How to Start a GoFundMe (and Make it go Viral!)

viral gofundme

Start a GoFundMe Page

GoFundMe has become increasingly popular in recent years. It makes sense. Times are tough for a lot of people. It’s no secret that I started a GoFundMe page for my son because we found ourselves in a dire situation.

But, if you go to the GoFundMe site to start one, right away you’re hit with your call to action. They want you to start one. So you see several places to click that option before you see explanations. In fact, it’s not until you go to the Q&A page that you will find most of your answers. And the link to that is way down at the bottom of the first page.

Now that I’m a little over 6 weeks into mine, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned about running a GoFundMe page.

GoFundMe Tax Implications + other tips:

Hindsight is always 20/20. Here’s what I wish I knew before I started mine. I have separate tips on going viral with your GoFundMe after this list.

  1. The money you receive from your GoFundMe page is a gift. What that means is- there may be tax implications for whoever receives the money. That may be important to know before you start. I’m not a tax attorney nor do I play one on the internet. So ask one if you have questions.
  2. They have amazing customer service. No, really, they do. I had a few questions early on and they were amazing at getting back to me with full explanations.
  3. Plan it before you actually do it. Including your title! Gather up your photos and write down your story in Microsoft Word or something first. And set aside the time to do a good one. I was feeling desperate so I literally came home from the grocery store and did it. Now I wish I had taken more time and written some things a bit differently.
  4. GoFundMe is not a bank. They do not want to be subject to banking laws and regulations which makes sense. Those same laws also dictate that since they are not a bank, they cannot hold your money (donations) for longer than 30 days. Have a bank account set up to accept the funds.
  5. You can set up a GoFundMe page for a non-profit. If you have a non-profit or want to raise funds for one, you can do that. However, you may want to see if you can set something up for direct donations to avoid the 3% processing fee.
  6. It’s not as easy as some people make it look. Recently a page for the Philadelphia Mummers raised over $100k in a day! But for most of us, it’s not that easy. You see so many stories “go viral” and you might think it’s easy. It’s not. It takes a lot of hard work. I’ve been at it 6 weeks and am only at about 15% of my goal. And that is with a large social media following. I don’t like fundraising and asking for money so this is way out of my comfort zone anyway. Having to repeatedly ask is difficult. If it wasn’t for my son, I’m not sure I could do it.
  7. Getting money from strangers is a weird feeling. Don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful that we are receiving the donations as Kevin’s life depends on it. I can’t achieve this goal without the kindness of strangers. However, it has been a very emotional experience and a wide range of emotions that I wasn’t prepared for.
  8. GoFundMe is the choice you want. Sure, those jerks from NJ are well, jerks. And they made the news. Still, the fraud rate on GoFundMe is extremely low. And GoFundMe is the best-known site for this purpose. Sure, there are others. And if you Google it, you’ll find a list. If you scroll that list, you might think, ‘Ok, yeah, heard of them.’ But none are as well known as GoFundMe.

How to Make a GoFundMe Page Go Viral

Ok, so you started a GoFundMe page, now you need it to go viral, right? After all, this is a micro-donation site. You’re counting on lots of people giving small donations to help you reach your goal.

I’ve been in the blogging/social media space since 2008. The one main tip I can tell you is this: Do not get discouraged if page isn’t going viral. Keep trying. It is much harder than it looks to make something go viral.

I don’t want you to get discouraged, but you should know what is realistic.

Two Main Points about Going Viral with GoFundMe:

  1. You want to make people FEEL GOOD about giving.
  2. You want to tell a story so compelling that people feel they MUST share it.

How to Make GoFundMe go Viral.

  1. Have a great reason for your Page.

    I mean it! There are several Reddit and other forums devoted to stupid reasons that people start a GoFundMe. Before you hit that publish button, make sure that this is a legit, worthy cause with honest intentions. Otherwise, people will see right through it. (and probably unfriend you on Facebook)

  2. Create a fabulous GoFundMe page.

    Have a great story. Be descriptive about your needs and write so people can relate. Use photos. It’s all about the storytelling. You need a great title and you need to create something that people will want to share.

  3. Balance the line between repetitive and annoying.

    You cannot ignore social media, you need it to spread the word. But being effective is different from being annoying. Posting it 8x a day will annoy people. Post it only during peak busy Facebook times (usually the evenings) and only repeat post when you are updating the GoFundMe page.

  4. Exhaust all your options.

    I sent my story to several local newspapers and thankfully, one of them picked it up. They also linked to my GFM Page in their article which was a huge help. You can try contacting TV producers, local papers and radio stations. It just takes one right person to set your page in motion to go viral.

  5. Use your resources, sort of.

    I have a large social media following because of this blog. That being said, I could easily lose that audience by offending them. If you are going to use work/charity/church contacts for this…you have to exercise caution so as not to overstep your bounds. An email to your minister such as “Hey, we’re really struggling with xyz, wondering if you could put this on the church’s Facebook page?” is much better than obnoxiously tagging groups or pages without asking.

  6. Keep at it, but don’t spam.

    We all get annoyed at being tagged, constantly emailed, included in private Facebook messages that we have no interest in. If it would annoy you, don’t do it. Just because it’s a worthy cause doesn’t make it ok.

  7. Stay honest.

    We’ve all heard the stories of those assholes in Jersey. Don’t do it. Don’t lie or embellish your story. People will see through it, eventually. Tragic stories work, but don’t invent tragedy in your life where there is none.

  8. Evaluate your own feeds.

    Look at your own social media feeds. Or, watch the TV news segments that they do each day on stories that went viral. Why do you think those stories went viral? What element did they have, that your story also has? What things are your friends sharing?

  9. Timing is everything.

    Luck is such an important factor in something going viral. Luck and timing. Take this into consideration when contacting news outlets, sending emails to friends and family, and posting on social media. Try to find a connection between your Page’s story and something timely in the media.

  10. Choose your wording carefully.

    Let’s say you need money for a health issue. (that’s what most GFM pages are for) Don’t berate your friends with “Hmph! Be glad you have your health!” on Thanksgiving Day. Instead, you could post it with “On this Thanksgiving Day, I am so grateful for the many people who have helped us so far.” You can still take advantage of the fact that people are more giving around the holidays…but not being a jerk about it either.

I cannot stress this enough–making anything go viral is much harder than it looks. There is just so much noise and information thrown at us each day. Seeing one every-day family’s post go viral makes you think that you can do it too. We forget that there are literally billions of other posts and videos and GoFundMe pages that NEVER go viral.

There’s a huge element of luck in this. And it has to resonate with people so much that they must want to share your story.

If you do decide to do this, good luck to you!

See Kevin’s GoFundMe Page.