Should I refund contributions for my cat's pancreatitis fundraiser?
August 27, 2016 5:18 AM   Subscribe

We started a fundraiser to help pay for my kitty's hospitalization, but he died less than a day into the campaign. What do I do?

Yesterday night my beloved feline best friend had to be put down. He had severe pancreatitis and his prognosis was not looking good. My husband and I wanted so desperately for him to survive we were willing to hospitalize him for days upon days. But two days into his intensive care, his kidneys failed and after that, there was not much else the vets could do. We had to put him down.

It hurts me to write all of this, which is why I need help navigating some awkward decisions right now. We were told he might survive the ICU and so we began an Indiegogo campaign to help raise the thousands of dollars we'd need for his hospitalization. We raised over $1000 in less than 24 hours. But now he's already dead, and I don't know if I should return the money (though our fundraiser description does mention how we'd already spent a few thousands just trying to get him diagnosed).

What should I do? I'm at such a loss and keeping the fundraiser open makes it seem like my kitty is still alive and it's all really painful to deal with.
posted by Menomena to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd refund.
posted by slateyness at 5:26 AM on August 27, 2016 [22 favorites]

Give it to your local humane society, or to any program in your area that provides free vet care to animals. Tell all your friends what you did with the money.
posted by mareli at 5:30 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd close it and offer refunds, but if I were your friend who'd contributed, I'd want you to keep the money against prior expenses.
posted by teremala at 5:35 AM on August 27, 2016 [31 favorites]

If the fundraiser was to raise funds for future care (and it sounds like it was), then you need to refund the money.
posted by amro at 5:58 AM on August 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

Use the money for your existing cat-related medical expenses. The donations weren't based on the idea that he was was going to live forever, they were meant to help with the costs of doing the best you could for him. Which you did.
posted by fixer at 6:02 AM on August 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I would consider refunding large donations ($100+?), and not worrying about the smaller ones. But were I a friend that donated I would definitely not it expect or even want a refund--I would want you to keep it if for nothing else than to ease your grief a bit.

Very sorry for your loss :(
posted by greta simone at 6:24 AM on August 27, 2016

Echoing teremala. You should offer to refund any contributions. Some people will probably not want the money back. But it would be unfair not to ask them.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:24 AM on August 27, 2016 [15 favorites]

Use it to pay all of your vet fees and if there's anything left over then donate it to the cat refuge of your choice. Let your donors know that's what you're doing.
posted by h00py at 6:26 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

You must offer (insist) on refunds - ill gotten gains is not a reputation you want to have - especially when the monies were contributed out of the love for aminals and the kindness of their heart.
posted by pamspanda at 6:30 AM on August 27, 2016 [13 favorites]

Indiegogo allows users to request a refund while a campaign is still in progress. So make an update telling people that kitty has unfortunately passed on, that you've already put thousands into her diagnosis so you're keeping the campaign open if anyone would like to defray those expenses, but that you understand that people were donating in the spirit of hope for the kitty and that they can request a refund if they want their money back now that there are no future expenses. Tell them how they can do that. It's very unlikely that anyone will ask for their money back, but at least you will have given them that option.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:50 AM on August 27, 2016 [46 favorites]

I think many people would be fine with letting you keep their donations (seeing as the money's already left their pockets; and if they were moved to give, they're probably pet owners themselves and appreciate the costs involved), but I definitely think you should make a *strong* offer to refund *everyone's* money (and not just to people who donated large amounts... if some only gave a little, maybe a few of them don't have that much to spare).
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:03 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry for your loss.

Nthing offer refunds while mentioning you'd still appreciate help with the expenses you already incurred. I had a few friends randomly send me money *after* my cat died, so there are definitely people out there who understand just how much it sucks to spend thousands of dollars and still end up with a dead cat. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 7:27 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not saying you shouldn't offer refunds, but as a donor, I would be satisfied if the money left after paying for your expenses was donated to the local humane society.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 7:28 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Stop accepting new donations. Wait a week or two to make decision to refund or not refund. I think that you will gain a little perspective it is so hard to have right now and you may get a "word on the street" sense what your donors are thinking.
posted by AugustWest at 7:44 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would explain the situation and state that you will be issuing refunds in the coming weeks. I'll bet you that most people will reach out and tell you not to bother.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:46 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Stop accepting new donations and offer refunds immediately to those who ask. After you've covered all bills for care rendered, refund the rest. So sorry for your loss.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:00 AM on August 27, 2016

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I think you should stop accepting new donations. Put an update up on the fundraising site telling people your kitty passed and that you will be giving refunds in the coming weeks. I think you shouldn't put the burden on your friends to ask for their money back, because that puts them in an awkward position. I imagine some people will contact you and say, "Oh, don't worry about it! Keep the money" and then you can feel free to use that money to cover the vet bills from diagnosing your cat, etc.
posted by colfax at 8:20 AM on August 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

If I donated to something like this, I'd be donating to help keep your pet alive and continue medical treatment. If the cat died a day later, a part of me would expect at least the offer of a refund.
posted by cakelite at 8:22 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's appropriate to announce that you will refund donations if requested -- maybe this is just another ask vs. guess black hole, but to me (and probably at least some of your donors), this will sound like "I don't think I owe you a refund but if you're cheap enough to demand it I'll comply." It's either right to refund the donation or not.

I agree with AugustWest that this is probably too fraught for you to think through clearly right now. Close the fund to new donations, wait a little while, especially until you see what the total bill is going to be for the care your cat did receive, and then decide how to proceed. My personal preference would be to pay what was owed with the earliest donations and then refund the balance to later donors -- that seems to be most in the spirit of the original request.
posted by telegraph at 8:32 AM on August 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

I'm pretty far on the extreme end of guessing, and I realize that few guessers are likely to be willing to ask for their money back as doing so is super awkward. I still recommended that path, because I feel like the vast majority of people will be fine with her keeping the money they've already donated to pay her existing medical bills, but if she closes the fund and sends the money back without asking, there's no readily available mechanism to say "no really, you keep it" -- I don't think you can decline a refund, but I could be wrong about that. Doing it this creates major awkwardness for a small number of people, but it averts moderate awkwardness for a large number of people.

It wasn't my impression that she'd already collected more money than the existing vet bill, though. If she has, that's a different scenario entirely.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:47 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree to just close and not accept more donations, and then think about this for a few days. I'm so sorry for your loss. But if I donated the money, I would feel horrible about you trying to refund everyone's money or even thinking of this as an "ill gotten gain." It's an unfortunate situation but I think people thinking they need to see a return on their money, in this case a living cat, in a situation like this need to step back a little.
posted by zutalors! at 9:12 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

1. Stop accepting new donations.
2. Pay existing vet bills.
3. Explain. Offer refunds to those who request them (but put in a deadline for requests...say, one week) and explain that any remaining funds will be donated to the local humane society after deadline.
4. After one week, make donation.
5. Hang in there, take care. :)
posted by sexyrobot at 9:18 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks to everyone for their input.

I've left an update explaining the situation and providing information on how to get a refund. We will be donating a portion of the remaining funds to a rescue shelter.

Because IndieGoGo doesn't allow refunds after a campaign is closed, I'm giving them a few days deadline and requesting they contact IndieGoGo immediately.
posted by Menomena at 10:28 AM on August 27, 2016

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