GoFundMe website allows you to use power of social media to raise money for your cause

CLEVELAND - Social media is changing the way we give back to others.

In the days and weeks after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the families created websites and online platforms for people to donate money. No matter where you live or what you need money for, it's easier than ever to raise money through the power of social media.

Ryan Fischer's heart and soul belongs to music.

"I use that music as a ministry to go out and touch people to let them know there is hope in the world," Fischer said.

His lyrics share that message of hope. A recent song about tough times and getting knocked down took on new meaning a few months later when Fischer was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

"As my wife and I were walking out of a treatment I said 'You know what? That song was written for myself and I didn't know it at the time,'" Fischer said.

Fischer's time is now spent battling chemotherapy. The road is rocky and uncertain.

"During the course of this I had to resign from my job because I was unable to do my job," Fischer said.

Now, the man whose mission is to give to others, needs someone to give to him. His wife set up a donation page on the site, GoFundMe.

"Within five minutes people were giving that I didn't even know. I was just in tears," Fischer said.

The site is full of sad stories like medical issues and sick dogs. There are also happy and hopeful stories like a concert tailgate or a Canton educator looking to buy an iPad Mini for his third graders. The technology will allow the students to sharpen their skills in a way that's not possible with pencils and paper.

"When I told the students and staff members I had this idea, they were skeptical. They wished me luck," said Jonathan Shaw.

The fundraising effort is only as successful as your message and social media footprint. It's called crowdfunding.

"I didn't expect it to be this powerful," Shaw said.

Donations are pouring in from all over the United States from people Shaw doesn't even know.

Crowdfunding etiquette

"I think anytime you raise money for a cause it's a beautiful thing," said Colleen Harding of The Cleveland School of Etiquette and Corporate Protocol.

However, Harding said you need to be careful.

"Social media has opened the door for bad behavior and I am skeptical," Harding said.

Do your homework. Give to causes you know are legitimate, and will use your money for the stated mission.

"I recommend you pick a few causes you are passionate about and stay loyal. Otherwise you will find yourself in a sea of charity," Harding said.

The charitable effort in Shaw's classroom is just beginning. Students are excited for the new technology, and Shaw hopes to raise enough money to buy iPad Minis for the entire school next year.

Next year, Fischer hopes he can get back to sharing his music and message.

"I guess you can get up and get living or just fall down and start to die. I chose to live," Fischer said.

When you're giving, you also need to consider how much of your money will go toward the bottom line. GoFundMe charges fees for using its platform.

In most cases, there is a 5 percent transaction fee from the site, plus there are PayPal fees of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction.

So, on the average $100 donation, the person in need gets $91.80.

If the GoFundMe page is for a certified charity, the fees are slightly different.

Potential tax liabilities

Certified public accountant Howard Kass is a Partner with Zinner & Co.. He said if you are raising money for a personal need there is no recognition of income, but the money would be deemed a gift. If the gift exceeds $14,000, then you may have to file a gift tax return.

If you raise the money for a business venture, there are other questions that need to be answered to determine the potential tax liability. Check with a CPA if you have questions.

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