Up until October 4, 2016 (that’s yesterday, if you’re reading this hot off the virtual press), the GoFundMe refund policy was fairly simple: there was none. Anyone clicking the “Donate Now” button on a GoFundMe campaign was greeted with the following:

people you know and trust

In a handful of cases this year, GoFundMe diverted from that policy and offered refunds to those who donated to scams, but only if those donors requested a refund. This despite the fact that GoFundMe has a record of every single donor who contributed to a campaign which was proven fraudulent, but whatevs.

Since the announcement of the new GoFundMe refund policy — dubbed the GoFundMe Guarantee — donors are now greeted with this:

GoFundMe refund policy

Note donors are still warned only to give to people they know and trust.

According to the press release, the GoFundMe Guarantee “adds unprecedented security to all stages of the giving experience.”

“GoFundMe wouldn’t exist without the empathy of our donors, and the GoFundMe Guarantee is about protecting their generosity with the industry’s first and only guarantee,” said Rob Solomon, GoFundMe CEO. “We want every donor to know that we have their back. It’s a big deal to give, and we want there to be complete peace of mind when you donate on our platform.”

Under the GoFundMe Guarantee, donors who find evidence of misuse or deception are entitled to a refund of up to $1,000. In addition, if the campaign organizer doesn’t deliver funds to the intended recipient, GoFundMe will donate the undelivered amount, up to $25,000, to the right person.

According to the small print, the GoFundMe Guarantee applies to campaigns in the United States and Canada created on or after October 3, 2016. So anyone ripped off prior to that is SOL, sorry guys.

Additionally, the policy states that donors may receive a refund (or other resolution, to be defined shortly) when they donate to a Covered Campaign and the campaign organizer or beneficiary (if one exists) of the Covered Campaign commits a Misuse. Covered Campaign is defined above, as one created in the U.S. or Canada on or after October 3.

Misuse is defined as the following:

  1. The campaign organizer does not deliver funds to the Intended Beneficiary (as defined below);
  2. The campaign’s content is inaccurate with respect to a material fact about the campaign organizer, beneficiary, or campaign that would induce a reasonable donor to donate to the campaign; and
  3. The campaign organizer or beneficiary is formally charged with a crime directly related to their actions, omissions, and/or misrepresentations made by that individual in the campaign.

Note, the GoFundMe refund policy clearly states that Misuse is determined at their sole discretion. Add to that, you may not get an actual refund at all:

In some circumstances, we may provide refunds by a credit redeemable for a donation of the same amount to another campaign.

Also interesting, the fact that the following disqualifies you from receiving a refund:

Disagreement with how a campaign organizer or beneficiary uses funds raised in excess of the stated campaign goal at the time of your donation

So, if Francine Funeral creates a campaign for $600 to cremate Uncle Bruce, raises $1200, and uses the “extra” $600 on a 50″ TV, you’re SOL.

Although GoFundMe has changed the language on every donation page, the language buried in the GoFundMe refund policy terms is pretty clear:

You agree that a certain minimum donation amount may apply to qualify for benefits under this Policy, and that all donation payments remain final and will not be refunded unless GoFundMe, in its sole discretion, agrees to issue a refund under the terms of this or other Policy. [emphasis mine]

So, while they’re patting themselves on the back for this “First and Only Guarantee in Industry,” this appears on its surface to be one big CYA to cover what GoFundMe says is a “very rare” occurrence on its platform. If it’s so rare, why is there a policy at all?

Everyone feeling so much safer now? LOL, that’s a rhetorical joke, don’t answer.