Tech

You Can Soon Raise Money For Personal Causes On Instagram

Plus, what a cybersecurity expert wants you to know before you donate.

Instagram

In the last few months, you might have seen calls to #openyourwallet on Instagram and other social media. Now, the Facebook-owned platform is making it easier for users to start their own personal fundraisers to help cover the cost of things like medical care, emergency travel, disaster relief, and even vet bills.

While people have long used Facebook and Instagram to post links to personal fundraisers or set up in-app donations for their favorite charities, Instagram's new Personal Fundraiser feature will let users raise money to support small businesses or help out family members in need without ever leaving the app. So long as you're honest with Instagram and your followers about where the money is going, and it's considered an eligible cause, you can set up your own fundraisers and promote them on your page.

How To Use The Personal Fundraiser Feature On Instagram

The feature is currently available to Android users in the U.S., UK , or Ireland who are over the age of 18 and who have the donation sticker in their Stories arsenal, with iOS users to follow soon. If you'd like to create a Personal Fundraiser for a cause close to your heart, tap “Edit Profile,” “Add Fundraiser” and then “Raise Money.” There, you can choose a photo, and get into the details of the cause. You'll need to select a fundraiser category, like crisis relief, medical, community, or pets, to make it clear to your followers what you're raising money for and why you need their help.

Donations and payouts are handled via Stripe, an online payment platform, so you'll need to set up a third-party account first before registering your cause. Once you've put in all of your info, tap “Send” and your cause will be submitted for review. Note that all fundraisers are investigated to ensure that they meet the standards for eligible causes — meaning the money cannot be used to buy drugs, break laws, or support political candidates, just like any other charity.

With the help of your friends, you can raise money for a cause without leaving the app.Instagram

The review process is handled by a team of real people who will vet the fundraisers to make sure that the cause itself is valid, and that the person raising the money has a verifiable identity, aka isn't a bot or a spam account. They will also virtually check in on the fundraiser while it's live to ensure that it's on track with its mission. If you're concerned about the legitimacy of a fundraiser, you can report it for additional review.

If you're approved to host your own fundraiser, you can begin fundraising immediately. Each fundraiser lasts 30 days, but can be extended for an additional 30 days or more. Donors can opt to keep their information private from the public, but the fundraiser will be able to see their username, profile name, and their donation amount. Once the fundraiser is over, all of the funds will go to the organizer's designated bank account set up via Stripe. Then, it's up to the recipient to ensure all of the collected funds go towards the advertised cause.

What You Should Know Before You Use It

Before you set up a fundraiser, it's important to understand how sharing information with apps could leave you vulnerable to possible security issues. "Causes you support can reveal information about you that may be used in unintended ways," cybersecurity expert Kristina Podnar tells Bustle. "Having your profile, including charities supported and donations raised, allows scammers to target you, your family, circle of friends by connecting the dots on personal information." What's more, while Instagram might have a tight security protocol in place for reviewing fundraisers, Podnar says scammers could make themselves look like legitimate people with earnest causes and slip through the cracks. As with any tech product, there's always the possibility that human bias can creep in during the vetting or reporting process, and users with lots of followers might be at a fundraising advantage compared with less-followed users. And then there's the issue of linking information like your bank account to your Instagram account via a third-party app.

"For protection, we store your financial information on secured servers and take extra steps to protect this info from hackers," a spokesperson from Facebook tells Bustle. "While we may share your contact or other profile information according to our data policy, no banking or PayPal information is shared except as necessary when making payments or complying with legal requirements." As for scammers, Facebook tells Bustle that they are "extremely rare" and that an "overwhelming majority of campaigns" are "safe and legitimate."

To protect yourself, verify that the account raising funds is in fact who you think they are and that they haven't been hacked by sending them a personal message outside of the app. You can also check out Stripe's privacy policy and read through their statement on personal data to ensure you know what you're sharing with the company before you make a transaction via Instagram. Depending on your location and local law, you might have the legal right to ask Stripe to erase your personal data after you make a transaction. If you're suspicious of a fundraiser, don't be shy, report it for review.

And of course, if you're not in a position to donate, you can always use your Stories and feed to continue to share information about causes that are important to you. Raising awareness can be just as powerful as raising money.