How To Get Random Strangers To Pick Up The Tab For Your Medical Bills

Pat and JessTo date, a GiveForward campaign for Boston marathon victims Patrick and Jessica Kensky has raised over $800,000.

Crowdfunding websites are all the rage these days. Celebrities and entrepreneurs alike have turned to sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to finance their next big idea with micro-donations from the public.

But we’re always intrigued to hear stories of people who have found ways to pay for more practical needs as well.

Boston newlyweds Patrick and Jessica Kensky were among dozens of spectators injured during April’s tragic Boston marathon bombing.

They were lucky to have survived the attack, but both sustained major leg injuries that required amputations just below the knee. They needed hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical treatment in a very short time, so family friends decided to post a profile for the couple on It’s a crowdfunding site tailored for people in needed of health care funding.

The response was overwhelming. Three days after the attack, the site had raised $300,000. To date, they’ve raised $873,255 from more than 13,000 individual donors, making it the site’s largest fundraiser.

It’s the kind of success story that crowdfunders live for, but also a hint at how some sites are tailoring their services to fit a certain type of fundraiser. The Human Tribe Project is similar to GiveForward, raising money for individuals with medical needs. We also recently covered Upstart, a site entirely dedicated to helping college graduates launch businesses with crowdsourced funding from investors.

GiveFoward actually started out a lot like Kickstarter. But they “shifted to medical specific because we saw that as the greatest need,” Nate St. Pierre, a company spokesperson, said. “And it did really well. It changed people’s lives.”

Given the typically sensitive nature of the fundraisers, St. Pierre says about 90% of donations come from friends, family and loved ones. In Patrick and Jessica’s case, they received donations from people nationwide, some choosing to leave their names, others not.

To date, GiveForward has raised more than $54 million total – $20 million just this year – to help with users’ medical bills. Since pages are generally set up by family and friends of the patients, the site also turns into a place to keep up to date with their progress not only in fundraising but their health as well.

“It is a gathering place [for family members and loved ones],” St. Pierre said. “We amplify what people are trying to do offline.”

All funds are raised through online payment methods, such as PayPal or credit cards. When the campaign is over GiveForward physically writes and cuts the beneficiary a check for the funds that were raised.

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