Crowdfunding: be cautious with donations in wake of disasters

Be cautious with donations

From paying medical bills to helping a family after a disaster, crowd-funding is very popular raising $2 billion dollars in 2015. Take gofundme: right now there are 9,000 campaigns on the site for Alabama, another 27, 000 nationwide for Hurricane Harvey.

Many times, Ann Niemeier has helped out on a fundraising campaign that's come across her facebook feed.

"I've seen some people in need of medical expenses and of course if something tragic happens to a family and their children need to be taken care of. So things that really pull at my heartstrings."

A survey found, roughly one in five Americans gave to an online crowdfunding campaign, often in amounts of $11 to 50 dollars. "I feel like I've become part of a family of support for this person."

But before you let a personal story tug at your purse-strings, do you homework. Sites like gofundme, YouCaring and KICKSTARTER are mostly unregulated although the Federal Trade Commission has made some fraud cases.

Locally the Better Business Bureau says we haven't seen any scams pop up yet in the wake of recent tragedies. "Emotions run high; people want to donate," remarks BBB President and CEO David Smitherman with the Central and South Alabama offices.

The BBB's, Guidestar, Charity Navigator and Charity Watch can help you make smart choices. For natural disasters smaller organizations may have trouble distributing donations.

On the personal campaigns, stick with people you know. Be sure donations go through a secure website and use your credit card. And there's no reason to overfund a cause, that's met it's goal.

Also keep in mind, the recipient won't see every dollar you give. These sites often charge the campaign a fee to cover things like payment processing and fraud protection. If you know the person in need, give them the money directly and cut out the middleman.

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