NORTHERN Rivers residents have donated more than $333,500 to 251 local Go Fund Me campaigns since the site started operating seven years ago.
Go Fund Me takes 6.75% from each donation, meaning the organisation has collected at least $22,346 from Lismore campaigns since 2010.
ARM Newsdesk research reveals that Lismore-based appeals for cash cover everything from a "magic room for guests”, "empowering the death”, cancer fights, sick kids and injured pets.
The region's most successful campaign is the James Murphy Recovery Fund in which 230 people gave $54,400 to help Mr Murphy who was seriously injured while riding his mountain bike.
The goal for this fundraiser is $100,000.
Other successful campaigns included Avastin for Jeff in which 101 donors contributed $25,000 to help Jeff Kopittke as he battled cancer. Mr Kopittke has since died.
The Zaferis Family campaign has raised $16,000 of a $20,000 goal for mother Suze who is battling cancer.
The Cameron Kicking Cancer's Butt campaign has raised $15, 950 to help a young man through his cancer battle.
Caitlyn Smith's Non-Toxic Cancer Treatment-Mexico fundraiser has collected $14,000 of a $30,000 goal.
Only seven of the region's Go Fund Me pages have raised more than $10,000, 56 pages raised up to $10,000 and 50 raised $5 to $1000.
About 138 Lismore Go Fund Me pages have no donations.
Consumer group Choice says potential donors should do a bit of research before shelling out their cash when they see a plea for help, just in case it was a scam.
"As a consumer, if you're planning on putting your money into a project you do need to do your homework,” Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said.
"The onus is very much on you because there are very few legal or other requirements on the person actually asking for the money.”
Mr Godfrey also suggested donors and site creators make sure they were across the fees charged by crowdfunding sites.
Danielle Logue is one of Australia's leading experts on crowdfunding.
Dr Logue said Go Fund Me-type fundraising campaigns were popular because they allowed generous residents to "connect” with causes on a personal level as opposed to being "mugged” by street collectors.
"The whole model of giving is shifting,” said the University of Technology Sydney management discipline group senior lecturer.
"Ease is one of the reasons why they're successful.
"People are becoming more familiar with, and trusting of, donating online.
"Campaigns are set up to provide you with that individual connection and to provide ongoing feedback of how the cause is going.
"What we call chugging - that is the mugging for charity form of fundraising strategy - turns a lot of people off, unlike these campaigns.”
Turning a charitable idea into a fundraising success
SARAH Rosborg is the brains behind one of Go Fund Me's most successful campaigns.
The web designer wanted to raise $75,000 to build a safe house for young women in Kenya via her charity Rafiki Mwema.
Ms Rosborg turned to the popular crowdfunding site to start the ball rolling.
Naming the page after Australian mummy blogger Constance Hall, within weeks of the site going live, Queen's Castle by Constance raked in $200,000.
Ms Rosborg, a seasoned fundraiser, said her initial plan was to raise the money via her own website but she decided to move it to Go Fund Me because of its ability to handle mass donations without crashing.
"I set up the whole campaign on our website for people to donate there,” she said.
"On the day Constance Hall shared news about the plan, we had such a huge influx of people that our website crashed.
"I'd used Go Fund Me for a previous campaign so I set up the page because I knew the servers would handle this large amount of people.
"So in five minutes I'd made the page and people started donating straight away.”
Building a successful donation site takes some skill but luck can play a huge a part as well.
"I think it was successful because of the reason we were raising money,” Ms Rosborg said.
"But I think it also comes down to reputation - I've worked hard for many years, people know my dedication to this particular charity.
"But at the end of the day I think it was so successful because Constance Hall shared it (on her site).”
Ms Rosborg said getting the story right was the most important part of setting up a Go Fund Me page.
"The story is important - you need to put all the information across,” she said.
"It helps to be reputable in that your friends and family follow you, trust you and know that you're asking for this for a reason.
"Don't just make a campaign for anything - make sure it's a really important cause and your family and friends will support you.”
Ms Rosborg said it was also important to share fundraisers across social media pages, particularly Facebook, and to regularly update donors and followers with how the campaign is going.
What the tax office says about money-making campaigns
NORTHERN Rivers residents raising money through Go Fund Me have no need to worry about tax implications unless they provide a product or service in return for donations.
Certified Practising Accountants Australia tax policy head Paul Drum explained money donated to personal causes, such as helping a family member in crisis, would be seen as a gift by the Australian Tax Office.
Mr Drum said this meant the money did not need to be declared when completing tax returns.
He said there was a downside though as contributors could not declare their donation in their tax returns unless the organisation receiving the cash was a deductible gift recipient.
Mr Drum said entrepreneurs seeking donations in return for a share in a proposed business or an actual product did face tax implications.
"If for example you said 'I've invented a new motorcycle helmet and if you give us money to get this to market we guarantee you'll be one of the first people in the world to get this new helmet', then you're selling a helmet in a way. So there are income tax implications because this is business oriented.”
The Federal Government was forced back to the drawing board when 12 months ago when its Corporations Amendment (Crowd-Sourced Funding) Bill failed to make it through Parliament, with Labor claiming it failed to address stakeholder concerns.
Cashing in on a crowd - who's who in the online charity world
THERE are a number of internet-based crowdfunding sites operating in Australia.
Go Fund Me is the site most individuals turn to raise money for causes that impact them directly - such as helping a sick mate or collecting money to send a child to a sporting event.
The site describes itself as "the world's largest social fundraising platform” and claims to have collected more than $3 billion from more than 25 million donors.
Chuffed.org and Start Some Good target people and organisations wanting to raise money for community-based social enterprises such as housing for the homeless.
Pozible.com, Kickstarter.com and IndieGoGo.com are popular with budding entrepreneurs who want the community to fund projects such as music albums or business start-ups.
These three sites also provide a platform for individuals to raise money for personal projects such as helping mates or family through tough times.
All of the crowdfunding sites charge fees.
Go Fund Me, for example, takes a total of 6.75% from the donation pool before it is released to the page creator.
Pozible collects 3-5%, depending on the amount raised. It also charges 2.4-3.4% plus 30c for each credit card or PayPal transaction; and it has a bitcoin charge as well.
Kickstarter keeps 5% of all funds raised plus it collects 3% and 20 cents for each credit card transaction.
StartSomeGood.com takes 8% from donations and IndieGoGo collects 7-12%, including credit card charges.
Unlike the other crowdfunding sites, Chuffed.org campaigners do not pay any fees, instead donors pay 2-2.9% plus a 30c payment processing fee when they contribute to a cause.
- ARM NEWSDESK
TOP 10 NORTHERN RIVERS GO FUND ME CAMPAIGNS
CAMPAIGN, RAISED, DONORS
James Murphy Recovery Fund, $54,418, 230
Avastin for Jeff, $25,010, 101
Zaferis Family, $16,080, 63
Cameron Kicking Cancers Butt, $15,950, 190
Non-Toxic Cancer Treatment-Mexico, $14,200, 177
Harvest School Pemba and Outreach, $10,940, 7
Please Help me have a home, $10,305, 11
Rallying 4 Tanya Bailey & family! , $9000, 85
Zoe's Return to Wellness Fund, $8842, 78
Stem Cell Therapy for Sue, $7650, 16
Source: Go Fund Me