In the aftermath of last week’s Boston Marathon bombings, social platforms have become an important tool not just for sharing information about the events, but for raising funds for its victims. Online crowdfunding sites are making it easier than ever for anyone to organize fundraising around a cause. Since last Monday, victims’ friends as well as total strangers have used these platforms to raise millions for hospital bills, funeral costs, and more.
On crowfunding site GoFundMe, nearly $2 million has been raised so far for Boston victims. That includes the “Bucks for Bauman” fund, which raised more than $600,000 for Jeff Bauman, the man who helped identify the bombers after waking up in the hospital with both legs amputated. The “Celeste & Sydney Recovery Fund” has also raised more than half a million dollars for Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother and daughter who were severely wounded during the attack.
Other sites like GiveForward (where almost $1 million has been raised for marathon victims), YouCaring, and Fundly are also being used to collect money, while online fund organized by friends of the Richard family, whose 8-year-old son Martin was killed in the bombings, has raised more than $200,000.
The Boston Marathon is already a charitable event for many of its participants. Through the 2013 Non-Profit Marathon Program, supported by the race’s principal sponsor, John Hancock, all local non-profit organizations re given guaranteed entry into the race. On the program’s official Crowdrise page, individual teams raised $6,628,493 this year, mostly through online donations.
Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet Project, traces the popularity of charitable crowdfunding back to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which he described as the "breakout moment for instantaneous giving" and its rise in social media. While "it’s hard to know whether these people would have donated through other channels if these [digital channels] weren’t available to them," said Rainey, "for sure, we’ve seen a rise in this spur-of-the-moment giving and there’s every reason to think that this is adding to the pool of money that’s available."
However, the rise of crowdfunding (and ease of creating a legitimate-looking online charity) has created some wariness, said Rainey, who explained that the mistrust once reserved for cold-call phone solicitations has now been transferred to email, text message and social media solicitation. "People don’t always know who’s behind the appeal or whether the money might go to the purpose for which it’s being raised," Rainey explained. Luckily, he's also seen a growing tendency among would-be donors to follow the advice of smarter, more established organizatons when it comes to choosing where to digitally send their dollars.