Crowdfunding in the wake of tragedy
published by Ottawa’s Apt613 on 15 Apr 2018: http://apt613.ca/crowdfunding-in-the-wake-of-tragedy/
At least 17 different GoFundMe campaigns have been created to raise funds in the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Apt613 spoke with two people behind lesser-known campaigns who share how they are connected to the families—and what they’ve learned about going online for help.
When news first broke about the horrible collision that has since claimed 16 lives, injured 13, and left the entire country in mourning—social media feeds were quick to share multiple online fundraising campaigns, known as crowdfunding, that collect small amounts of money from large amounts of people.
Major media attention has largely focused on the one campaign that’s raised more than $11 million dollars (now the largest GoFundMe campaign in Canada, and ranked top five for the most successful money-genearting campaigns on the platform) but there are more than a dozen others.
Humbled by the Generosity of ‘Perfect Strangers’
“I just thought that we gotta do something to help,” says Stacey Shiner, 44, in reference to her colleague, Michelle Straschnitzki, whose 18-year-old son Ryan plays for the Humboldt Broncos and was severely injured in the incident.
Shiner, a resident of Airdrie, Alberta, explains that she and Michelle work together with Rodan + Fields (noted as RF on her campaign description below), an e-commerce business that’s a tight-knit community.
“Michelle posted something on Facebook; that Ryan had been in an accident,” Shiner recalls.
“I knew it was catastrophic,” she pauses.
With no prior crowdfunding experience, Shiner created a campaign on GoFundMe to help Michelle with immediate expenses and has raised more than $13,000 over the past week.
“[Michelle] has direct access to the funds and took her first deposit out this morning,” Shiner explains, adding that the Straschnitzki family will likely be flying back and forth with their other children between Alberta and Saskatchewan, where Ryan was studying at school.
“Flights, the cost of eating out, hotels, transportation to and from the hotel… it’s the last thing in the world that we want them to worry about,” she says.
As for using GoFundMe, Shiner admits that she had some technical issues early on but says that the overall experience has been “phenomenal” – largely due to the online support.
“At first I was not a big fan of it because there are fees involved… but the fees were really minimal for the amount of effort and support they give us.”
When asked what stands out the most from her experience with crowdfunding, Shiner is quick to respond:
“I knew that people would donate but I think that I was really overwhelmed with how quickly the money came in for them—and the variety of people that donated; the randomness of it—perfect strangers,” she said, then reflecting on what she would change about her approach:
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the [online] description,” she laughs as a short relief to an otherwise solemn interview.
“I whipped [the campaign page] up real quick… I didn’t have time to proof-read it. I just wanted to get it out and to get the ball-rolling,” she says.
“As soon as the dust settles, that’s when these families will really need help and support. I think it’s really important that we remember that,” she adds.
“We’re Canadians, and this is what we do.”
“Ryan’s already talking about if… if (she emphasizes) he can’t walk again, [then] he’s going for gold in the Paralympics to play hockey—and this is four days after the fact. I think the positivity, the camaraderie; all of the support has really made a difference.”
One of the other GoFundMe campaigns was created in support of Humboldt Broncos’ coach, Darcy Haugan.
“Darcy and I were childhood friends from Peace River,” explains the campaign creator, Jason Schroeder, 42, via phone from Calgary, Alberta as he reflects on Haugan’s death.
“Saturday morning [after the accident] I didn’t know what to do with myself,” he says.
“I was the best man at his wedding and he was the best man at mine.”
Schroeder notes that Darcy’s wife, Christina, is the beneficiary of the GoFundMe campaign but that he has yet to communicate with her.
“You can set up the [GoFundMe] account with bare bones information,” says Schroeder, adding that he has 30 days to get the necessary details from Christina and prefers to remain on the periphery for the next few days and to give the immediate family space.
Schroeder, also new to crowdfunding, says that the experience has surpassed his expectations in a variety of ways.
“A lot of people include comments with their donations,” he says, noting more than 500 people have given to his campaign so far.
“I get to read and respond to them—and I’ve reconnected with people from 20 to 25 years ago…it’s a pretty tight-knit community of people and I get to hear about how Darcy impacted so many lives.”
He notes that Peace River will probably create a memorial and a new arena, currently under construction, might be named in honour of Haugan.
“In the old days, people would just bring a casserole,” says Schroeder.
“But in a situation like this, you just ask yourself ‘what can I do? What can I do?’ and money just seemed—practical.”
When asked if he has any advice about crowdfunding, Schroeder takes a deep breath.
“If it’s gonna be as big as this, it’s gonna take a ton of time,” he admits.
“I do thank each donor individually,” he explains, adding that there’s an automatic response option that GoFundMe offers but he avoids it.
“I try to respond with a personal touch and it starts a whole new conversation with people. You feel you owe them that much for their time—and for donating.”