With the rise of social websites and communities, the proliferation of online requests for money has exploded. You can pretty much ask for money to cover everything from making potato salad to the next blockbuster movie. Even Kanye West has managed to jump on the bandwagon to ask that we, the great unwashed, please help him get out of $53 million of self-inflicted debt.
On a more serious note, well-intentioned friends have been very quick to see Go Fund Me as a solution to help ease a family’s financial burden from the sudden loss of a loved one. I can’t even count the number of Go Fund Me accounts set up to help “assist with funeral expenses.” Problem is, there may be unintended consequences to what, on the surface, appears to be a well-meaning gesture of assistance.
In British Columbia, if someone dies with no financial assets (or less than $5,000, no home and no investments), they are covered under the Ministry of Housing and Social Development Burial (or cremation) Program. Simply put, there is money available for a funeral. However, if someone has set up a Go Fund Me account, their eligibility for the program is often denied.
The other concern is that many people can’t access Go Fund Me money in a timely manner. Expect to wait several weeks or months to have a cheque in hand. (Minus the fees associated with these accounts of course.)
Compounding the issue is that a death can be a long and lingering event. Often a family has drained existing resources and may be on income support, or even disability pensions. A Go Fund Me account puts all of that at risk, as it can be perceived as income. Suddenly, the best of intentions can actually add to, not alleviate, a family’s financial woes.
For funeral directors, Go Fund Me can also paint an unflattering picture. Many funeral home owners and managers offer discounted or even free services to families in the greatest need – and we’re happy to do it. But to serve a family at no charge and then see a Go Fund Me account to pay for funeral expenses makes the funeral director seem like a jerk. No one wants to be the jerk funeral director.
If you really want to help families in need, a grocery card, cash or even an offer to do some household chores can go a long way toward easing the burden. Allow the systems in place to work before resorting to Go Fund Me. This way, acts of kindness needn’t become another burden grieving families have to carry.