A lesson in fundraising

By: - Thursday, Mar 27, 2014 - 4:33pm

After learning about the tragic deaths of Lt. Edward Walsh and firefighter Mike Kennedy I wondered if there was anything The Boston Calendar could do to help. As I normally do, I checked the homepage of my favorite online Boston community, r/Boston. There was a post there titled “How do we *actually* honor our fallen firefighters?” The most popular idea in that thread was to set up a scholarship fund for Lt. Walsh’s three children (even the top comment mentioned it). My gut instinct was “yes, that’s is a great idea.” So I immediately created an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising money for the scholarship fund.

What I failed to think through is whether a fundraiser like that was even necessary. As far as I can see the answer (in hindsight) is no. Once I launched the Indiegogo campaign I posted the link to r/Boston. Shortly after, one of the users there (“highlander311”) was smart enough to fill me in with information about the benefits Lt. Walsh’s children’s should receive when the time comes for them to attend college. Highlander311 said: “I like the thought behind the effort but it may be misplaced. Unless I’m reading this incorrectly the children of all fallen firefighters receive full-tuition to in state MA colleges. They’re taken care of financially.” And then shared this excerpt from firehero.org:

The Massachusetts Public Service Grant Program is for the children of fallen firefighters who are killed or died from injuries received while performing their duties, including authorized training duty. Established for students attending a Massachusetts public college or university, the award is equal to the cost of the institution’s full-time annual tuition. For a student attending a Massachusetts independent college or university, the amount shall be equal to the full-time annual tuition charge at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, not to exceed $2,500 per year. Curriculum fees, books, and other expenses are not covered. Limited to four years for students in good standing. Student must have graduated from high school in the Commonwealth, and must be taking at least 12 credits (or its equivalent) worth of classes. Must apply yearly for renewal.


The lesson I learned from all of this is that if you plan to raise money for a cause, you should not just understand what you’re raising money for, but also make sure your fundraising goals are actually supporting something needed. In this case the money I proposed we raise is seemingly covered through state aid. It goes without saying, but fundraising takes diligence, and perhaps it should be left up to people who have formal training in the area.

Despite the fact that the families of our fallen heroes will receive monetary benefits from the government in light of the tragedy, the nonprofit foundation run by WAAF radio host Greg Hill is accepting donations to help the families of the fallen and injured firefighters. Details on how to donate can be found via this link. At the time of writing this the foundation has raised over 40,000 dollars!

To eliminate confusion regarding the fundraiser I have deleted our blog post, tweet, and facebook page announcing the campaign, and I’ve also contacted Indiegogo to remove the fundraiser page (and return the money to the people who donated).* For documentation purposes I have uploaded screenshots of the aforementioned pages to Imgur here.  I want to thank the good person who is behind the @OnlyInBOS twitter account for consulting me regarding the fundraiser and helping raise awareness about it through their account.

I’d like to offer my condolences to the families and friends of firefighters Lt. Edward J. Walsh and Michael Kennedy, as well as offer my best to the firefighters who were injured in the blaze and the Boston Fire Department.

*UPDATE: Indiegogo has informed me that they cannot refund the money already donated, nor take down the fundraiser. So my plan is to see that the donated funds make it to Lt. Walsh’s immediate family once the fundraiser is complete. Further details via the Indiegogo fundraising page.