Nearly two years after making the move to full-time self-employment, I have received a breast cancer diagnosis at age forty. I previously shared this information in April’s quarterly newsletter. Since making the decision to be public about this experience, I am now posting about it on my business blog. I am doing so in hopes of reaching more potential donors. I also encourage readers to share my campaign on a regular basis to social media. Another fantastic way to help is by sharing my story on your own blog. Feel free to use any text and pictures I’ve posted for my GoFundMe breast cancer campaign. Sidebar widgets and bulletin board signs are available as well. Here today I will offer some tips for using the site based on my experience.
Cancer has proven a marvelous motivator in lighting a fire under my reluctant writer’s butt. That is why I have chosen to write such detailed updates for my GoFundMe breast cancer campaign. Those thousand or so words a week are working wonders to help keep my mental outlook in check. I plan to post for a year, and by doing do, in the end I will have over 50,000 words. I’ve decided I will then compile the entries into a book. The whole ordeal has actually brought much-needed focus to my personal writing path. I have deemed myself a better editor than writer for years, but it’s time to get over that mental block. I’m a damned good writer and know it.
My updates are being published as The Abandoned Boob Chronicles. You can read all about my experience there, but do take a few minutes to watch the video below. One great thing about being a former English teacher is knowing so many talented former students. Sara Greyfox did a great job on my video, and she is also available for book trailers and many other types of creative projects. You can view her creative portfolio on her website saragreyfox.com.
My financial situation is indeed a bit precarious. Being a chemo-ridden editor is a bit of a hard sell to new clients. Please know I am still able to do excellent work, I just require more time than usual to account for the random days when overwhelming fatigue puts me in nap mode. Regular clients have been quite understanding. I’m far from being homeless, but I am a one-woman show with bills to pay. I started this year with projects booked three months in advance for the first time ever. A cancer diagnosis has meant I lost the momentum needed to stay booked in advance.
I am fortunate to have good health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. One of the three types of chemo I am being given over the course of five months comes in at $7,000 a pop. So four cycles came to $28,000. After meeting my reasonable deductible, out-of-pocket expenses, and monthly premiums, the goal of my GoFundMe breast cancer campaign is to meet living expenses such as mortgage payments and groceries. Plus, my work laptop is four years old now and is nearing its last legs. The updates I’m posting are not just about having cancer. Your editor has had a stranger-than-fiction life story, and I would like to be able to also give back to the therapist who has been seeing me for two years now as her pro bono case.
Pointers to Share from My GoFundMe Breast Cancer Campaign
GoFundMe is a crowdfunding site used to primarily raise money for personal expenses. The medical category sees the most action, but people use it to raise money for honeymoons, tuition, etc. The sky’s the limit. Many other crowdfunding sites exist and you can read more on the topic in my post 5 Reasons to Crowdfund Your Next Book.
Platform: The most obvious reason to go with GoFundMe for personal fundraising is brand recognition and trust. Even for someone who understands the ins and out of how to effectively launch and run a social media campaign, most donors will gravitate toward sharing links from a site with a well-known name. GoFundMe deducts a 5% fee from each donation. WePay deducts 2.9% + $0.30 per donation. The site only accepts credit card payments, not PayPal. So even though I have a website in place, or could have created an author website to serve as my fundraising hub, I opted not to use PayPal’s donate button or a PayPal.me link. Even if a campaign doesn’t reach its goal, users can withdraw funds at any time.
Message: It should go without saying, but the more personable and detailed your message the better. It’s no wonder why hastily written campaigns with only one sub-par image garner little response. Be sure to be specific about what you will use the funds for. Rewards can be set up if desired. It’s important to note as well GoFundMe is not a site people tend to browse. Visitors come to the site when they see links shared on social media. Like all else online, not much traction will be gained unless you have an audience of family and friends who will share your posts. Don’t be bashful either about encouraging people to share. This is the one time in my life I have ever truly asked for help. It’s an awkward and empowering experience all in one.
Updates: Regular updates allow donors as well as new and old visitors a chance to follow your journey. What GoFundMe doesn’t seem to make explicit is that each update can only be 7,500 characters, which is about 1,200 words. Images can be added to updates, but they appear at the end of the post and cannot be inserted between text. Also, hyperlinks cannot be added to updates. If you’re used to blogging platforms such as WordPress, you will find the interface simple and somewhat clunky, but again, the site is about trust and brand recognition. I find it most frustrating that the updates are not given individual URLs.
Offline Donations: Donors who wish to send cash, check, or payment via PayPal may do so and the amount can then be manually added to the tally on the website. This is a way to get around the service fees GoFundMe charges. However, even if you add the donor’s email address to the donation box and send them a thank you note, the email address does not get added to the campaign contact list maintained by the website.
Mailing List: I did some legwork before I started my campaign such as individually messaging most of my Facebook friends. Perhaps one in five thought my account had been hacked when I asked if I could email some medical news. Even if I wasn’t doing a GoFundMe breast cancer campaign, I felt it was important to deliver such health news to one person at a time before throwing it into my Facebook feed. Beyond that, I started an Excel spreadsheet to compile email addresses. There is a gray area when it comes to adding people to such a mailing list. It’s not like a blog subscription, and I made the decision not to use MailChimp. I send a plain-text mass email where I make sure to blind copy all of the email addresses to keep them private. I am only adding people I am somehow acquainted with in order to send one monthly email that is separate from the weekly emails that go out to campaign donors. I also make sure to state I won’t take it personally if anyone wants to be removed from the list. Is this a lot of work? Yes. However, I made it a third of the way to my $25,000 goal in one month. That would not have happened by merely sharing my link to Facebook.
Other Thoughts: It’s important to keep in mind your life emergency is front and center in your life, but not in those who see it online. Be grateful for those who donate and share, gently educate on best sharing practices when possible, and continue to look for ways to spread your message. Now that I don’t have as much client work to tend to, managing my campaign and writing updates has simply been incorporated into my workday. Chemo affects everyone differently, and I am relatively young and healthy (persnickety tumor aside). My side effects have been manageable. It’s not a walk in the park, but the worst thing I could do would be to become a couch potato. So even though fatigue is an issue, I am able to work from home and at any time of the day or night. Not all people are that lucky.
Sidebar Widgets and Bulletin Board Signs: If you would like to embed a sidebar widget on your website or print some signs to hang on bulletin boards in your community, please scroll to the very bottom of the main story or updates. To the side of the sharing buttons for Facebook and Twitter, you will see a white button with a plus sign on it. Click that to access those options.
If you haven’t already, please visit The Abandoned Boob Chronicles to read my story. Thank you. I’ve found sharing news of my cancer diagnosis much easier than sharing the particulars of growing up with a bipolar mother or being abandoned by an addict of an ex-husband. Cancer has touched so many lives that it carries less fear and stigma than mental illness and addiction. However, I am compelled to weave all parts of my experience into my story because it’s my past that has made me strong. Stories connect us, and I am not afraid to share mine. For the first time in my life, I finally have a true sense of my writing path.
Have you ever used a crowdfunding site? How did it go? What tips or pointers can you share? Feel me to ask me about my cancer journey as well.
I’d like to thank Christy Birmingham, Alessando Tinchini, and D.G. Kaye for their touching posts. My interview Jeri Walker on Kicking Ass, Writing, and Curveballs posted last week on Duke Stewart Writes. Yet other bloggers like Marquita Herald and Glynis Jolly have added sidebar widgets to their website to link to my GoFundMe breast cancer campaign. In coming months, I will do my best to keep track and link to these efforts. I cannot express my appreciation enough. There is so much strength and support to be round in online communities.
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2017.