On-line Fundraising: How to Avoid Being Scammed

In the last week, there has been an incredible use of GoFundMe to help the Moniers  in Chester, Vt, who lost their home, contents and pets in a fire. Both of our volunteer fire departments responded to this event and many of our kids are friends with their children. A Facebook page  has also been set up in their name and is helping to let the community know what they need and how they can help.

Our GMUHS and BRHS French students are also using GoFundMe to help raise sudden last minute expenses for their exchange program in France. Students and faculty, both of whom are working hard to make this trip possible, set up this site.

At the same time, we sadly learned how a woman has been taking advantage of the death of Frank Silfes, who is well known to our fire departments, and many in our community Frank was the Program Coordinator for Crisis Services at HCRS in Springfield for 35 years and founded Green Mountain Critical Incident Stress Management team. His wife posted the following note on March 5, Please be advised that one Jackie Harris is posting on Claremont NH - On line Garage Sale site that she is taking a collection for Frank Silfies. We do not know this woman and I have been advised that she is scamming people out of money in my husband's name. Frank is well-known in the surrounding communities and would not want people giving her money in his name. Please DO NOT SEND MONEY TO HER SITE! In the comment section, a number of people noted that this individual had been involved in other fundraising scams.

 Please Note that Cavendish Connects checks carefully before we post these types of fundraising requests on Facebook or the Cavendish Update.

The Internet is a good way to help raise funds and awareness. “Crowd funding” sites, like GoFundMe can be a good way to raise money quickly, such as what we’ve seen for the Chester family and the French students.  Understand though there are terms and conditions with these sites, and they do take a percentage (in the case of GoFundMe it’s 5%). 

 Unfortunately there are people that can and will take advantage of family, friends and community’s generosity in emergent situations. In order to avoid scams and ensure that your donation will be used in the manner you intended, consider the following:

 • Only donate to causes and people you personally know and trust.

 • Do your research. Check out the organizer’s past accounts. Avoid giving money if solicited by phone or mass emails or letter-writing campaigns for which you cannot verify the organizer’s identity. Check out a charity or cause via the Better Business Bureau give.org site for reports of fundraising scams

 • Ask questions. If they take a long time responding, chances are greater it’s a scam. 

• Be cautious in evaluating causes that generate a lot of publicity, because they often attract scams. Breast cancer and animal rights causes are often targets for scams.

 Learn more about Crowdfunding and the best sites to use at Crowdsunite

 While “Crowd funding” has its purpose, you may want to consider these options as well:

• Donate directly to the individual or to a bank account that has been legitimately set up in their name.

• Give gift certificates for goods and services that are needed. For example, after Irene, Gethsemane Church distributed gift certificates to Home Depot and other stores utilized by those doing flood cleanup. Gas cards are always helpful, as are gift certificates to local restaurants. It’s also possible to give a Master or Visa card good for a certain amount.

• Help to organize a fundraiser for a specific need.

• Pace your giving. While there is immediate need, for a major loss, such as a fire, death or significant illness, the needs extend well beyond the initial burst of activity of a week to 10 days.

• Give of yourself. While money is certainly needed in many of these situations, there are a number of practical details, such as childcare, cleaning, lawn care, rides etc. that need tending to.

 Learn more at How to Respond When You Learn That Someone is Ill or Injured.