Go Fund Me Campaigns for Hurricane Maria: Donate or Not ?

Since the Nature Isle, Dominica, was hit by Category 5 Hurricane Maria, there has been an impressive outpouring of national pride and international solidarity from Dominicans, friends and well-wishers abroad. However, with so much to do to repair the country, preserve life, and sustain the bodies, minds and souls of the hurricane Maria survivors, it’s hard from people abroad to know where to start, because we are so eager to help and do it right. But we know one thing for sure: we always need money, and we will never “not” need it. Especially in disaster emergencies.

If you haven’t seen the extent of the damage that Dominica endured, check out this short snippet of a region in the island 24 hours after the devastating hurricane.

But What do Hurricane Survivors Really Need?

The needs of hurricane survivors can be classified according to each phase of disaster response. There are a) Immediate needs, b) Maintenance needs and c) Long term needs.

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Immediate needs include BASIC NECESSITIES TO SURVIVE: food, water, shelter. Food, water. Water. More water. Even more water. Food. Shelter. A lot of it all. You get the point.

Maintenance needs also include immediate needs, but in larger amounts, to ensure sustainability. On top of that, you have other important things like first aid and essential which I am happy to discuss in another post.

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Long term needs include infrastructure, rebuilding and of course, emotional health (that money unfortunately cannot buy). I am happy to discuss about these needs in another blog post… For now, let’s get back to… Go Fund Me!

The Truth About Go Fund Me Campaigns

Go Fund Me has become one of the top crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money for events and causes that are worthy of every penny. In the past 7 years, the San Diego based company has raised over 3 billion dollars through more than 2 million individual campaigns. And while a lot of people have been able to support their dear cause, pay for overwhelming medical expenses, complete their graduate education and even support disaster relief operations through Go Fund Me funds, there are a few things you need to know about Go Fund Me campaigns before involving your funds.

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  • Where Does my Money go? This is the #1 question that I have heard from donors. The majority of the funds that are donated go to the person who created the campaign, and Go Fund Me taxes are deduced from the money raised (see picture). Other crowdfunding sites have policies on taxes and fees as well, such as Crowdfunder or Rockethub (just to name a few).

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  • How Do I know the Campaign is legit? The truth is, you don’t. While there are truly people out there who are raising funds for the good cause they pledged allegiance to, there are also scammers and people out there to take advantage. Differentiating between campaigns can be tricky, because even the most detailed and organized campaign can be a perfectly written lie (I don’t mean to be pessimist, but this is the digital age). Nonetheless, it might help to see that the campaign is associated with an official account and approved by the host government. For Dominica for instance, Go Fund Me campaigns that have been approved include the campaign by the CDOA Relief Fund, or the campaign by the Dominica American Relief and Development Association (DARDA). There are also other great campaigns organized by individuals such as Doctors in Our Circle Dominica Aid. Note that while popular campaigns seem to be more attractive and easy to see in Go Fund Me search, you still have to make sure that you a) read the description, b) check out the organizing party c) get in touch with them if need be!

What Happens with the Money Donated through Go Fund Me?

This is where we bridge the gap between the needs of hurricane survivors and ways in which Go Fund Me campaigns address those needs. For hurricane Maria survivors in Dominica, the majority of the campaigns that I have encountered aim at purchasing non-perishable items, essentials and water supplies for the survivors on island. This contributed in addressing their immediate and maintenance needs. Clearly, rebuilding infrastructure and ensuring emotional health are processes that would take a lot of time, but they have to start with a first step.

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The Final Verdict

When it comes to Go Fund Me, nothing is guarantee. I think at the end of the day, you make a judgement call and you listen to your intuition. If you feel like a campaign is legit, go for it. Donate, help someone. At the end of it all, you know how much Go Fund Me deducts from the campaign, but you might never know how much of the balance is actually used for the intended purpose. Unless you (or a very close friend) are the one running the campaign. So choose: do you want to take the risk of helping someone else, or hold back by fear? The ball is in your court.

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Have you ever done a Go Fund Me Campaign? Have you ever donated in Go Fund Me? Let me know what your experience was in the comments section below!

 

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