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Whistlerite blasts GoFundMe after administrative snafu

Campaign for Australian wildfire relief resurrected after more than $26,000 disappeared from the page
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A local fundraising initiative for Australian wildfire relief has run into some challenges thanks to some administrative issues with GoFundMe. Left to right, organizers Deborah Bordignon, Simon Stribling, and Zoey Cotton. Photo submitted

A high-profile Whistler fundraiser for Australian wildfire relief hit a major stumbling block because of an administrative issue with GoFundMe, a popular crowdsourcing tool that was being used to collect donations.

As of Feb. 5, a local group had raised $26,401 for Wildfire Victoria thanks in large part to a silent auction that was held at the GLC in January. But later that day, Zoey Cotton—who organized the fundraiser in coordination with Simon Stribling, Deborah Bordignon and Andy Flynn—watched with horror when the group’s GoFundMe account was reduced to nothing after the company refunded all of the donors.

GoFundMe and WePay, its online payment partner, require email verification of accounts within 30 days, and Cotton later learned that she hadn’t completed the process.

And while Cotton was insistent that she hadn’t received any email reminders or warnings, GoFundMe told her that it had sent them, she said. On Wednesday, GoFundMe revisited that position following a request from CBC News to see verification.

A spokesperson acknowledged the administrative oversight in an email to Pique.

“The campaign organizer was notified during the sign-up process, but was not properly receiving reminders over the course of the 30 days,” wrote the spokesperson. "Our team is currently investigating this issue.

“We apologize and GoFundMe is working closely with Zoey Cotton to contact all donors multiple times over the next 30 days and encourage everyone to make their donation again.”

Cotton said that she was happy to see her GoFundMe page re-launched on Wednesday, Feb. 12, and thrilled to see that many people were re-pledging money. As of Thursday, Feb. 13, at 12 p.m. the page has already collected $11,000 in donations.

That said, Cotton said that GoFundMe has not properly taken ownership of the issue, and has declined to acknowledge its administrative oversight in its emails to donors.

“It would have been really nice if they just took a bit of ownership of what happened with everybody that donated,” said Cotton.

Cotton said that seeing the company’s acknowledgement turn up in the CBC News story was a real relief.

“It's been a whole week of me thinking that I was going crazy, constantly checking my deleted items, my spam,” she said. “It's been very exhausting.”

She said that overall she has been extremely disappointed with GoFundMe’s communications approach.

“It’s funny how they will get back to CBC but they won't get back to me,” she said.

The Whistler Helps Australia GoFundMe page can be found at: www.gofundme.com/f/whistler-helps-australia.




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