Tips for Crowdfunding Bail & Bond
We are in the middle of developing the Support.fm platform, but organizers still need to fundraise for bail and bond. In the past couple weeks alone, multiple groups of organizers have reached out to us wondering about the cheapest and most secure existing platform through which to raise money for bail or bond. These campaigns are urgent—just a few days can prevent against significant emotional and physical trauma, as well as the risk of deportation. While the existing options aren't ideal, it does save time to have all the info about different platforms in one place; so, we put together a quick resource list to help with navigating the fees, regulations, and risks associated with the most popular crowdfunding platforms used by organizers.
Like anything else, crowdfunding is a competitive market—the internet is flush with for-profit platforms that specialize in everything from app development to entrepreneurship to medical expenses to “charity.”
There are some crowdfunding platforms (like Fundable or CauseVox, for example) that sell websites with a fundraising capacity to organizations as a monthly subscription, but those subscriptions are expensive and definitely not realistic for most groups or collectives trying to rapidly raise bail and bond money. If you're going to use a crowdfunding site, it probably makes the most sense to use one of the services that markets itself as charitable (though, in reality, most of them still charge a fee).
Below, we’ll break down the processing fees incurred through the primary charitable crowdfunding platforms, as well as their terms of service and use as they pertain to bail, bond, and other legal fees. We'll also share the fees of the payment processors themselves, which most of these sites use to accept payments. Finally, we offer some takeaways for how to best prevent these platforms from shutting down your campaigns for bail and bond.
"Charitable" Crowdfunding Sites
Fees—Crowdrise markets itself as a not-for-profit crowdfunding platform for individuals, entities, and charities, but they do take a cut of the money raised through their service. The fee depends on whether the campaign is run by an individual or a charity:
Individual: “The per transaction platform fee is 5.9% + credit card fees of 2.9% + $0.30”
Charities: “The per transaction platform fee is 5.9% for the Tre ($50/month plan) and 6.8% for the Fiver (free plan) + credit card fees of 2.9%+$0.30."
Tre and Fiver are the two pricing plans for Charities that wish to subscribe to the service
In section 6.1.12 of General Terms Crowdrise bans the creation of a fundraising campaign “involving legal disputes or legal issues.” That being said, you can create a fundraiser on CrowdRise to "support an individual in unfortunate circumstances" or “someone dealing with hard times” so long as you don’t mention the exact legal proceedings or accusations against the person you’re supporting.
Fees—GoFundMe deducts a 5% fee plus a processing fee of about 3% and $0.30 from each donation you receive. International fees range from 6.9% to 7.9% depending on the country. Charities pay a 5% platform fee and a 4.25% fee to FirstGiving.
In other words, don’t run campaigns to raise money for bail, bond, commissary, or pre-trial legal fees on GoFundMe! They are likely to get shut down unless you make a point of leaving out language which indicates the nature of your campaign...and, even if you're careful, someone might report your campaign.
Fees—the site states that it operates for free (meaning it doesn’t profit off of campaigns), but the site’s payment processor charges “3% + 30 cents on every donation to manage the transfer of funds from the accounts of donors to the accounts of organizers.”
While this doesn’t explicitly ban campaigns raising money for bail, bond, or legal fees, it does leave room for the platform to respond to complaints against campaigns fundraising on behalf of people who have “broken the law,” however that’s understood. In other words, depending on the infraction or accusation, there’s a chance that campaigns supporting people accused of “violent crimes” might be shut down (because of cultural biases against people facing these kinds accusations, and because of assumptions about the risk-factor in freeing them.)
Fees—YouCaring doesn’t charge administrative or service fees, but donors have the option of supporting operations. YouCaring used PayPal and WePay for third-party payment processing; those processors charge 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.
Fees—buying is “free” and selling is 2.9% + $0.30 per sale. In other words, the recipient of the money pays the processing fee. But sending money to friends and family is free, so that's the best payment option to select.
Fees—Stripe charges 2.9% plus 30 cents per successful card charge. If you register with Stripe as an enterprise, different rules apply (contact Stripe here to learn more about that process).
Final Takeaways for Organizers
- Some platforms are more explicit than others about barring campaigns for bail, bond, and other legal fees; avoid those sites, because the likelihood is you’ll get reported, lose time, and maybe lose money.
- Since all crowdfunding sites claim to follow the laws of whatever jurisdiction a campaign is being hosted in, research the particular rules and regulations about posting bail or bond in your county. Does your county mandate that only friends and family are permitted to post bail for someone being detained? Then don’t verbally state you’re raising money for someone you haven’t met! Are you fundraising on behalf of a non-profit, but you live in a state where charitable bail funds are the only organizations permitted to post bail? Don’t verbally state your organizational affiliation!
- As with the rest of the world, crowdfunding sites tend to uphold standards and morals about what constitutes crime and danger. I.e. it's less likely that a campaign to raise bail for someone arrested during protest will get shut down than, for example, a campaign to raise bail for someone with a felony charge. Use what you know about respectability politics and cultural biases to tailor your campaigns away from content that's likely to get shut down.
- Most crowdfunding sites just use existing payment processors, like Stripe and PayPal, for their transactions. The processing fee you pay actually comes from the processing technologies themselves. So if you don’t need the amplification of a crowdfunding page (i.e. if you can write an accompanying post on a blog, in a publication, or on social media) it might make sense to directly use a payment processor and avoid additional costs, regulations, and risk.
- Overall: Crowdrise and GoFundMe are the most popular charitable crowdfunding sites, with the most visitor traffic, but they both charge usage fees on top of processing fees. YouCaring only charges processing fees. But all three explicitly ban fundraising for bail, bond, and other legal fees...so be tricky, strive for illegibility, and don’t say exactly what you’re fundraising for on the campaign page itself!
*If you have any specific questions about how to research rules and regulations on bail in your county, feel free to reach out to [email protected]