Never before has it been easier to find and give to a worthy cause. Crowdfunding websites have made it possible for people from every corner of the world with just about any fundraising goal to tap into the virality of social media and promote their cause.

Crowdfunding has taken its share of criticism, especially in the start-up funding arena. But even charitable giving isn’t safe, raising the ire of the social masses, who sometimes accuse donors of armchair philanthropy.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, for example, began with a dare among athletes and grew into a phenomenon that would eventually raise millions for the ALS Association and participants’ other charities of choice. Even so, it was criticized by some for focusing more on the fun than the cause; of raising egos rather than awareness.

Love it or hate it, crowdfunding is here to stay. Here are a few of the most successful charitable crowdfunding campaigns of 2014, from the GoFundMe site:

Parents Fund Daughter’s Clinical Trial with #SavingEliza Campaign

Eliza O’Neill was just 4-years old when she was diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare and incurable neurological disorder that destroys brain cells. Children with the disease lose their ability to walk, talk and feed themselves--they don’t live past their teens.

Eliza’s parents scoured the internet in search of anything that might give their daughter a fighting chance. They found hope in a potential clinical gene therapy trial in Ohio. However, researchers would need $2.5 million to get the trial going.

As the story goes, her father Googled “how to make a viral video” and set about recording a homemade video. They earned a small amount of donations but needed help.

Enter professional filmmaker Benjamin Von Wong, who volunteered his team to document Eliza’s story. The video, with the hashtag #SavingEliza, quickly went viral and spurred $380,000 in donations in the first six months.

Today, Eliza’s campaign has been active 14 months and raised just over $1.8 million to help fund the clinical trial that could save her life.

Hope for a Home Raises $413,000 for Paralyzed Cancer Survivor

At 22, Melissa Smith was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. After fighting cancer twice, the 29-year old survivor experienced another life altering setback when she was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis. The rare disease caused a loss of sensation in her limbs and within 3 weeks, Smith was paraplegic. Instead of attending the nursing program she’d been accepted into, she became confined to her third-floor apartment.

Her sister Stephanie went on a campaign to get help. Smith’s most pressing need was a full accessible home; one in which she could move freely and hang on to the independence she hadn’t yet lost.

Website Chive was inspired to feature Smith’s story, even though as her sister noted, TM isn’t a “popular” disease.

In just 14 months, over 12,000 donors have helped raise $413,000 through the Hope for a Home campaign.

Americans Open Their Hearts--and Wallets--for Cassidy Stay

It’s difficult to imagine a more terrible tragedy for a young woman. Cassidy Stay is the sole survivor of her uncle’s July 9th rampage in Spring, Texas, which left six of her family members dead. Fifteen-year old Cassidy suffered a skull fracture in the attack and was forced to pretend she, too, was dead.

However, the heroic young woman got up as soon as she was able and called 911, to warn police of her attacker’s intention to kill more family members.

Campaign organizers noted that Cassidy would need major financial support in the foreseeable future. Many donors have signed on with monthly pledges, to ensure the funding continues.

To date, the Cassidy Stay Fund has raised over $406,000 to help a young woman who certainly needs and deserves it.

Ferguson Storeowner Pays It Forward After Crowdfunders Show of Support

Natalie Dubose was devastated after the Ferguson, Missouri protests. The owner of Natalie’s Cakes and More saw her livelihood destroyed when the bake shop she had just opened this past summer was vandalized by rioters. Her windows were smashed and the interior of her business ruined.

A friend told Natalie to start a GoFundMe campaign to solicit help in rebuilding. The online community responded in a huge way--over 8,000 donors pitched in almost $270,000 to the Natalie’s Cakes and More Fund.

Her campaign attracted the attention of celebrities like Patricia Heaton and Brandi Glanville. In the first 20 hours alone, almost $100,000 was raised.

The shop owner kept her community up to date throughout the short life of the campaign and in a recent notice, appealed to funders to use any further donations to help other storeowners in her community.

Social philanthropy may have its detractors, but you can’t argue with results! Did you support a worthy crowdfunded cause this year? Share yours in the comments below.

Published on: Jan 2, 2015
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