More than 23,000 pledges have poured in from all over the world, going to a number of drives NBC News reports.
“All of us were like, ‘How can we help?’” said Leslie Kelly, whose daughter grew up with Jessica Downes, 32 and her new husband Patrick, who both lost a leg. “We felt so helpless. I thought, we can’t all send flowers. I couldn’t sleep all night. I got up the next morning and started a Wells Fargo account and then got the word: You need to do something online.”
Kelly's GiveForward campaign has collected almost $600,000 through more than 11,000 donations for the Downes.
At GoFundMe, 25 separate campaigns have amassed more than $1.5 million, with the largest chunk -- nearly $575,000 so far -- toward the recovery of Jeff Bauman, the 27-year-old man now famous for having lost both his legs but pointed investigators toward the Tsarnaev brothers while still foggy with pen medications in the hospital.
“Crowdfunding is actually very empowering to the donors and supporters,” said GoFundMe chief executive Brad Damphousse. “It’s a way of being part of the solution instead of smoldering about the problem.”
GoFundMe, GiveForward, and a third popular site, YouCaring, all promise to vet each fundraising account for medical victims to police for fraud.
“The thing about crowdfunding is, it’s all based on social proof,” Damphousse said. “There’s so many more eyeballs on these campaigns ... If you’re a bad steward on the Internet, word travels fast.”
“We’ll suspend and investigate the fundraiser after one flag,” said Ethan Austin, co-founder of GiveForward.
While YouCaring is free, GoFundMe and GiveForward takes a cut of each transaction totaling around 8 and 7 percent respectively.
Austin said around two-thirds of donors opt to cover those transaction costs themselves so all money goes to the recipients.
Ken Berger, the president of Charity Navigator, a nonprofit that helps evaluate charities, said that while self-policing does "is better than nothing at all," it 'has its limits."
Berger recommends donating instead of The One Fund Boston, set up by Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino.
The fund will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, who has previously overseen the September 11th fund and the BP oil spill fund.
“That’s part of the reason that scoundrels and thieves are prosperous in a disaster," Berger said, "because the generosity of the American people is phenomenal.”