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Turning to the internet for financial help didn’t work out very well in a pandemic.
This was one of the discouraging findings of a new academic research paper Which examined efforts on the fund-raising website GoFundMe to collect money for health care bills, groceries, funeral costs and other needs as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Researchers found that of the nearly 165,000 pandemic-related campaigns in the United States from March to August last year, more than four in 10 received no donations. The typical charity drive collected just $65. And the most successful GoFundMe campaign for coronavirus aid appears to be for people in wealthier communities who need help the least.
Overall, charitable giving increased in the United States during the pandemic, and GoFundMe campaigns raised more than $416 million for pandemic aid, the researchers found. Still, it was hard to see the difference between the prevalence of GoFundMe requests for help and the number of people who didn’t get much.
The research found that in a country with high wealth inequality, digital fund-raising tools reflect and, in some cases, can worsen the real-world gap between winners and losers. In short, online charity drives do not evenly or consistently fill gaps in the social safety net.
“Social crises have a long history for those who need help most, who are the last in line to receive it,” he said. Nora Kenworthy, one of the paper’s authors and an associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell School of Nursing and Health Studies. “I’m puzzled that this seems to be the pattern here and is contributing to further inequalities.”
Kenworthy and Mark Igra, another co-author of the paper and a University of Washington graduate student in sociology, talked me through some of the explanations for why many online donation campaigns fail to raise much, if any, money.
Those who needed help the most last year may have family, friends and neighbors who were in similar circumstances and not able to donate much. Some people who set up fund-raisers don’t have extensive social connections, which makes a big difference in spreading donation requests on Facebook. (GoFundMe last year released its analysis related to the epidemic Fundraisers. Using various data, it was found that from March 2020 to August 2020, coronavirus aid campaigns raised approximately $625 million.)
But Igra and Kenworthy also said there were deeper issues, both about technology and America.
They said they are concerned that the proliferation of massive online charity drives could divert attention and funding from traditional charities, or reduce people’s interest in addressing the root causes that drive so many people toward online charity. Why do you need to turn? The chief executive of GoFundMe has also said that the company should not become a substitute for effective social services.
I asked Ingra and Kenworthy what we and companies like GoFundMe should do to make sure people in need are more likely to receive donations. And if we should think twice before donating to GoFundMe campaigns.
He said websites like GoFundMe and Facebook could be more transparent about which campaigns get the most attention online and why. He also added that we all need to consider the wisdom of a for-profit company like GoFundMe. Playing a big role in donating. some time ago research And reporting also suggested that GoFundMe campaigns were more successful in wealthier parts of the United States.
The researchers also made a fair point about spreading the help we can give. For example, Kenworthy suggests that if you’re donating to a crowdfunding campaign for a financially stable friend who is being treated for cancer, you might also give to an organization that supports low-income people. Helps cancer patients.
Most of all, Igra and Kenworthy don’t want massive charity websites to blind us from the bigger picture: It’s a problem that so many Americans rely on for Internet donations to meet basic needs like food, housing, and medical care. Have to take
“When there are systemic problems don’t stop giving to individuals, but try to think a little more broadly about trying to address the wider issue, not just the individual,” Igra said.