Did you know that unpaid medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States today? And no, it's not just people without insurance.
When you consider that many medical procedures are only partially covered even by the best insurance plans, you've got a serious problem on your hands. Not to mention the out-of-pocket expenses which some plans don't cover at all like home care items and consultations with specialists.
So, how does the average American, most of whom don't even have $500 to cover an emergency, pay these enormous medical bills? [source]
Well, many turn to fundraising and if you want to know how to raise money for medical expenses as a fundraiser, the way to go is crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding is when a large group donates for a cause or project through an online platform via Paypal or credit cards. This method can reach far more people than traditional fundraising efforts, which is why it's become so popular in recent years. But the perks come with some downsides...
Pros and Cons of Crowdfunding
- Easy to setup and start a campaign
- Unlike a charity event, crowdfunding donations aren't time bound — contributions can come in any time, day or night
- Donors get to see the direct impact their dollars make which they don't when backing a faceless corporation
- Heavy competition with other online campaigns makes it harder to attract attention and gain donations
- Scam artists lurking on crowdfunding websites have made people more suspicious about giving money online
- Advertising a cause so publically can feel uncomfortable when you're a private person
Despite the negatives, crowdfunding for medical expenses is still, without question, the best way to raise funds and pull yourself out of debt. So how do you get started? Follow along...
HOW TO CREATE AN EFFECTIVE CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN IN 8 STEPS
1. Determine Your Goals
How much money do you need to raise for the medical procedure? Find out how much it costs and make sure to plan for unexpected expenses.
Also, break up your fundraising efforts into two or three separate campaigns if you're asking for a large sum of money (25K or more) AND using it to fund more than one procedure (e.g., surgery plus post-surgery care, etc.) Donors like to feel their contributions make a difference which smaller campaigns can offer.
Note that crowdfunding works best for specific purposes like raising money for chemotherapy, NOT for something general like geriatric care.
2. Consult a Tax Professional
Consider getting legal advice before setting up your campaign to better understand how crowdfunding affects your tax return and your donors.
For instance, while donations are tax-free for non-profit organizations, there are not for individuals.
3. Recruit Extra Help
In the steps that follow, you'll notice how much work goes into setting up a successful campaign. That's why it's a good idea to get people on board to help you, especially with your marketing efforts.
4. Set Up a Website
Wait, don't I mean setting up your campaign profile? No, not yet! First, it's important to set up a blog because it lends credibility and makes your cause more professional and authentic.
It's best to start blogging 3-6 months in advance so that you start getting traffic through Google and build a network (more about that later).
Ideally, you should write a new blog post once per week to update readers on the health condition AND status of your crowdfunding campaign once it gets rolling.
You can get a free website up and running in a matter of seconds using SiteRubix (just choose the name for your website below):
5. Set Up a Campaign Profile
Provide as Much Information as Possible
Sure, you could set up a basic profile in 15 minutes or less if you wanted but you won't have much success with it. To really stand out from the pack, you have to put in the effort which means the following…
- Explain who the money's going to
- Describe what the medical condition is
- Spell out how the money's being spent
- Detail how the money will help the recipient
- Provide dates of when the medical procedure is scheduled to take place
- Illustrate the consequences of not getting the money (how it would negatively impact life)
- Include lots of photographs
- Add a personal video (strongly advised as this simple addition can skyrocket donations!)
Keep in mind that the public is wary of fraud so the more personal, heartfelt, and authentic you appear, the more trust you'll gain and the more successful your campaign will be.
Set a Deadline
Your campaign will garner less support if you leave it open-ended. For best results, limit it to 2-6 weeks to instill a sense of urgency.
Fundraising is an extreme sport! – Marc A. Pitman #quote
6. Collect Your First Donations
So now you have your profile set up and all you have to do is blast out an email to everyone you know and watch the donations pour in, right? WRONG! I can promise you that the shotgun approach will backfire if you try it.
So, here's the right way to do it...
People are more likely to donate to an active campaign with large contributions because they like to be part of something big and happening. That's why YOU should make the first donation with as much as you can afford.
Next, ask close family and friends to make large donations of $100-$500 to set a precedent for future donors.
Acquaintances should be your next target group after you've gotten a few donations. When they see that a few thousand dollars have already been donated, there are more likely to get on board.
7. Start Building a Network
Okay, you've got your first few donations but obviously, that's not enough. Now's the time to tap into your network!
Consider this, 80% of your donations will come from people you know so that's where your focus should be. Now, a good donation rate is usually around 3-4% which probably means you'll need hundreds of people to meet your financial goal.
But what if your network isn't big enough?
Well, here's where the work part comes in. You'll need to consult your local community, place of worship, clubs, associations related to the medical condition, online forums, plus wherever else and start making connections. To draw even more people to your cause, get a major donor on board like a local business.
While the best kind of outreach is face-to-face, it's next to impossible to meet everyone in person. That's why social media and email should also be on your radar...
Facebook Group Page
Facebook groups are a great way to connect with people interested in your cause. After you set up a group page, [source] start promoting it on your blog (see #4), in your email signature, and any of your other social media accounts. Post regularly with relevant updates and aim to get at least 200-300 followers for best results.
Many people don't actively engage on Facebook or aren't on it at all so make sure to collect as many email addresses as you can when doing your outreach. Start a spreadsheet to keep tabs on people you contact and track replies to your donation request.
As far as writing the actual email, simply reword the information from your campaign profile (see #5) to make it more conversational, but keep it short and to the point!
8. Follow-Up Regularly
You won't get much response if the only time you ask people to donate is when you first meet them. Persistence is key and that means asking 3 or 4 times at least!
Equally important is keeping donors updated during and after your campaign. For instance, sending out emails whenever meeting milestones (e.g., "we reached 10K!", etc.) or providing an address to send gifts post surgery.
Here are some more tips when following up…
Personal Thank Yous
Send out a personal email message to ALL donors, no matter how small the donation. Even better, mail a card, if possible. Thanking someone through Facebook seems too casual given the circumstances so keep that as your last option.
These acts of gratitude will encourage donors to spread the word to others!
The Last-Minute Push
Here's the only time where blasting out emails could pay off. During the last three days of your campaign, send out several emails and Facebook status updates to get more donors. While you might not feel comfortable with the hard sale, tight deadlines DO spur people into action!
Project the Right Image
Glumness won't win you fans so be sure to project hope, positivity, and enthusiasm even in the face of a serious situation.
WHICH CROWDFUNDING WEBSITE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Since crowdfunding began to take off around 2008-2009, dozens of companies have sprung up, including ones solely dedicated to raising funds for medical expenses. With so many to choose from, it's hard to know which to pick.
To make things easier, I've narrowed the list down to six established companies with good reputations. Choose one from the comparison table below that best meets your needs...
Best Crowdfunding Sites for Medical Bills
MORE FUNDRAISING OPTIONS
If you're overly concerned about privacy issues or lack basic computer skills, crowdfunding may not be your best choice. Instead, I'd look into other ways to raise money like these…
Organize a Fundraiser
First, plan a meeting with friends and family members to discuss details of the event:
- Pick a date
- Decide where to hold the event (once decided, get approval from your local city government as they may want proof of where the money's going)
- Assign tasks to helpers to:
- Book the venue
- Book entertainment
- Order food/beverages or arrange a catering service
- Order gifts such as calendars, t-shirts, and boxed chocolates
- Do publicity
- Register names
Second, get prizes for the event (without overspending, of course). TVs, packaged vacations, and dinners are all good ideas.
Third, get out there and spread the word! There's a lot you can do like buy local radio ads, get local TV news coverage, buy ad space in newspapers and magazines, and post fliers in supermarkets and libraries.
Last, double-check everything before your event to make sure you're good to go!
Why not plan a charity run or garage/yard sale to raise money for your medical expenses? Both are great ways to involve your whole community.
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
What are YOUR thoughts about raising money for medical expenses? Leave your comments below!