Turning to the Internet for financial assistance has not worked very well during a pandemic.
It was one of the disheartening conclusions of a new academic research paper who reviewed the efforts on the GoFundMe fundraising website to raise money for health care bills, groceries, funeral expenses and other needs resulting from the coronavirus crisis.
Of nearly 165,000 campaigns linked to the pandemic in the United States from March to August last year, more than four in ten received no donations, the researchers found. The typical charity campaign only raised $ 65. And the most successful GoFundMe campaigns for coronavirus assistance appeared to be aimed at people in the wealthier communities who were probably in need of assistance the least.
Overall, Charitable donations in the United States increased during the pandemic, and GoFundMe campaigns have raised more than $ 416 million for pandemic assistance, the researchers found. Still, it was striking to see the gap between the prevalence of requests for help from GoFundMe and the number of people who did not receive much.
Research has revealed that in a country with high wealth inequalities, digital fundraising tools reflect and in some cases can deepen the real gap between winners and losers. In short, online charitable campaigns do not fairly or consistently fill gaps in the social safety net.
“There is a long history of social crises with those most in need of help being the last to get it,” said Nora Kenworthy, one of the article’s authors and associate professor in the School of Nursing and Health at Washington Bothell University. “I am troubled that this seems to be the pattern here and contributing to other inequalities.”
Kenworthy and Free play brand, another co-author of the article and graduate student in sociology at the University of Washington, explained to me why many online donation campaigns failed to raise a lot of money, if any.
The people who needed help the most last year may have had family, friends and neighbors who were in similar circumstances and were unable to give much. Some people who have organized fundraisers probably didn’t have the sprawling social connections that make a big difference in spreading donation requests on Facebook. (GoFundMe last year has published its own analysis of fundraisers. Using different data, he found that coronavirus aid campaigns raised around $ 625 million from March to August 2020.)
But Igra and Kenworthy also said there were deeper issues both over the technology and over America.
They said they feared the prevalence of mass online charity campaigns would distract attention and funding from mainstream charities, or reduce people’s interest in addressing the root causes of the need for so many. people turn to online donations. The CEO of GoFundMe also mentionned that business should not be a substitute for efficient social services.
I asked Igra and Kenworthy what we and companies like GoFundMe should be doing to make sure people in need are more likely to receive donations. What if we had to think twice before donating to GoFundMe campaigns.
They said GoFundMe and websites like Facebook could be more transparent about which campaigns get the most attention online and why. They also said we all need to consider the wisdom of a for-profit business like GoFundMe play a bigger role in charitable giving. Some before research and report also suggested that GoFundMe campaigns in wealthier parts of the United States tended to be more successful.
The researchers also made a fair point on the diffusion of the assistance which we can bring. Kenworthy suggested, for example, that if you donate to a crowdfunding campaign for a financially stable friend who is being treated for cancer, you could also donate to an organization that helps low-income cancer patients.
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 have to resort to internet donations to meet basic needs like food. , housing and medical care.
“Don’t stop giving to individuals when there are systemic issues, but make an effort to think a little bigger by trying to address the larger issue, not just the individual issue,” Igra said.