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Crowdfunding Website Raises Money for Vets' Causes

By George Altman

Military Times

Crowdfunding has supported everything from music, theater and games to an app that predicts the weather.

Now add veterans to that list.

RepayVets.com, launched last spring, is a crowdfunding website inspired by Kickstarter.com - but the mission of the site is specifically to help vets.

"It's for veterans that have any need, any financial need, and it's also for civilians that want to help a veteran in some way," said Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Marlon Terrell, who co-founded the company.

Terrell initially envisioned the site as a way to help veterans raise startup capital for small businesses. But he expanded it to also cover vets' medical needs, family needs, efforts by nonprofit organizations, even homecoming celebrations.

Veterans can create an account at www.RepayVets.com and explain what the money will be used for. The process typically takes about 30 minutes, Terrell said.

After that, RepayVets will decide within 48 hours whether to approve the campaign for the site. If approved, it's posted on the site, where it can stay up for as long as 90 days while people view it and decide whether to help the cause.

He added that the site uses a third-party organization to ensure the people who claim to be veterans are being truthful. About 92 cents of every dollar raised goes to the campaign, with the rest covering operating costs, Terrell said.

The site's track record is modest compared to that of Kickstarter, which had 18,109 projects successfully funded and nearly $320 million pledged in 2012 alone, according to Kickstarter's website.

About 10 of RepayVets' 70 campaigns so far have been funded to their goals, to the tune of $20,000 total.

To help fund someone else's campaign, users can go to www.RepayVets.com and click "Browse Campaigns" to choose a project, or projects, to support.

Terrell described crowdfunding as a modern approach to fundraising that takes advantage of the benefits of the Internet age.

"Crowdfunding is a great process, because it allows a lot of people to give little bits of money," he said. "You really get a chance to tap into your social network."