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02.15.17 | 9:59 am

GoFundMe sees opportunity in rising college costs

GoFundMe made its name as a way to alleviate the burden of unforeseen expenses, like funeral costs or veterinary bills. Now the company is expanding beyond emergency needs and starting to highlight causes like education, today releasing a guidebook for college students looking for help with tuition costs and more.

"I don't see this as a replacement for government-supported infrastructure," GoFundMe chairman and CEO Rob Solomon says, in reference to existing financial aid programs. "I think it's a complement."

Over the last three years, Solomon says, there have been 130,000 GoFundMe campaigns for college-related expenses. But with just $60 million in donations, the category remains tiny compared to the $3 billion in total donations that GoFundMe has generated since its launch. 

Rising college costs became a lightning rod during last year's election, with some candidates calling for free tuition at state universities. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of students are defaulting on their loans

For more on GoFundMe, named one of Fast Company's most innovative companies of 2017, read our feature

[Photo: Flickr user Sakeeb Sabakka]

01.11.17 | 10:59 am

Why GoFundMe acquired CrowdRise

GoFundMe generated well over $1 billion in donations last year for personal causes like medical bills and tuition payments, making it the world's largest crowdfunding platform by volume. But for all its success, GoFundMe is still largely dependent on an even bigger platform—Facebook. 

Without Facebook's social graph and distribution engine, few GoFundMe campaigns would go viral. That's a big part of the reason why GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon announced yesterday that the company has acquired CrowdRise, a smaller but influential nonprofit fundraising platform, for an undisclosed amount.

Unlike GoFundMe, CrowdRise has built profile pages for its 1 million members. The idea is to encourage repeat campaign organizing around the one or two nonprofit causes that a CrowdRise member is most passionate about.

"They're a freight train, and we're friends with those guys," CrowdRise cofounder Robert Wolfe said of GoFundMe last November, during an interview with Fast Company, "but [on GoFundMe] you don't have your own home to give back. We wanted to build something more like Facebook and Instagram."

Wolfe, who made his first fortune as the cofounder of Detroit-based outdoor apparel retailer Moosejaw, started CrowdRise in 2010, the same year that GoFundMe launched. Since then his site has generated $500 million in nonprofit donations. 

In buying CrowdRise, GoFundMe will also be better positioned to secure a larger share of the charitable giving market. PayPal—at one time a rumored GoFundMe acquirer—said yesterday that it had processed over $7 billion in donations to charity last year. GoFundMe, which levies a 5% fee on all campaigns, would surely like to process some of those dollars on its own platforms. 

11.15.16 | 5:15 pm

Can equity crowdfunding give Indiegogo the momentum boost it needs? 

Indiegogo has attracted nearly $1 billion for causes and projects in the eight years since its founding—an impressive tally, but less impressive compared to GoFundMe's $3 billion in contributions and Kickstarter's $2.7 billion in pledges. As crowdfunding has become more competitive, Indiegogo has been losing share.

Now the platform is looking to a new source of growth: equity crowdfunding, a form of investment that became available to the general public in May as a result of the JOBS Act (shorthand for "Jumpstart our Business Startups"). Through Indiegogo and partner MicroVentures, entrepreneurs will be able to raise up to $1 million in equity financing from small-time investors like you and me. Early offerings include a craft distillery and a video game company. 

Kickstarter, which remains focused on creative projects, does not plan to introduce an equity option. 

10.10.16 | 5:39 pm

There’s a GoFundMe to help Ken Bone buy a new suit

Ken Bone, debate questioner extraordinaire and America's newest folk hero, admitted during an interview with CNN today that the reason he wore his trademark red sweater to last night's debate was because he split the seat of his pants "wide open." Now someone has launched a GoFundMe campaign seeking $1,000 to help Bone buy some fancy new threads. The campaign organizer swears all proceeds will be "donated to Ken," and any additional funds will be donated to an energy-based nonprofit of Ken's choosing. Still, this is GoFundMe, so give at your own risk.  

As of late Monday, the campaign had only raised about one-tenth of its goal.