Brad Damphousse describes GoFundMe as a "human interest goldmine," and it’s true. The "crowd-funding site for the rest of us" is, frankly, inspiring. From the 7-foot-8-inch man who raises money for more appropriate shoes, to the kid who sings his way to college, to Lucky, the tortured dog, who finds cash for vet bills, to the young woman who follows her dream of becoming a professional bobsledder: GoFundMe has it all. Kickstarter looks frivolous by comparison.
"It’s people experiencing the long-tail of everyday life," says CEO Damphousse, "everything from weddings to funerals, education, youth sports, animals and pets. It’s a place where family, friends, and communities, come together to support one another."
In the old days, people used to put hard-luck ads on magazine back-pages: requests that nobody would ever read, or respond to. Now, they can post for the whole world to see. Who can resist the story of Kaleb Langdale, who got his arm eaten by an alligator this summer and is raising money for a prosthetic? Or the beaten up old NFL player who needs surgery? Or the Aurora shooting victim who had no health insurance?
GoFundMe is also a decent business. Damphousse expects transactions worth $40 million this year, generating $2 million (5%) for the founders. Started in 2008, the site is currently the third most successful crowd-funding platform after Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
What’s the future for such sites? Some experts are predicting increased legal complications, as the big money starts flowing, and fraudsters move in. And it also seems likely new rivals will come along to challenge the likes of GoFundMe, if millions are at stake (what’s to stop Facebook, or some other A-lister, from muscling in?).
But Damphousse believes that crowd-funding will continue to "become part of the fabric of everyday life", helping people to fulfill their dreams, and get through their worst nightmares. It’s got to be better than a message in a bottle, or those old small ads.