Since launching in 2010, GoFundMe has become a widely used crowdfunding platform where people can solicit donations for a variety of causes, from help paying for cancer treatment to recovering from natural disasters. CEO Tim Cadogan also describes the company as a barometer of need that simultaneously functions as a sign of the times.
"You do tend to see shifts — some cultural moments, responses to economic changes, policy changes in terms of how people are using the platform," he told CBS MoneyWatch in an exclusive interview.
As GoFundMe's year-end report shows, the 30 million fundraising appeals on the platform this year reflect a range of everyday financial struggles that the usual yardsticks of how the U.S. economy is performing typically fail to capture.
Student loans and small businesses
In 2023, for example, GoFundMe campaigns to help people with student loans surged roughly 40% as paymentafter a three-year pandemic-era pause. More schools also sought help to fund lunch programs after government aid lapsed, while more families asked for assistance paying for senior care.
"If there's a source of support or income people have been using or relying upon and that goes away, it creates a gap in people's means. And we are one of the ways they turn to their family and friends and community to try to make up that difference," Cadogan said.
Small business owners also flocked to GoFundMe this year. Smaller employers launched nearly 100,000 fundraising campaigns as they grappled with the fiercest inflation in decades, sharply higher interest rates and tighter lending standards, not to mention the many financial emergencies that can befall small businesses.
When Yu and Me Books, located in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood, was damaged by a fire, for example, 7,000 donors contributed to a recovery fund, raising nearly $370,000. Where the money went: covering the cost of opening a temporary store, buying new furniture, paying for insurance deductibles, and replacing damaged inventory and equipment, among the many financial challenges that overnight can tip even a flourishing enterprise over the edge.
"It reflects that small business is an integral part of community," Cadogan said. It is important for people to have a place to go, whether it be a restaurant or bookshop where they know the owners and people who run it and they want to support that."
meanwhile, fundraisers solicited donations from people in more than 100 countries, according to GoFundMe.
GoFundMe, a for-profit company, makes money by charging transaction fees on donations. Creating a campaign is free, while the company collects 2.9% plus 30 cents for every donation.
Taylor Swift's impact
Another sign of the cultural moment: The Taylor Swift effect. Donations from fans of the pop star swelled this year, with contributors often giving in amounts of $13 — the pop star's favorite number — to campaigns they had heard about through her tight-knit community of devotees.
"We thought, what's going on here? We realized the reason for that was Swifties," Cadogan said, alluding to the name bestowed on her most ardent fans. "It was a way of expressing the two things."
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