GoFundMe takes 5 percent of all donations, and Fundly takes 7.9 percent, of which 3 percent goes to the credit card company and 4.9 percent goes to cover Fundly's operating costs.
Donations to crowd-funding sites increased 45 percent in 2012 to $979 million, according to Massolution, the research division of Los Angeles-based Crowdsourcing Inc. In 2013, that is forecast to grow to $1.4 billion.
The donations are greatly needed, according to those making the appeals. A prosthetic foot that would let Haslet dance again may cost more than $50,000, said Lownie.
"It is medical bills, prosthetics, a new home or complete home renovation, rehab, all those things," said Gallardo. "I think they are just trying to get their bearings and put it all together. I don't think they have a true understanding yet."
Then there is the lost income as bills for rent, food and utilities begin to pile up, Lownie said. Neither Corcoran nor Haslet will be able to return to work soon.
While there are success stories, most users of the sites haven't raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from total strangers. It takes a certain amount of publicity and credibility to drive donations, and donors don't typically give to the campaigns of strangers unless they have some way to ensure its validity, said GoFundMe's Damphousse. Typically, it takes strong financial support from the recipient's family and friends to give a campaign momentum, he said.
"Campaigns that do receive donations from strangers will have already raised enough money from those who trust the organizer — and the campaign's credibility is further bolstered as a result," Damphousse said. "The earliest donors are essentially vouching for the authenticity of a given campaign."
Traditional fundraising hasn't gone by the wayside, though because of administrative processes it hasn't matched the speed and reach, for some, of online efforts.