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Cancer Tops List of GoFundMe Medical Crowdfunding Campaigns in San Francisco

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Expenses related to cancer were the largest share of medical crowdfunding in San Francisco on GoFundMe, based on a snapshot of the site’s campaigns analyzed by NerdWallet.

Cancer made up one-third of the 387 medical campaigns that were identified as based in San Francisco on Oct. 5-7, 2016, at GoFundMe, NerdWallet found. The median fundraising goal amount for campaigns related to cancer was $10,000.

San Francisco medical GoFundMe campaigns

Total387
Campaign focusNumber of campaigns
Cancer / Tumor128
Accident52
Chronic condition51
Acute illness30
Other surgery17
Crime-related injury16
Autoimmune disease13
Medical organization or research11
Medical missions10
Other medical conditions59

Among all cancers identified by the campaigns in San Francisco, breast cancer was the most frequent type. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area and in California, according to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California. However, the rate of breast cancer in the Bay Area has declined in the past decade, the institute found.

GoFundMe San Francisco cancer campaigns

Total128
Type of cancerNumber of campaigns
Breast24
Not specified15
Brain10
Leukemia7
Lung7
Ovarian6
Unspecified cancer or tumor6
Liver5
Pancreatic5
Sarcoma5
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia4
Bone4
Lymphoma4
Stomach3
Other23

Seeking medical debt relief

Online crowdfunding is a fundraising campaign in which family and friends — and sometimes even strangers — give donations. GoFundMe, the largest crowdfunding website, charges a 5% platform fee for donations and a per-transaction processing fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents. Of the approximately $2 billion GoFundMe has raised since its 2010 launch, $930 million has gone toward medical-related campaigns worldwide, according to representatives of the site.

“What’s consistent through all of these campaigns is the willingness by the donors and their friends to want to help,” says Bobby Whithorne, director of strategic communications at GoFundMe. “They want to support someone when their back is up against the wall, and we want to make this process as easy as possible.”

Medical debt is one of the most common kinds of debt outside credit card debt or student debt. In a 2015 survey by The New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 1 in 5 working-age Americans with health insurance reported having difficulty paying medical bills.

If your debt burden is high or your social networks not wide enough, crowdfunding may not produce the money to pay off your bills. In analyzing the 387 campaigns, NerdWallet found funding goals ranging from $1 to $195,000. More reliable avenues for medical debt resolution are to negotiate the payment schedule or file for bankruptcy. First, review your medical billing statements to ensure all charges are accurate. Then, contact your medical provider to begin payment schedule negotiations or hire a medical billing advocate to do the work for you.

“It’s important to open a dialogue with your medical provider before they start taking action that sends the bill off to a third-party debt collector,” says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “There may be arrangements you can make to prevent it from happening as quickly.”

If your unpaid bills have already gone to collections, you need to pay off the debt quickly or declare bankruptcy. While in collections, the missed payments could be sent to a credit reporting agency, which will hurt your credit score — and the longer the collections stay open, the worse off your score will be.

If you pursue bankruptcy, your debt will be wiped clean. Be aware that you won’t be able to exercise this option again for eight years and it will have an immediate negative impact on your credit. However, the debt will be gone and you can begin working on rebuilding your credit. If you’re not sure which choice is best for your situation, consult a personal finance professional or nonprofit credit counseling agency.

Methodology

NerdWallet gathered data on 387 GoFundMe medical crowdfunding campaigns that users identified as based in San Francisco during Oct. 5-7, 2016. We organized campaigns into 13 categories and related subcategories. The “cancer or tumor” category was broken down by type of cancer listed in the subcategory.  

 

Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: anna@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski. Victoria Simons is a data associate at NerdWallet. Email: vsimons@nerdwallet.com.