Three Tips for Crowdfunding for Medical Expenses

With the high cost of medical care in the U.S., an unexpected medical crisis or diagnosis can be disastrous for many Americans. When Americans were asked in an NBER study if they could come up with $2,000 to meet an unexpected expense within a 30 day time frame, nearly half said no. With the rise of the internet to conduct business virtually, crowdfunding through personal networks has become an important tool for people facing crushing medical bills. In fact, one study found that the rise in crowdfunding campaigns was directly correlated with a 3.9% reduction in medical bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2014. While crowdfunding may seem straightforward, there are many different steps you can take to maximize your donations. Here are three strategies that we teach as part of our Amplify Hope training program that may not be obvious to the novice crowdfunder.

Start with some money

Sure, if you had a ton of money lying around, you wouldn’t be crowdfunding in the first place. But seeing that others have donated sends a signal to potential donors that a campaign is legitimate and has a chance at success. In our Amplify Hope study question, “How important is it for you to fund crowdfunding projects that have already received substantial donations from others?” most donors (77.8%) responded that it was at least moderately important, indicating that social recognition and the performance of campaigns is a key factor in the decision to donate. Furthermore, respondents were asked “How important is it to fund projects that are close to meeting their fundraising goal?” and 85% responded moderately to very important.

This phenomenon is supported by other research as well: a 2013 study found that donors on Kickstarter were much more likely to support projects that were near their goals, viewing these projects as more likely to be successful, and that nearly all projects on Kickstarter that reached 50% of their fundraising goal were eventually fully funded.

At RG, we advise all of our crowdfunding patients to try and raise 20% of their goal prior to a campaigns “official” launch day, so that when their campaigns launch, it creates the impression that the campaign is already well on its way to success. This can be done through putting a portion of your own money in the campaign, or by contacting people who you already know are likely to donate (mom, dad, grandparents) and asking them to make their donation ahead of the official launch.

Post a video

A video may seem like a lot of effort, but not having one could hurt your campaign. A study found that not having a video decreased a campaign’s chance of success by 26%. In RG’s Amplify Hope study, all of our successful campaigns posted both a campaign video and several photos. While it’s up to you how much you are comfortable sharing, in RG’s experience, there is no such thing as providing too much information. New content, like videos, photos, and updates gives you an excuse to repost the link to your campaign to your entire network, and keeps donors, or those who may be considering donating, engaged with the campaign. Other research also backs this up, demonstrating that updates serve as “legitimizing signals” to potential donors that campaign managers are committed to the process and likely to use the money wisely, and that successful projects usually had a public or private update near their campaign’s target end date.

Use Facebook, but don’t forget more traditional outlets

Studies by multiple authors agree that having a large number of friends on online social networks is correlated with successful crowdfunding campaigns. In our study, most donors heard about our participants’ crowdfunding campaigns through social media (61%). Of those that responded that they learned about the campaign through social media, 89% of them found out through Facebook, which might lead you to conclude that Facebook is a good place to focus efforts.

However, our study also found that contribution amounts from donors who were approached via word-of- mouth, email, and phone were substantially higher than those from donors contacted through social media. Additionally, individuals in our study who had the best fundraising outcomes did not necessarily have the most actively shared posts or more visitors to their crowdfunding page (as the “click rates” have indicated). Rather, these organizers followed our training materials’ recommended guidelines, and initiated communication via phone calls and emails to their network. While social media can help you cast a wide net, a personal appeal through more traditional outlets can actually help you raise more money, and get the word out to people who are not social media users or who check infrequently and might miss your updates.