Millions of Americans Continue to Donate to Crowdfunding Sites to Help Others Pay Medical Bills Despite Economic Hardships of the Pandemic

About 1 in 5 American adults reported donating to a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for a medical bill or treatment over the last year.

CHICAGO, April 1, 2021 – Eighteen percent of adults in America report having donated to a crowdfunding campaign to pay for medical bills or treatment at some point over the last year. This figure has held steady from surveys over the past year despite the increase in financial hardship, including record levels of unemployment due to the ongoing pandemic. The data come from the latest NORC Spotlight on Health survey powered by AmeriSpeak®.

Nearly 40 percent of Americans who donated to crowdfunding campaigns were from households with incomes of less than $60,000 per year. In 2019, the median household income in the United States was $68,703. Of the Americans who made a donation to a campaign, 36 percent were not working (unemployed or retired) and 6 percent did not have health insurance themselves at the time of the survey.

Crowdfunding is the process by which individuals raise funds from a large number of people through websites such as GoFundMe. The new survey found the numbers of Americans starting such campaigns holding steady relative to 2020. An estimated 6 million Americans started a campaign for themselves or someone in their household, and nearly 9 million Americans started a campaign for someone else. In addition, approximately 16 million Americans made donations to help strangers, a similar number to previous surveys.

Forty-five million Americans reported an estimated 61 million individual donations to campaigns for different diseases and conditions.[1] Twenty-eight percent of Americans who made contributions to crowdfunding campaigns reported having donated to more than one campaign for different diseases or conditions. These new data indicate that, of the 61 million donations to medical campaigns, over half were related either to campaigns for cancer (17 million) or campaigns for accidental injuries (16 million). Other popular donation categories included heart disease (9 million) and mental illness (5 million). There were also an estimated 2 million donations specifically for COVID-19.

Americans Donate to These Types of Campaigns

“Even as many Americans have struggled over the past year with unemployment and a lack of affordable health insurance, individuals are still donating to crowdfunding sites to help others pay for their medical bills and treatments,” said Mollie Hertel, AM, MPP, senior research scientist at NORC.

“People reported that the vast majority of donations were going to campaigns raising money for cancer treatments and accidental injuries. This information highlights again where gaps in insurance coverage—such as high out-of-pocket costs—may exist and the challenges that Americans with serious illnesses continue to face,” added Susan Cahn, DrPH, also a senior research scientist at NORC and co-author of the study.

Nearly 60 percent of adults in America believe that the government should bear a great deal or a lot of responsibility for providing health care to people who need free or lower-cost medical care. Forty-four percent of Americans think hospitals and clinics bear a great deal or a lot of responsibility when care is unaffordable and 35 percent believe doctors should bear this level of responsibility.

The self-funded poll was conducted between Thursday, December 17, 2020 and Monday, December 21, 2020 during a monthly Omnibus survey. It included 1,028 interviews with a nationally representative sample (margin of error +/- 4.28 percent) of adult Americans age 18+ using the AmeriSpeak Panel. AmeriSpeak® is NORC’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. A comprehensive listing of all study questions, tabulations of top-level results for each question, and detailed methodology is available here.


About the Spotlight on Health
NORC at the University of Chicago’s Spotlight on Health is a series of quick-hitting national surveys on issues vital to health and well-being, conducted using AmeriSpeak’s probability-based panel.

About NORC at the University of Chicago
NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.

Contact: For more information, contact NORC’s Eric Young at or (703) 217-6814 (cell).

[1] This estimate captures individuals who made at least one donation to a campaign for a specific disease or condition. For example, individuals may have made more than one donation to different campaigns for the same conditions, such as cancer treatment, and these multiple donations were not captured in the survey. For this reason, it is likely that this estimate undercounts total donations.