E10 – Starting a GoFundMe page with Munira Zahabi
In this episode I speak with Munira, who had a GoFundMe page.
It was started for her by someone else, and we have a great talk about helping others, and how to know what kind of charities and fundraising to support.
I hope you enjoy the episode.
The transcribed version of the interview is available further down.
Diana: In today’s episode of Fun with Fundraising. We are speaking with, or I am speaking with Munira Zahabi. Welcome, Munira.
Munira: Thank you so much, Diana. I appreciate you having me on your show.
Diana: Thank you for wanting to join me. I am very much looking forward to hearing your story. So, I would like to start off just by hearing, who are you, and what got you into fundraising?
Munira: My name is Munira Zahabi and I am an international coach speaker, author, and I’ve been doing this for almost four years. What got me into fundraising was the fact that you know, three years ago, my husband was dying. You know what turned out to be a routine, regular, yearly checkup. They told us to go see a neurologist and by the time we got to the neurologist’s office, it was eight months later, and he had other complications but the worst one he had was diabetes. And the first appointment we had was August of 2018 and the physician told us that she wanted us to look into different avenues of how we’re going to do dialysis and was it’s going to be at home or was it going to be in a facility. And as usual, as we all go through the five pillars and I was in denial completely. I didn’t want that to happen.
Diana: Okay. So, he had kidney failure?
Munira: Yeah. He had kidney failure. So, at that time it wasn’t that apparent, but I was completely in denial and I had not worked because he had been sick on and off. So, I had just stopped working in 2017. I started worrying how are we going to take care of the expenses? What are we going to do? And, you know, it’s worrisome when your partner is sick when you have this kind of news. I was beside myself. My husband was calm, collected, but I knew he was worried, but he didn’t show it. I was the jitter box that, oh my God, what’s going to happen. How’s that going to happen? And I was sitting at a place where we were shown videos on what the different dialyses were and the lady says, you know, there are some people who do fundraising and there are people out there in the world who want to help.
The first thing in my head was somebody out there can donate a kidney to my husband and that would be the end of my problems. I went on Facebook and I started posting on how my feelings were. As a coach, I have to be very apparent. I have to be vulnerable. So, I just kind of shed all that and became very humble and she shared my husband’s issues with the world. Now I have 5,000 people that are following me on Facebook and people were just beside themselves. Then a man out there in the world said, why don’t you open up a GoFundMe page? My whole reason to tell the world that he had issues was because I wanted them
(1) to see the journey that I was on and
(2) I wanted somebody to say, I’m going to donate you a kidney.
That was the whole reason, but that didn’t happen because somebody somewhere opened up a GoFundMe account for me and he asked me my email. He created the account, and everything started coming to me. So, people started giving us money, $20 here, $5, whatever they could give. There was no limit and within, I want to say six months, I had a bucket of about $3,000.
Diana: That’s, that’s quite something from people you don’t even know as well.
Munira: It is. It is because I know no people are generous. There are people who want to give advice, people who want to stay on the sidelines and not do anything, and then there are people who say I am thinking of giving. I just haven’t gotten around to it and they never do. And then there are people who just without a thought in the world will give. See, I had been around fundraising ever since I was a kid in school. When I went to school, we were given stickers, or we were given tins that people would put their loose change in and that was a sort of a fundraiser.
Then as I grew older and I went out with my parents to parties and stuff where people were fundraising for some kind of a cause and the one I remember was this one young lady whose heart was outside her body and we had gone to this dinner party and they were collecting money from people who are able to give and they could send this child to the UK for surgery. Now, this is a long time ago, but it’s apparent that people want to give, but the cause has to be right.
Diana: So, what do you think, because that’s, for one amazing that people want to give, but what, was it that made them give in your case for your husband and was it the connection to you or was it only followers or did it spread even more to people that you don’t know?
Munira: I think people just wanted to help me. It wasn’t something that I was asking of them. I didn’t even know how to create a page and you know, right now the fundraiser is still up on the website. I just don’t know how to get to it. However, we’ve stopped asking for money because my husband passed away this January.
Diana: I’m sorry to hear that.
Munira: Thank you. So, the question is, you know, why do people give? People give because they believe in a cause. They believe in the person asking and we see this all the time when political candidates are asking for money. People who believe in their cause will write them a big check and in my case, it just seems, it was the goodness of the heart. Now there are people that had been friends forever on my Facebook page but had never said anything to me. You know how you get them on the feed and then you connect with them and then nothing happens.
Those were the people that came out of the woodwork to just give and it was very, very shocking when the first time I got an email saying you need to move the funds and I’m like, what funds?
So, I called up the Go Fund people and said, what are you talking about? She goes, didn’t you open this? Aren’t you this person? So, she directed me into it all of this and I was like, wow, I knew who had done it. So, I told them that it was done for me by somebody else and she was very shocked because most people open up their GoFundMe page. Four and a half years ago. I was thinking of joining a coaching. group. I wanted to become a coach and you need a coach to become a coach. As I was going through the possibilities of figuring out how I’m going to pay for this program, the lady who was making the sales told me that I should open up a GoFundMe page.
So, when my husband’s GoFundMe page was open I started looking at different causes. People have a GoFundMe page because they want to go on vacation. People who want to have their teeth straightened, have fundraising going on. People who want to buy a boat, they have fundraising going on. So, there are all kinds of fundraising that happens and sometimes it works because people just want to give out, just give, and then there are some people who just don’t want to do that.
Two days ago, in the news, I saw somebody had opened up a GoFundMe page for a person who was selling hot dogs and he was in Miami, near the beach and because of the storms and everything, he lost his whole cart and the refrigerator and everything that went with it. So, somebody opened up a GoFundMe page for them and he had collected $40,000.
Munira: So, you know, people want to give. This is something that people want to do but it has to be right. The cause has to be right. I think the timing has to be right.
Diana: I think you’re totally right. You said that you looked through the GoFundMe page and saw that there are all of these different kinds of causes to donate to. Do you have any idea which ones were popular and which ones were not? Because I would think that it’s maybe not as popular to fundraise for a boat as it is for helping someone who’s ill. Did you notice?
Munira: You know, most of the ones that I have looked at were, you know, medical or memorial, somebody had passed away and they needed money for funeral because funerals are expensive. So, life causes, right. There are some people who are just a nonprofit and want to do some good in the world. What about education? People want to help people to go to school or help people with supplies or, you know, just give.
I was involved in another, not really involved, but I was helping this other gentleman who lives in Tanzania, and what he does is he goes around helping the albino kids in Kenya and Tanzania where these albino kids are considered magical or evil, depends on the tribe that is there. And what happens there is these kids are killed because of their color and so he goes there, and he has started an orphanage to help people save these children.
So, he takes the children from their parents because the parents don’t have a way to save them and, you know, these kids are either kidnapped or killed when they’re out in the open because of the magical powers they possess, which is, we all know not true. But still, there are some tribes in that part of the world who believe such things. So, it all depends but there are people who are raising money for a boat and for a vacation, you know, you name it.
Diana: It’s really interesting to see and if people want to give to that, that’s also great, right? That’s up to whoever holds the money, what they want to donate to, and what they want to support.
Munira: It comes down to three things, right. So, the person who needs the money has to initiate a campaign and they have to ask for it in such a way that it makes sense to the person who is reading the campaign. Once they have the initiation completed, they have to then implement to see if this idea is going to take and how people are going to see their idea and what they’re going to do. The other thing is they have to execute it because sometimes we just sit here and say, oh, I need to do a fundraiser for this, this and this and we will never do anything about it. The whole thing is okay, just get it into a plan and execute.
It’s the same way for the person reading the campaign. They would look at the campaign and they would say, hey, is this something where I want my money to go? Should I open up my wallet and take out my credit card and should I just put in my credit card and give some money?
Munira: The three steps are initiate, implement, and execute.
Diana: That makes so much sense. So, okay if we look at that framework, you had someone else actually initiate the GoFundMe for you guys. But when you figure out it was there; did you do anything to market it? Did you do anything to have people be aware of it and tell them about the campaign?
Munira: I did a few times. I sent out, apparently, you can go into Facebook and send out a notification for people to have the link and everything and I would just share it on Facebook, but that’s all I did. I think I did that about three times. That’s it.
Diana: Who wrote the thing that was saying you have to have a good story behind it right too or tell it in the right way to kind of have people want to donate money. So, who wrote that story for you? Who wrote your story in the GoFundMe? Was that the person who also made the site or was it in collaboration with you?
Munira: He created the page. He wrote some of the story and then he asked me to fix it once I was aware of it. So, I did go in and fix it. He was like, let’s see, you know, you’re not asking for money. You are making them aware. But if you tell them that in not so many words that you need a kidney transplant, maybe somebody out there is going to be a match.
Diana: I’m thinking it’s a really good way, you’ve done kind of make people aware of an issue. I don’t think you’re allowed to in Denmark start a campaign like this, like a GoFundMe thing, I think you have to actually have to have that approved by the government. So, this is just kind of if people are listening and thinking, this is a really good idea, it really is. But remember to check up with your local authorities, if you are allowed to do this kind of fundraising to a personal benefit because there might be some restrictions on that.
Munira: The gentleman in Tanzania who has always, you know, helps the albinos he couldn’t open up a GoFundMe page in his country. So, he was asking people like me to open up a page for him here so people would be aware.
Diana: There will still be something. He needed to get the money somehow right.
Munira: Yeah. So, that became a problem because he had already contacted a person in the UK, and they were doing it for him and then transfer of the money was becoming a problem because he had collected a lot of money. So, I looked into all of that and I said, you know, you need to find a nonprofit who’s going to believe in your cause and then I had him look at the Rotary Clubs here because they have a good reach. People like the Lion’s Club and the Rotary Clubs, and then he was in contact with them. So, I didn’t actually open up a page for him. I asked him to connect with people who had the reach. So, there’s also another way that they can do that.
Diana: That’s a really good idea actually. But that’s also the thing, right, that everything is a lot of the time connections and you say, you didn’t do a lot for your GoFundMe page yourself. But you had a network, you had followers, you had people who wanted to help. So, it made sense that there would come in a really nice amount of money for you guys to pay for everything or pay part of what expenses you had because of the network that you already had and the help you have from people.
Munira: The thing with Facebook, you can either say you wanted to be an anonymous donor, or you wanted your name to show up. There were only very few people who were anonymous donors, but there were people out there who wanted to pay the money, and here’s the thing, in America if you donate the money they can write it off as a tax write-off so they could see that. But then there were other people out there who I didn’t even know, and I don’t even know to this day. So, what we did was my daughter had a list compiled, and then she reached out to all of them to say, you know, thank you for helping us. My stepfather has passed away. Is there anywhere you want this money to go? And they were like, no, let your mom just have it. Most of them just said that.
Diana: Oh, that’s really nice. So, you said that the page is still open, so people can still actually donate towards you or?
Munira: The page is still open, but we’ve withdrawn our application.
Diana: Okay. Okay. So, could you tell us a little bit about the amount of money, what was the highest amount one person would contribute to your account? Do you know that?
Munira: We had a lot of people who paid about $100 but other than that, everybody was 20, 50, 20, 25 50, so.
Diana: Okay, but that’s also, I’m thinking that everything counts right. So, even if people can only contribute a little bit.
Munira: You know, you say that because I had a lady out in Nigeria and she wanted to donate to my cause, so she figured out a way to pay me $5, you know. I knew she was having her own financial difficulties, but she also found time and a way to donate to my cause which was just something that I had never thought anybody would do because you know, sometimes you have difficulties in taking out with what you have. It just gave me a sense of humility and I was so thankful to her. So, people want to give, like I said, if the cause is right.
Diana: Yeah, I think it’s amazing and also because it might even have a deeper meaning because you know that so much went into this for her compared to someone who easily would donate maybe $20. But because you know she was struggling herself that might mean a bit more.
Munira: Yes, yes.
Diana: Let’s say that you were going to advise someone who was in a similar position that you were in, what would you say to them when you’re thinking about starting some kind of fundraising?
Munira: Somebody who has a health issue?
Diana: Yeah. Someone who, let’s say for example my husband is ill as well. So, what would you advise me to do? Because what I’m doing is I am raising fundraising for the MS Society. So, I’ve chosen a bit of a different path on it, but if I wanted it to do something else, for personal medical bill coverage or something like that what would you advise me to do?
Munira: Each person has a different path in their life, but I would say that do your homework. Understand that your money, the one that you’re collecting is going to the right research because many times we see, you know, so much money has been collected but it doesn’t go to the right cause and we never know the accountability of the money. You are collecting money for your husband’s bills or are you collecting money for the MS Society?
Diana: I’m collecting money from the Society because we can’t do the other thing. I’m just curious to know if I was going to start again, GoFundMe campaign what would your advice be on that? What would you think would be a good idea for anyone who was going to start a GoFundMe? I’m asking for your advice based on your experience with the GoFundMe campaign that you guys had.
Munira: My advice to you would be you have a legitimate cause right. So, keeping that cause in mind, you want to start a campaign by asking people what their thoughts are and if they can help you. Because like I said, there are so many different causes. I’ve seen people open up a GoFundMe page and people have donated up to $25,000 for a vacation. So, do you really want that to happen with your cause? I mean, do you want people to overlook it? Most people are successful because they’re very, very open about the case. Here this is what’s happening, and this is how they can help me. So, if you can help, my husband gets some kind of treatment it would be easier.
Like I said, people want to help, but you just have to be open and the message has to resonate with the people. There’s a lot of people who want to give. Truthfully, I really did not think anybody would give me money because the whole underlying ideology was the fact that I wanted somebody to give them a kidney and I didn’t ask for it. But this friend of mine said how are you going to pay for all of this? That is an underlying question because there’s a lot of things that go into taking care of a person.
In America, my husband qualified for Medicare, which is something that he gets, and they give it to him because based on his kidney issues. So, his whole treatment was covered. I didn’t know at the time when we first started this, but my question is, you know, figure out what you want to do. There are so many people, what your initiative is, and how this money is going to be spent. If you are open about that, I think people will donate.
Diana: That makes sense and, there was I’m guessing a nice surprise that the medical bills were covered by the insurance.
Munira: You know, there are a lot of things that we don’t know about life, especially the fact that we don’t know how to navigate the system and there are so many hidden treasures that we don’t know about. So, my suggestion to people who are in the US you know, do something about it. Do your research. Even for you, Diana, you have to do your research as to how this money is going. Some people asking for money all the time. You have churches, you have political leaders, everybody is asking for a handout. What you want to do is ask for a hand up because you want to get out of the situation that you are in and that’s the thing.
The fact of the matter is, you know, I’ve seen fundraisers for dogs who have tumors, and we all know that vet bills are high if you are an animal lover. So, you know the vet bills are going to be high. What about the fact that somebody has cancer, or somebody has, you know, to fix teeth? I mean, most of it is personal, but what about if you start having a fundraiser for somebody else?
Like this fellow started it for me. He didn’t think about it for me, he thought about my husband. He had met my husband one time and he opened up the GoFundMe. He says, let’s see, because somebody out there may have a kidney. I don’t know if I would have received a kidney, but there was traction because then towards late 2019 I started getting a lot of people asking me how he was doing, what was doing. So, I had to post an update all the time. So, people who want to give, also want to know updates.
They want to know that their money went to a good cause and then when I told people that he passed away, I just put a post on there that he had passed away. Oh, the response was overwhelming because they were just sad for me and with me. I got flowers from people I didn’t even know. So, it was really amazing that people want to give, and then through GoFundMe, some people found that out and they were putting some money in the GoFundMe page and then I asked my friend to close it because I said, it’s not right that I take my money. This go fund had started up for his kidney fund and I don’t want to take money for his funeral. I don’t want to do that. Your integrity comes into play as well.
Diana: Can you explain that? What do you mean?
Munira: So, there are some people who will start a fundraiser and say, I’m doing this for my sister who needs braces right. The money comes in and they don’t get the braces done, but they go have a vacation and I’ve seen that happen as well. This was like four years ago and she goes, people want to give, so why not take the money, and do something that you want to do, you want to have fun with? Well, people are watching you, even if they’re not saying anything, they’re watching you. So, they want to know where the money is going.
Diana: How would you actually look into that because I get that like you’re saying that I should do my research and I know that when I go through with my charity things, I go through the MS Society so I can get their books and see exactly what the money is used for and that’s very transparent. But do you have any ideas and any suggestions because if let’s say I was going to go into, when it was open, your GoFundMe campaign? How would I make sure that the money or the girl you were talking about? How would I make sure that the money was actually being used for what it says it was being used for? How do you evaluate people in that sense? Do you understand what I’m thinking?
Munira: I totally understand where you’re coming from, but see here’s the thing. Let me give you an example. Last week, this gentleman from Nigeria, he was talking to me and he just sent me a message saying that, please don’t delete my message. I need help. Can you help me? And then I said, what is it that you need help with? And he goes, I have four kids at home, one of them is about a year old and I have no food at home. If you can send me some money. Now some people prey on women being the nurturing people right and so I said, okay, tell me more, tell me how you will pay me back.
He didn’t ask me to donate money to his cause he asked me if I could help him and he would pay me back and he goes I’m good at doing web pages and I can do web pages for you. I’m a good graphic artist. I mean, he sent me pictures, were amazing, but then I started looking, I don’t know, something told me that this wasn’t right. Anyway, because he sent me a picture of his kids and I sent him $10. The minute he got his money, he blocked me. Your gut feeling is always the right feeling to go with and that is something that you have to listen to. I knew the gut feeling was there, but when he sent me the pictures, you know, it was like, oh, what do I do now? I need to help him.
But in the first, you know, the radars are up. So, when you raise money for some people or when you’re raising money and you’re going through an institution, an organization, that is well-renowned that’s okay because they’ll tell you how much money came in through your channel. The books to open, but if it’s personal fundraising, which you said you’re not allowed to do, but many people in the United States are doing it, then you want to be wary of the cause. I mean, I could have just taken more money in and said, oh, people just want to pay for the funeral, so I’ll just take the money. But I told them, I said, just close it and whatever money that came in after this day, you need to give it back.
So, some people were like, no, no, don’t worry about it. I mean, it was $20 here, but even if it’s just a small little amount, it’s still money that they don’t have that they give to you. So, we have to be cognizant of that. So your gut feeling is the thing that has to tell you that if this is right or not, and if you don’t listen to your gut feeling, which I always should, but I don’t, you know, if you don’t listen to it, then it becomes a problem. I mean, this, you, what you are doing right now is asking people for advice and all that. That’s is perfect.
One of the things that I’m going to tell you is your cause has to be right, where the money is going has to be right, and secondly, be transparent as to what you are doing because once people know that you are a scam artist, they’re never going to trust you. We come across these kinds of people all the time. How many of us have an email every day from Nigeria, from people who just, hey, if you want to do this, come work for me and you know it’s a scam. We have to be wary and cognizant. So, people sometimes don’t pay up because they are just, oh, this is another scam. But your message has to come from your heart. If your message is perfect and it is true, then they will help you.
Diana: That makes so much sense and I promise you, this is not a scam from my side. Yeah, going through the right channels because I think I also really have a heart for helping people and I think it can be really hard to kind of figure out if people are, for example, saying this guy that wrote you. It would be so hard for me to say no, but I also know that I would rather go through the charities, the NGOs, the organizations because they have more knowledge about it.
Munira: You’re right. Because those people do this every single day. They rely on the people’s charities to have their organization running, you know, so that’s something you have to be, you have to understand. I mean, this is a worldwide organization, they can’t just take your money and run, but there are some organizations, you know, that come up for a few months and then they’re gone. So, is that something that we trust? I mean if Salvation Army or if it’s the Cancer Society, you know, we believe in all of these. So, if they ask us for money, we’ll just open up our wallets and give it to them. When it comes to individuals, the cause has to be right.
Diana: I think that’s a good way to look at it and I know of GoFundMe, but I don’t know how they look at it. I don’t know if there’s some kind of security measures from their side that makes sure that people use the money for what they’re actually collecting them for. But. I think you’re absolutely right in saying that for one if you go into a platform like GoFundMe then it’s a good idea to look at okay, what’s the money actually going for? Is it something that resonates with your worldview and what you would like to support and then maybe do a bit more digging because if you find something where it seems not to align, then you should probably choose something else or go with the major charities?
Munira: Yes. Yes, but you have a legitimate cause. You’re going through an organization that has been grounded and has been around for at least a period of time. So, that’s something that you want to be cognizant of. I mean, I’m not saying that these scams don’t happen. I’m saying they do, but I’m not saying everything is a scam.
Diana: No, not at all.
Munira: Yeah. So, some people like somebody who wanted to one vacation collected $25,000. I remember seeing that and I remember telling my friend, this person wants to go on a vacation and has collected $25,000. How come nobody has given me money for the kidney? I mean, isn’t this a legitimate cause? And he just started laughing at me. He goes it depends on how people resonate with it at the time. So, he was advising me to then take my campaign and share it. and I did it three times. I felt like I was asking or begging for money and that’s not what I do.
So, you know, I did it three times and he knew that I was just not comfortable with it and there were people who knew, and then there were organizations that I was affiliated with, who then shared it with their folks. I had a friend who worked in San Diego in a software company and he saw my message and he printed it out and shared it in his office. So, the staff collected money and asked them to give me, so that was, I think $200 from his company and whatever loose change. There was another fellow who had a jar of money on his desk and he says, my friend’s husband needs a new kidney, and if you have loose change, just put it in there. And I think he sent me about $75 over. He said, I collected this for over a month and I’m sending you this money. I hope it helps.
So, you know, the thing is we do it all the time during Christmas, even we give to Salvation Army, the loose change, the people who stand outside the stores and we just put in some change in there. So, that’s how to do it and every little penny helps. Every little penny helps. So, your cause has to be legitimate, your message has to resonate with people, and whatever they give you have to accept and that’s how it’s going to work. That’s the way I see it.
Diana: Thank you. I think that is a great way to end today because that makes so much sense. Is there anything that you would like to share before we go and also where can people find you if they want to talk to you or ask more questions about your GoFundMe experience?
Munira: They can Google my name. It’s Munira Zahabi or they can go to my website which is The Niche Navigator and I have all my contact information there and they can just send me a message saying that they want to talk to me. I answer all my emails. It takes a little while, but I still do it and the last thing is, you know, don’t be afraid to ask. People want to give. I’ve been telling you through this message, you know, your message has to resonate with people, and it has to be right.
Diana: That’s really good advice. thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. I really appreciate it.
I think there were some really great aspects in today’s interview. You can fund anything. I think that’s amazing, but I also liked the three steps to initiate, implement, and execute and do your homework. Definitely, I’m going to be able to, I’m not going to be able to I’m going to dive a bit more into the exact things that the MS Foundation is donating money towards, what kind of research and share that and then figure out how people resonate with your message. I think that’s amazing.
In next week’s episode, you can hear more about the data side of fundraising and how companies use data to optimize the fundraising. So, I hope you want to listen and have a great week. Thank you for listening to the Fun with Fundraising podcast. I’m your host, Diana Lund and if you want to get a hold of me, you can find me on Instagram @funwithfundraising or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy your week.