while also viewing everyone involved as more than an “other” that needs to be saved by a small donation whim.— Sarah Miller