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What you should know to set up an online fundraiser
Online fundraising site GoFundMe gives donors a chance to tip the company as they donate to a cause. - photo by Amy Iverson
I hope it is a rare time in your life when you feel the pressing desire to ask the world for financial donations to help someone you love. That time did come for me this past week, though, and I hadnt ever thought about the best way or place to do so.

A friend of mine from high school raised a son as a single mom for most of his life. She passed away last week after a tough fight with breast cancer, and her son was a thousand miles away serving a church mission in Missouri. I felt helpless. The flowers and cozy blanket my friends and I had given didnt really seem like enough. Oftentimes in such sorrowful situations, kind, generous people want to help, but they just dont know how.

My husband had the perfect idea: Set up an education fund for our friends son. It would give everyone who loved our friend a wonderful way to contribute to her sons future, and it would give people the opportunity to do something meaningful to honor our friend.

But which website to use? GoFundMe was my first thought since it has the most donors by far (50 million, according to the platform's website), but I recalled something about a fee? It didnt seem right to allow this company to skim off some of the donations. Instead, I decided to open an account at a local bank, only to find out there would be no way for people to easily donate online. Donors would have to drop by a location, mail in their money or figure out routing numbers to donate. It all seemed like too much of a hassle for people. I wanted it to be easy.

After some research, I discovered that GoFundMe once had a 5 percent fee, but dropped it just last year (possibly after sensing competition coming from Facebook). The fees involved for GoFundMe now include a standard 2.9 percent + 30 cents per transaction, which covers the costs charged by payment providers. How do they make money? When someone decides to donate, GoFundMe has a drop down menu with the option of giving the company a tip. Be careful here, because it automatically puts an amount in there. If you dont delete the amount, you might give GoFundMe a tip without even noticing. Another way the company makes money is by charging a 5 percent fee for every donation made to a certified charity campaign and for every donation made to a campaign created outside the United States and Canada.

A campaign is easy to establish by setting a monetary goal, a campaign title, a category and the beneficiary. Youll explain why the fundraiser is needed and post pictures to help tell the story. Then, let the sharing begin with all the easy social media options. There are no time limits or deadlines for fundraising campaigns; you can keep them up and running as long as you feel necessary.

YouCaring is similar to GoFundMe and has the same 2.9 percent + 30 cents standard processing fees for all transactions. It touts its real-time chat support and live coaching, although I dont think the process is very difficult. YouCaring also relies on voluntary contributions for operational costs and automatically includes a 15 percent tip when you donate (again, unless you delete the tip). Unlike GoFundMe, YouCaring has zero platform fees, no matter who created the campaign or where it originated.

One of the newest ways to start a crowdfunding campaign is through Facebook. Facebook promotes the fact that your friends can donate in just a few clicks without ever leaving their website. But watch out for the fees. For donations made to personal causes in the U.S., the fee is 6.9 percent + 30 cents for payment processing, fundraiser vetting and fraud prevention. Donations on Facebook to U.S.-based charitable organizations have no platform fees, just the standard payment processing fee. Something unique to Facebook is the option of creating your own birthday fundraiser. No, this isnt so you can buy that expensive bag youve had your eye on. This is a way to dedicate your birthday to a nonprofit you care about. Instead of all your (real or fake) Facebook friends giving you gifts on your special day, they can donate to your favorite cause.

For my first venture into online fundraising, I decided to go with GoFundMe, simply because of name recognition. It has been a wonderful experience to see the outpouring of generosity from friends, family and complete strangers. We are just shy of our $10,000 goal, and I am grateful. But I also hope I wont have the need to create another one of these campaigns for a very long time.
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