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Turning to the Internet for financial help doesn’t work during a pandemic.
That’s one of the disheartening conclusions of a new academic research paper that examined efforts on the fundraising website GoFundMe to raise money for healthcare bills, groceries, expenses. funerals and other needs caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Of the nearly 165,000 pandemic-related campaigns in the United States between March and August last year, more than four in 10 received no donations, the researchers found. The typical charity run only raises $65. And the most successful GoFundMe campaigns to support the coronavirus appear to be for those in wealthier communities who need the least help.
Overall, philanthropy in the United States has increased during the pandemic, and GoFundMe campaigns have raised more than $416 million to support the pandemic, the researchers found. Still, it’s amazing to see the gap between the popularity of GoFundMe’s help requests and the number of people who don’t receive much.
Research shows that in a country with high inequality between rich and poor, digital fundraising tools reflect and, in some cases, can exacerbate the real-world gulf between winners and losers. and losers. In short, online philanthropy does not fairly or consistently fill gaps in the social safety net.
“There is a long history of social crises for people,” said Nora Kenworthy, one of the paper’s authors and an associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell School of Nursing and Health. need the most help. Learn. “I worry that this seems to be the pattern here and contributes to further inequality.”
Kenworthy and Mark Igra, another co-author of the paper and a graduate student in sociology from the University of Washington, talked to me about some of the reasons why many online donation campaigns don’t donate. get a lot of money, if any.
Those in need most in the last year may have family, friends and neighbors who were in a similar situation and weren’t able to raise much. Some fundraiser founders may not have extensive social connections that make a big difference in spreading donation requests on Facebook. (GoFundMe last year published its own analysis of fundraisers related to the pandemic. Using different data, it found that coronavirus support campaigns have raised about $625 million. la from March to August 2020)
But Igra and Kenworthy also say there are deeper issues about both technology and America.
They say they worry that the prevalence of mass online charity campaigns could deflect attention and funding from traditional charities, or dampen interest. in addressing the root causes behind why more people need to turn to online donations. The CEO of GoFundMe has also said that the company should not be a substitute for effective social services.
I asked Igra and Kenworthy what we and companies like GoFundMe should do to ensure that people in need are more likely to receive donations. And if we should think twice before donating to GoFundMe campaigns.
They say GoFundMe and sites like Facebook could be more transparent about which campaigns attract the most attention online and why. They also say we all need to consider the wisdom of a for-profit company like GoFundMe playing a larger role in charitable giving. Several previous studies and reports also show that GoFundMe campaigns in more affluent parts of the US tend to be more successful.
The researchers also make a fair point about spreading the help we can provide. Kenworthy suggests, for example, if you’re donating to a crowdfunding campaign for a financially stable friend undergoing cancer treatment, you could also donate to a cancer support organization. lower income mail.
Above all, Igra and Kenworthy don’t want mass charity websites to blind us to the big picture: It’s a problem so many Americans resort to internet donations to meet basic needs. such as food, housing and medical care.
“Don’t stop giving to individuals when there’s a systemic problem, but try to think a little more broadly about trying to tackle the broader problem, not just the individual problem,” says Igra.