Kokua Line: Do Maui wildfire funds charge administrative fees?

Sep. 21—Question : We have donated money to multiple organizations to help those affected by the Lahaina fires, including American Red Cross, Hawaii Community Foundation, Kako 'o Maui and others.

Question : We have donated money to multiple organizations to help those affected by the Lahaina fires, including American Red Cross, Hawaii Community Foundation, Kako 'o Maui and others. We keep getting contacted by friends of friends to donate to their GoFundMe accounts and have respectfully declined as we want to make sure our contributions can help as many people as possible. Some have suggested that a good portion of our contributions go toward administrative fees, and some people are receiving no help at all. Can you comment on what portion of our donations actually get to those who need it for various agencies ? I believe that even GoFundMe has administrative costs, right ?

Answer : Yes, GoFundMe deducts 2.9 % plus 30 cents from each donation as its administrative fee, so if five donors gave a total of $500 the recipient would get $484, the for-profit crowdfunding platform explains on its website. As its name states, GoFundMe focuses on raising money, not on the logistics of providing mass humanitarian aid in a disaster zone. Not every Maui wildfire victim has a verified GoFundMe account, but at least 1, 300 individuals or families do. The company's Maui wildfires hub, , shows that some victims have raised quite a bit of money, and others very little. To ease the imbalance, the group Help Maui Rise has sorted individual fundraisers from lowest to highest, encouraging donations to the least-funded campaigns. It also created a separate campaign with GoFundMe's charitable arm that will share donations equally among all vetted GoFundMe campaigns listed on the Help Maui Rise spreadsheet. For details, go to helpmauirise.org and click on "Sorted GoFundMes " or "One Click Donation, " respectively.

As for the other groups you mentioned, Matthew Wells, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross in Hawaii, said that 90 cents of every $1 donated reaches program recipients on the ground and that donors worldwide can earmark contributions for the Maui wildfire response. The Red Cross, a registered charity (nonprofit ), has provided shelter, meals, financial aid, emotional support and spiritual comfort to thousands of Maui residents displaced by the fires, working with various partners, according to. As of Monday, that relief included more than 171, 000 overnight stays in emergency shelters and hotels and more than 660, 000 meals and snacks. More than 1, 100 trained Red Cross disaster workers have deployed to Hawaii or helped virtually.

The nonprofit Hawaii Community Foundation, which runs the Maui Strong Fund, says on its website that administrative fees are limited to the 30-cent transaction fee and 2.5 % to 3.5 % processing fee charged by the credit card processor for online donations. Donors may write a check instead, according to the website, . The Maui Strong Fund has awarded grants to dozens of 501 (c )(3 ) nonprofit organizations helping wildfire victims on Maui. The website describes the amount and purpose of each grant, which range from $3, 500 to Youth with a Calling to deliver food and supplies to Lahaina by boat, to $5 million to the Maui United Way for direct financial assistance to wildfire survivors. Nonprofits receiving grants would have their own administrative expenses.

The nonprofit Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement's Kako 'o Maui Fund is a matching campaign that focuses on Native Hawaiian organizations, small businesses, 'ohana and cultural groups affected by the fires. CNHA is not taking an administrative fee from the money raised, however, its service provider deducts a 30-cent transaction fee and 3 % processing fee per online donation, CEO Kuhio Lewis said in a statement. There are no fees for donations made by check, he said. The CNHA website, , lists organizations funded so far, including Kanaka Climbers, Punana Leo O Lahaina, Legal Aid Society of Hawai 'i, Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Hawaiian Community Lending and Makana O Ke Akua. CNHA also runs the Kako 'o Maui Resource Hub in Kahului, manages the Maui County relief storage and distribution center there, and has launched free workforce development courses to help prepare Maui residents for jobs cleaning up and rebuilding Lahaina.------Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, HI 96813 ; call 808-529-4773 ; or email kokualine @staradvertiser.com.------