In Crowdfunding, New Source of Aid After Catastrophe



Matthew Staver for The New York Times

Matthew Staver for The New York Times

By JENNIFER PRESTON, NYT , WYL COLLINS and his wife, Jessie, managed to salvage only a few belongings after Colorado’s devastating floods in September destroyed their home and their T-shirt printing equipment in Lyons, a small town about 15 miles north of Boulder.

A television mounted high on a living room wall escaped the rushing waters from the St. Vrain Creek. But most of their furniture and appliances were buried in piles of mud. The presses, which Mr. Collins used to run his thriving T-shirt screening business from the back of the rented house, were smashed to pieces.

“There is no going back for us,” said Mr. Collins, 44, now living with friends in nearby Longmont. “But we are restarting the business even though we are starting everything from zero.”

With no flood insurance, and limited access to credit and small business loans, Mr. Collins turned to online charitable giving — a crowdfunding platform called GoFundMe — to help raise money to regain his footing.

Just two months since the floods, GoFundMe has helped him generate more than $8,000 in donations from 70 people. Combined with money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for flood damage, Mr. Collins said he had enough to rent space in Longmont with a partner and order a new press and supplies.

“A lot of them are family and friends,” Mr. Collins said of the donors. “Most of the donations, probably half of them, are from clients who want me to go, go, go. About a quarter of them are from complete strangers.”

Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowdfunding platform, began in 2009 as a way for people to contribute, mostly for arts and other creative projects. Since then, more online platforms, including Indiegogo, have popped up, allowing people to raise money for a wider array of projects, as varied as school field trips and global clean water initiatives. Nonprofit organizations like the American Red Cross have used Crowdrise and other online charitable giving platforms to raise funds.


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