Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, crowdfunding campaigns were common, with requests for everything from helping to pay for hospital bills and college tuition to helping new entrepreneurs launch companies. Some estimates say these campaigns are raising more than $34 billion a year around the world, and $17 billion in North America alone. While the term crowdfunding is relatively new (it was coined in 2006), the idea of having people chip in to support a cause or help their friends and loved ones is a long-established practice. What kinds of charitable crowdfunding campaigns garner support and why? Research from Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s Jacqueline Ackerman and Jon Bergdoll finds there are four main themes. The first, they say, is crowdfunding to support social justice, which is a popular avenue for racial justice giving. In their study of 1,535 American households, more than 1 in 4 donors who contribute to crowdfunding or social media say they give money to support social justice causes, while fewer than 1 in 5 donors who give through traditional channels, such as writing a check, say they support social justice through charitable donations. Second, Ackerman and Bergdoll say crowdfunding is popular among young people and people of color. Their research finds that crowdfunding donors tend to be younger, less religious and more often single than donors who support charities in more traditional ways. They say crowdfunding donors are nearly six years younger on average than other charitable donors, and people of color make up a higher percentage of donors to crowdfunding charitable campaigns (at 39.5%) than other givers (34.5%). Third, Ackerman and Bergdoll clarify a common misconception that crowdfunding is always a charitable activity. While crowdfunding that supports individuals and their families might be charitable in spirit, they say those donations are not a form of charitable giving in the eyes of the IRS. But when these campaigns support charities, giving them money through crowdfunding is no different than making a donation by writing a check or charging your credit card. They also found that crowdfunding donors, for the most part, also give to charity through more traditional means. Finally, Ackerman and Bergdoll say very little crowdfunding aids strangers. In terms of the dollars given away, they say crowdfunded money tends to support people donors already know or who are just one step removed, such as friends, relatives and friends of friends. 41.6% of crowdfunding dollars are directed to a donor’s family member or close friend. Ackerman and Bergdoll say we have seen crowdfunding become more familiar to many Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, but it’s not a panacea for all of society’s needs.
In other news, as the number of COVID-19 vaccinations climbs and the transmission rate slows, families are ready to resume a variety of activities this summer. But parents may find themselves wondering what activities are safe for their vaccinated kids to participate in, and what experiences are safe for the unvaccinated kids who are younger than 12. Dr. Aaron Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine says it’s important for parents to remember that being fully vaccinated means that it has been at least two weeks from the time of the final dose. After that, he says, the CDC states it is generally safe to resume activities you did prior to the pandemic, without wearing a mask or physically distancing. He says it is important to comply with any applicable federal, state or local rules, as well as those set by individual businesses. He also encourages vaccinated individuals to continue washing their hands frequently and to monitor themselves and their kids for any symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you know there was close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Carroll says fully vaccinated people who develop symptoms still need to be tested. For families with children who are below the approved age for the vaccine, Carroll says there is no cut-and-dried answer for what activities are safe to resume, though outdoor activities, such as swimming with a small group, are very safe. Parents will need to evaluate their comfort levels and think about the risk on a large scale. And for the many families looking to take a vacation this summer for the first time in many months, Carroll says that again, it’s all about weighing the risks. He says driving in a car instead of flying in an airplane, spending time outside rather than indoors, and being around family and a few friends instead of huge crowds of people are all safer options. Even if you choose to take a “less safe” path, though, Carroll says you can still be careful. Wear masks; try not to spend too much time close to big crowds at the airport, for example; be careful about what you touch; and use hand sanitizer. And don’t forget, he says, that the CDC recommends that unvaccinated people should self-quarantine following a trip and maybe get tested.