GoFundMe Effect: Campaigns help Hoosiers during the toughest of times

NEW PALESTINE, Ind. - Jess Hooker’s GoFundMe success story started more than two years ago when she created a page on the crowdfunding site to raise money for her daughter Addi.

Addi lives with refractory epilepsy.  It’s a condition that triggers seizures almost daily.

The New Palestine family wanted to raise money for a seizure dog that would give them more freedom and more peace of mind.

"Our story was based in hope and in helping a young girl thrive. Who can't, who can't support something like that?" said Jess.

Like many GoFundMe fundraisers, the response was overwhelming. The Hooker’s raised more than 30-thousand dollars in a little more than a day.  They were stunned.

"Because I don't know how else we would have done this outside of knocking on doors and calling friends. How else would we have been able to raise 32-thousand dollars in 36 hours, " said Jess.

The Hooker’s story has become part of the Go Fund Me Effect.  Since the site launched in 2010, it says it’s raised more than five billion dollars from 50 million donors in two million campaigns.  It has raised money for hurricane relief, the victims of mass shootings and closer to home, the Coleman family duck boat survivors and the family of three children killed in the Rochester bus stop accident.

"The great thing about GoFundMe is that if something happens, you have someone with a serious medical condition, you try to raise money for that. You can get a GoFundMe up in a matter of hours or minutes,"  said Tim Maniscalo of the Better Business Bureau.

GoFundMe has had an impact on traditional fundraising, but not like you might think.  The United Way says they have not seen a decrease in donations because of Go FundMe .  Instead, traditional charities have increased their emphasis on individual, digital fundraising using tools like the Sales Force Philanthropy Cloud.

"A digital platform like Go Fund me has really helped us see what that next level of ways to connect with people the way they want to make a difference, " said Penny Lee of the United Way of Central Indiana.

United Way officials also point out that while Go Fund Me campaigns can often help individuals, traditional charities may be better at addressing bigger issues affecting the whole community.

GoFundMe Scams are rare.  But, one made national headlines just last week when prosecutors filed charges against a New Jersey couple and a homeless man.

The trio started a Go Fund Me campaign after making up a story about the homeless man giving his last 20 dollars to help when the woman ran out of gas.  The campaign raised more than $400,000 from 14,000 donors.  But it was all a lie and now only serves as a GoFundMe warning.

"Know where your money is going, who it’s going to and is that money going to be used for that purpose.  It's a risk, let’s put it that way,"  said Maniscalo.

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