Family relying on donors for care

September 16, 2018

GoFundMe, founded eight years ago, helps people raise money for causes from the silly to the serious, but has increasingly become a way for people to raise money for medical costs. 

The company estimates about one-third of the money raised globally last year went to medical campaigns, the largest category in GoFundMe, said Heidi Hagberg of GoFundMe at the company’s San Diego headquarters.

Since 2010, $5 billion has been raised, although Hagberg declined to say how much was raised in 2017. 

“Last year alone, 21 percent of active campaigns created on GoFundMe worldwide were categorized as medical. That said, medical can also overlap with other categories and given organizers can only pick one category. There might be times where they pick another category even if it is related to medical,” Hagberg said.  

Other categories might be family, faith and emergency, among others, Hagberg said. 

With an out-of-network doctor’s visit in Atlanta scheduled for 2-year-old Olivia McCleary in late this month, friends of Katie and Travis McCleary set up a GoFundMe page about three months ago in hopes of raising the estimated $6,000 it will cost to cover the visit. 

As of Saturday, about $2,500 had been raised for a trip to the Children’s Hospital in Atlanta. The GoFundMe page for Olivia can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/help-olivia-win-her-battle.

Olivia’s pediatric neurologist here wants another expert to see her for her seizures before doctors in Indianapolis at St. Vincent-Peyton Manning Hospital operate on her kidneys, McCleary said. 

It is an expense the family’s income cannot  cover. Two hardship credit cards through Capital One have been maxed out while Katie McCleary juggles small payments to creditors that include six hospitals in the state and many doctors.   

In order for the McCleary campaign, “Help Olivia win her battle,” to be successful on GoFundMe, the McClearys’ story has to be shared and promoted, according to a company spokeswoman. 

“They really need to tell their story, sharing what this journey has been like for them, why they need this money,” Hagberg said. That can be done by uploading videos and photos and having friends reach out to a wider circle of people. 

Donors search the crowdfunding platform looking for campaigns that appeal to them, said Hagberg, who described the process as “strangers helping strangers who are captivated by their stories.” 

As far as results, Hagberg said it is difficult to compile data because campaign amounts change. 

“Some organizers set humble goals and then increase once the donations start coming in. Others will set ambitious/very high goals and raise money but will not meet their goal. We are unable to look at data around goals met due to the ability to change the goal during the duration of the campaign,” Hagberg said. 


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