Crowdfunding goes mainstream, lacks long-term strategy many patients need

At HelpHOPELive, we are dedicated to staying informed and looking ahead for new trends that might be able to give our patients and their families a boost in efforts to raise funds to cover uninsured medical expenses. Crowdfunding isn’t exactly a new trend, but its growth in popularity has been eye-opening to say the least. Usually based online, a crowdfunding service allows people to ask for charitable donations to support their own personal cause. In 2012, the overall crowdfunding industry raised $2.7 billion worldwide, and that number continued to rise last year.[i] It’s still just a blip on the radar when compared to the approximately $300 billion raised by nonprofits in the U.S. alone, but some people are starting to raise concern about how crowdfunding affects traditional charities.

An article published by the New York Times this month took a close look at the issue, headlined, “The Effect Crowdfunding Has on Venerable Nonprofits Raises Concern.”[ii] We’re here to tell you we aren’t concerned, and there are two distinct reasons why – long-term fundraising and fiscal accountability.

It’s important to understand that all patients and their families face unique challenges that may not be fully covered by a template, one-time fundraising effort. Patients often face medical expenses for extended periods of time, and many crowdfunding sites impose donation deadlines and simply lack any long-term strategy. Our Fundraising Coordinators provide one-on-one consultation that allows us to develop personalized campaigns that are tailored to the needs and interests of each patient’s support network. We build enduring relationships with the people and communities we help and work hard to identify opportunities to keep communities engaged in supporting people in need over extended periods of time.

Our staff also manages all of the funds raised and pays bills directly, helping patients and their families focus more on their treatment and recovery. While crowdfunding sites offer a direct connection to a cause, there is no knowledgeable and experienced partner to ensure fiscal accountability. We ensure funds raised are used for their intended purpose, and we maintain one of the highest ratings for nonprofit fiscal responsibility and delivery of service to patients in need. Ninety-six cents of every dollar we raise is used for direct patient services. Each week we write more than 200 checks to cover patient expenses including costs for home modifications, accessible transportation, medications, and relocations.

We’ve raised more than $96 million to help more than 2,300 patients receive a transplant, and more than 800 people living with a catastrophic injury or illness restore their independence and quality of life. A 30-year track record of building successful community-based fundraising campaigns has led Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent evaluator of charities, to award HelpHOPELive 10 consecutive 4-star ratings for good governance, sound fiscal management, and commitment to accountability and transparency. You won’t find that type of experienced support on a crowdfunding site.

Uninsured and unexpected medical expenses will continue to be a major issue for many people who face serious health challenges, especially for people who need an organ transplant or experience a catastrophic injury or illness. In the years ahead we will continue to work to bring our services to more patient populations and position more people to support HelpHOPELive to help us expand our reach even further.

[i] Barnett, Chance. “Top 10 Crowdfunding Sites For Fundraising.” Forbes. May 8, 2013.

[ii] Tugend, Alina. “The Effect Crowdfunding Has on Venerable Nonprofits Raises Concern.” The New York Times. February 7, 2014.

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