Turning to crowdfunding when supporting both parents and children

sandwich-generationThey’re called the “Sandwich Generation,” a moniker used to describe the cohort of middle-aged people providing support to both their aging parents and young or financially-dependant adult children.

With a ballooning senior population and a swath of people coming of age that are not yet able to support themselves financially, those “sandwiched” between them are a generation under pressure.

“While the share of middle-aged Americans living in the so-called Sandwich Generation has increased only marginally in recent years, the financial burdens associated with caring for multiple generations of family members is mounting,” said Kim Parker and Eileen Patten of Pew Research Centre in a January 2013 report.

Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have both dependent children and a parent aged 65 or older, according to a Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project study released earlier this year. This same survey found that approximately one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

The Great Recession has taken a toll on finances, and with high unemployment numbers in recent years coupled with a precarious job situation for many middle-age Americans, financial stressors are already high. Add to this the cost of raising a child, which, as any parent can tell you is not a cheap undertaking, and layer over that the cost of caring for an aging parent, and the financial burden is extended.

Of those “sandwiched” between their parents and dependent children, 30% are just able to meet basic expenses, and 11% say that can’t meet even those, according to Pew Research Center data. With the cost of saving for a child’s education, or funding medical bills on top of the basic day-to-day costs incurred by most Americans, there appears a need for novel ways of generating income. Enter crowdfunding.

Over the past few years, crowdfunding companies have cropped up to help family members raise funds for a host of expenses, including medical, educational, and other issues facing those responsible for caring for family members of all ages.

YouCaring.com, a site on which fundraisers have raised over $20 million since 2011, encourages users to sign up and raise funds for medical expenses, memorials and funerals, education and tuition assistance, and adoption fundraising, among other family-focused needs. They provide users with customizable personal fundraising webpages and social media tools in order to help spread information about the cause and raise support.

“The company was started to help people with tuition fees, as well as mission trips,” explains the site’s community relations contact and spokesperson, Michael Blasco. “However, different needs started to arise and the founders thought, wow, here’s a chance to help hundreds of people, which has turned into thousands of people, and we know, eventually, millions.”

In order to ensure that fundraisers are not further burdened by expenses, YouCaring operates as a free site for fundraisers. The organization’s revenue stream come from donations, though there is a fee for credit card transactions on the donor side, typically 2.9% plus $.30 per transaction.

“A lot of our users are definitely stuck in the middle, they have to provide for everyone, and that’s what our site is really about, helping people who come up short,” says Blasco.

A similar site, GiveForward.com, which has helped fundraisers raise over $36 million, focuses specifically on medical fundraising. GiveForward’s online fundraising pages are meant to create an online space that allows friends and family to financially support patients navigating a medical crisis. While it is free for users to create and maintain a fundraiser, GiveForward deducts 7% on each transaction, which they say on their website covers credit card processing, all PayPal fees, and overhead.

Time will tell whether these sites will emerge as a viable fundraising option amongst the often financially burdened Sandwich Generation, though with over $50 million raised via these two sites alone, it looks like another example of people turning to non-traditional sources in order to successfully generate much-needed funds.

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