Many people may feel uncomfortable asking for money from friends or family or starting a personal donation website for themselves. However, when an unexpected illness brings in mounting medical bills, starting a personal fundraiser can be a way to share your story, your updates, and your milestones. A personal donation website can also allow friends and family to show support—and help them answer the question, “how can I help?”
Why I started my own personal donation website
Karen Spies, an entrepreneur and mother of two, explains why she started an online personal donation website and how it worked for her.
When I went to the doctor and heard that I had to have an emergency hysterectomy in 4 weeks, I was beyond panicked. I had been a self-employed single mom scraping by for years without health insurance for myself. To think that I had to submit to major surgery and be incapacitated for at least a month was terrifying. I talked with my boyfriend and he suggested working longer hours. But I had already thrown my back out two times and hurting myself again would delay the surgery.
I went home and called a friend to help me calm down. My friend’s wife got on the phone and said to me, “Karen, this is no big deal. How much money do you need? $10,000? Just get 100 people to donate $100 each and you’ll be fine.” That statement was a turning point for me. I realized that I was not in combat against a huge adversary but that I really could go to my community and be cared for.
I went to the hospital to talk with the financial counselor. When he told me how much the deposit that I had to put down to schedule the surgery was, I felt pretty capable, but when he told me the total amount that it was going to cost, I felt like I was falling down a well. I walked out in a daze and sat in my car for 10 minutes. I couldn’t believe that I had to let someone cut me open, that it was urgent and that I had to pay so much for this horrible experience.
When I told my mother I planned to start a personal donation website, she was offended. “You are going to beg your friends for money?” she asked. “It’s not begging!” I retorted. I was asking people that I knew and loved—people that I had been there for—if they would step up and help me.
Yes, I was embarrassed. Yes, it was painful. Yes, and… I felt as if it were the only way to get this done.
We had a successful fundraiser and raised more than enough to cover the cost of surgery.
The most amazing thing about my personal donation website was the comments and encouragement that I received both on the site and in person. In contrast to my mother’s opinion, I had people that I didn’t even know telling me about their similar experiences and people who had not been present in my life for over 20 years stepping up to help. People were thanking me for my vulnerability. And people told me that they were grateful that I had given them the opportunity to help. Truly it wasn’t about the money. In fact, I think that the comments that people put on the site when they made their donations were the most healing part of my whole surgery experience. To know how many people love you is an invaluable gift.
In this virtual age, sometimes we think that humanity is cold and binary. We hear the propaganda that technology is destroying the community. Those naysayers don’t understand that the power of human connection is so strong that it is fostered by any communication, regardless of distance or media. They don’t understand how a midwestern girl in Boulder, Colorado had people all over the world reaching out to connect to her and support her. The ability of personal donation websites like GoFundMe to mobilize community is truly a way in which we can be there for each other.
If you have a medical need, I would strongly suggest that you step forward and let people who care know what’s going on with you. Don’t let shame stop you from feeling the love that people in your life have for you. No one can feel good about helping if there isn’t anyone asking for help.
Take the next step—set up your free personal donation site on GoFundMe.