The Power of One: How Individuals Are Raising Millions for Nepal Relief Efforts

05/19/2015 01:55 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2016

Crowdfunding platforms are raising millions of dollars from thousands of people to support Nepal relief efforts.

I've worked with nonprofit organizations for over a decade and have seen crowdfunding become a key component of their efforts to reach new donors and amplify their impact.

More recently, individuals are taking the leadership role in activating the crowd for a cause. And, as co-Head of Indiegogo Life, I have a front row seat to individuals sharing their personal stories and connecting through personal fundraisers.

In the aftermath of the earthquakes in Nepal, personal fundraisers on Indiegogo Life raised over $2.4M. This success brought up a question: How have personal fundraisers contributed to this being the largest relief effort on the platform to date?

Personal fundraisers activate more donors to existing nonprofits.

In the past, only those few people most connected to and personally moved by a disaster would donate to its relief. Now, those individuals not only can make a donation but also rally their networks for additional support. One donor can become ten, one hundred or even a thousand.

Andy Dunn said "sympathy is worthless to people in need without action". He wanted to "do something," so he started a personal fundraiser, called it Entrepreneurs for Nepal, and shared it on social.

In just two days, Andy was able to raise $35,000 - more than three times his initial $10,000 donation - for Oxfam. He said on his fundraiser page, "The mission is to make us all feel a little less helpless. The vision is to translate sympathy into action in times of crisis."

Personal fundraisers enable donors to support hyper-local impact.

Madeline Sheldon started a personal fundraiser to help the Thaba family, her host family during her time abroad in Kathmandu Valley. She posted the family's status updates on her fundraiser and asked the people in her trusted network - people who may not have a direct connection to the cause or country - to donate.

Over 50 people raised $3,670 to support the Thaba family and their neighbors. Pat Johnson, a contributor said she donated because "Sometimes when tragedy strikes a world away, it's hard to appreciate the individual pain and suffering that result. Madeline's request let us see the beloved faces of a family devastated by the earthquake, and provided a tangible way to help."

Personal fundraisers can bring in significant donations.

Given his medical background and development work in Nepal, Dr. Bijay Acharya of Massachusetts General Hospital was uniquely poised to help in Nepal medical efforts. From practically the moment the earthquake struck, he and the America Nepal Medical Foundation (ANMF) started communicating their progress and their needs directly through a personal fundraiser. Updates are still coming as pictures, supply lists, and personal stories, and have helped bring in over $440,000 from more than 4,900 donations to the ANMF.

When it comes to personal fundraisers - the rising tides lift all boats. There is no denying the importance of established fundraising methods such as direct major and corporate donations. Yet, over the last few weeks, personal fundraisers have proved to be equally valuable - amplifying donations in a time of critical need.

Passionate individuals who want to help in a time of crisis are leading personal fundraising. It is a free and effective model that has scaled quickly and doesn't show signs of slowing. I have strong belief in the incredible impact that a few people will have on disaster relief efforts in the future.