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A Quest for Transparency in Crowdfunding

When I joined GiveForward a little over a year ago there were a bunch of reasons why – none more so than I loved the idea of working on something that empowers people helping people. Sure, I’ve worked for other great companies that help people buy a car or teach them how to use great technology; but none of those compared to the help people receive on GiveForward when going through what is often the most challenging times in their lives. I knew that it would be more fulfilling than any work of my career.

A team committed to transparency in personal crowdfunding.

The GiveForward team supporting the #FearIsntReal campaign last year

Now that a year has passed I can say that I was right. Joining the GiveForward team was the best decision I have made in my work-life. I’ve had a front row seat watching thousands of people get meaningful support. It’s a privilege to work with an awesome team who share a passion for people helping people. We also launched an entirely new platform that provides many other ways to help in addition to crowdfunding.

During this time I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with many people about GiveForward and I’ve realized that we have a long way to go in terms of educating people on our company and personal crowdfunding. Yes, it’s true that GiveForward offers much more than personal crowdfunding; but it will always be at the heart of our company and the industry we are most often associated with by the public. As a result, we have a responsibility to help others understand how crowdfunding works and dispel the most common myths surrounding crowdfunding. When Desiree and Ethan, our co-founders, pioneered the crowdfunding space and started GiveForward back in 2008 a key reason was that they wanted to bring a new level of transparency to charitable giving. The landscape has changed a lot in the past 8 years but many people still aren’t sure how personal crowdfunding works, if it’s legit, or why we charge fees (BTW?—?we all charge fees in some form or fashion). It’s only natural that we continue on that quest for transparency and my plan is to tackle the most common questions, misconceptions, and concerns raised by people about GiveForward and the personal crowdfunding industry as a whole (I am in no way qualified to talk about other types of crowdfunding like equity, project, art, tech, etc.). Since this is my first post I thought I’d start with the two questions I’m asked the most about GiveForward:

Why does GiveForward only focus on personal crowdfunding for major life events and why only in the U.S.?

Since 2009 GiveForward has focused solely on personal crowdfunding for people going through major life events. Over 70% of the time that means a medical situation, and we also see a fair amount of pages created for pet medical and funerals/memorials. The reason we limit ourselves to these types of fundraising is actually quite simple: people going through these major life events, as well as those trying to help them, have unique needs when it comes to their fundraiser. Those needs are different than someone who wants to raise money to go on a spring break trip or to buy a new Xbox.

Example of fundraisers we don't want to see in our quest for transparency in crowdfunding.

Do you want to see this page next to a page for someone fighting cancer? We don’t think so. As much as I’d love to see a new TOOL album, we think fundraisers like this have very different needs than those pages for people going through a major life event.

We don’t have anything against those types of fundraisers, we just think they’re different and belong on other sites so we can focus on helping those with the most serious needs. While that may fly in the face of traditional business strategy, to turn away fundraisers when we could easily host them, we’re comfortable trading-off growth to stay true to our mission. Our fundraiser organizers and recipients often tell us that they appreciate when a friend or family member comes to GiveForward looking for their page it’s not going to show up next to what they consider a frivolous fundraiser.

The international question has a similar response. In this day and age it wouldn’t take too much work to host fundraisers outside the U.S. and in multiple currencies (that sound you hear is our Engineers groaning at the “wouldn’t take too much work” phrase). However, you don’t have to look very hard to understand that there are a lot of people in the U.S. who still need help and we don’t want to take our eye off the ball right now to grow internationally.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services out-of-pocket medical expenses in 2014 were $330 billion. Let that sink in: $330,000,000,000.00 or $12 billion MORE than all corporate taxes paid in the U.S. in 2014:

The fact that corporate taxes in 2014 were less than all Americans paid in out-of-pocket medical expenses shapes our quest for transparency in crowdfunding.


Keep in mind that when going through a major life event those out-of-pocket costs are only one aspect of the financial impact that often also includes lost wages, travel, childcare, etc. When you couple this with the fact that 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings it’s easy to see why we feel that we have a long way to go before we look to host international fundraisers. There are too many people here in the U.S. who need our help and more ways to help. Once we believe we have done everything we can to reach them (or better yet our healthcare and income inequality issues get addressed) we can then focus on hosting international fundraisers.

While those are the two questions I hear the most, there are a few other topics that I hear frequently and plan to address in the near future:

  • Crowdfunding Fraud: How do you spot a fraudulent fundraiser? What does GiveForward do to prevent fake fundraisers on our site? How often do you see fraud on GiveForward?
  • Fees: Why does GiveForward charge fees? Why isn’t GiveForward a not-for-profit organization?
  • CrowdFunding Isn’t Enough: How else can you help someone going through a major life event, after making a donation? How can you identify what they need?

I plan to add more to this list so if you have any other thoughts on topics or questions, please email me at Thanks – I look forward to a wide ranging discussion!

Whose world will you change?