Regulation: GoFundMe

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No matter how hard we try to ignore it, the world is filled with many different problems. Even with government regulation and support, social issues plague countries around the world. Tens of millions of people are currently living in poverty and the news is filled with stories about social inequity. Unjustified killings make national attention and a violent war rages between countries today. In some cases, these problems are uncontrollable by humans. Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than a million deaths in the U.S. alone and hundreds of millions of people around the world lost their jobs as a result of this pandemic (CDC 2022). Within the past few days, Hurricane Ian claimed the lives of more than a hundred people, destroyed many homes, and displaced more than 40,000 people (Nickel 2022). These are only some of the tragic events and issues that have made it into the news. However, many tragic events have affected individuals that do not make it on the news. For example, a person may be diagnosed with cancer or students may be overwhelmed with student debt. 

In all, the world is flooded with issues to the point that we cannot keep track of them all. Although it is not possible to solve every single problem that the world is flooded with, fundraisers and donations are two of the main ways we use to combat most of these problems. Thus, GoFundMe was launched in 2010 to raise funds to support individuals in need. On the GoFundMe website, the largest fundraiser categories include medical, memorial, emergency, nonprofit, and education. GoFundMe allows any type of fundraiser, as long as it obeys its regulatory policies, which will be explained later in this blog.

GoFundMe Fundraisers

An important feature of GoFundMe is that it is a crowdfunding platform, meaning the public can all chip in to support a specific fundraiser on GoFundMe. Also, instead of having physical donation drives or fundraisers, the fundraisers on GoFundMe are online. This means that people around the world could support a cause. Anyone, even if you do not have an account, is able to access the website and look for fundraisers. Within each GoFundMe fundraiser, it displays the title of the fundraiser, a description of the fundraiser, a goal of the fundraiser, a share button, and a donation button. The website allows anyone to easily donate to the fundraisers, as long as it is over the minimum donation amount of $5. In fact, users do not need to make an account to donate to a fundraiser. Thus, all the donors need to do is press the donate button, select a donation amount, and enter a payment method. To respect user privacy, GoFundMe even allows for anonymous donations.

Unfortunately, not everything is smooth sailing for GoFundMe. One of the most well-known scandals on GoFundMe is about a couple who created a fake feel-good story about a homeless vet that ended up raising more than $400,000 on GoFundMe (Katersky and Zarrell 2019). A few years later, it was revealed that the couple kept most of the money rather than giving it to the homeless veteran. To prevent these situations from happening again, GoFundMe has a lot of new and updated regulations. 

In order to become verified as an organizer, the person setting up the donation must upload documents and information which GoFundMe would check. This includes government-issued photo identification, such as a driver’s license, state ID, or passport, as well as a residential address, phone number, bank account, social security number or ITIN, and must be 18 years of age or older. These are only the requirements to withdraw funds from the United States. However, there are many different requirements if the organizer of the fundraiser lives in a different country. One of the main reasons for this regulation is to ensure that the funds of this fundraiser are directed toward the correct person. It also ensures that the users who are asking for funds are indeed 18 years or older. This would prevent any children, who may be financially illiterate and may not make the most financially responsible decisions, from accessing the site in the first place. 

In addition to these regulations in getting a verified fundraiser, there are also a few other regulations in place. For example, GoFundMe will also enforce a transaction fee whenever someone donates to the fundraiser. According to GoFundMe, they will take 2.9% of the total amount donated as well as 30 more cents. This means that the fundraiser organizer would not get the full amount that the donors donated.

As a result of all of these regulations, it would discourage people from posting any joke or fake fundraisers. Especially since GoFundMe would take a lot of personal information from you, you would not want to make any fundraisers that would be used for a bad purpose or put yourself in a negative light. Furthermore, you would not want something so insignificant that it would not be worth the effort of setting up the fundraiser in the first place. Instead, a more “serious” fundraiser that hopes to raise thousands of money would be more suitable for GoFundMe.

Even if the users do not understand the real intentions of the site and any consequences of their actions, the terms of service also outline the regulations on their site, including which items are prohibited on the site. There are many items within the prohibited content list. To just name a few of them, GoFundMe does not allow any law-breaking content, sexual content, drugs, weapons, gambling, counterfeit items, and much more. In addition to this list, the terms of service also add several other regulatory information for the organizer of the fundraiser. For example, GoFundMe does not allow the fundraiser organizer to publish identifiable information about others or promote activities like pyramid schemes. If the organizers are involved with breaking these regulatory practices, GoFundme is able to disable your services, remove the fundraiser, terminate your account, stop payments/donations, and alert law enforcement.

Although the GoFundMe staff does most of the regulating, the customers of this site also have the power to regulate some of the fundraisers. This is because there is also a button that says “Report fundraiser” at the bottom of each fundraiser, which users can press if they believe the fundraiser is violating the GoFundMe terms of service. If users click this button, the fundraiser will be alerted to the GoFundMe team, who have the ability to shut down the fundraiser. Additionally, GoFundMe fundraisers also have a section for users to write comments in. Thus, if there is something wrong with a fundraiser, users could easily point it out and warn other users within the comments section. 

In all, GoFundMe is a very friendly and accessible app that allows users to donate to fundraisers for a good cause. GoFundMe has a few regulations, which are primarily designed to help both the fundraiser organizers as well as the donors. These regulations help ensure that the organizers are not breaking any laws and would not be in trouble with the government. These regulations also help ensure that the donors are donating to a legitimate fundraiser and that the money is being put to good use. Overall, these regulations are beneficial to all parties involved, creating a tighter and safer community. Especially since this site focuses a lot in regard to money, regulation is essential.

Works Cited:

Bond, John-Michael. 2018. “How Does GoFundMe Actually Work?” The Daily Dot. February 28, 2018.

CDC. 2022. “COVID Data Tracker Weekly Review.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 7, 2022.

“GoFundMe Terms of Service.” 2021. GoFundMe. March 22, 2021.

Katersky, Aaron, and Matt Zarrell. 2019. “Homeless Veteran, Woman behind GoFundMe Scandal Plead Guilty in Federal Court.” ABC News. March 6, 2019.

Mac, Ryan. 2015. “How Anti-Kickstarter GoFundMe Became the Crowdfunding King with Causes Not Projects.” Forbes. September 24, 2015.

“Requirements to Receive Funds: All Countries.” 2022. May 13, 2022.

Nickel, Rod. 2022. “Hurricane Ian: Florida Search Operation Redoubled as Death Toll Tops 100,” Reuters. October 4, 2022.

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