Introducing medical crowdfunding, previous work and methods, and our objectives.


A Call for Research

GoFundMe is current the world’s largest crowdfunding platform (GoFundMe, n.d.). Launched in 2010, GoFundMe has raised more than US$ 5 billion to date and supports a community consisting of more than 50 million donors and users (GoFundMe, n.d.). According to Sisler (2012) and Snyder, Mathers, & Crooks (2016), campaigns for medical purposes created on GoFundMe comprise the largest proportion of campaigns on the platform.

Current literature on crowdfunding for medical purposes is scarce, Snyder et al. (2016) made a call for further research to answer the following questions:

  • “Who benefits the most from medical crowdfunding and how does medical crowdfunding affect access to medical care"
  • "How does medical crowdfunding affect our understanding of the causes of inadequate access to medical care"
  • "How are campaigner and donor privacy affected by website design”

Snyder (2016, p. 41) stated that medical crowdfunding campaigns should be treated as “indicators of health system shortcomings that should be addressed in order to counter growing inequities.” His concern is that the current unavailability of data has limited exploration of geo-demographic aspects of medical crowdfunding and the characteristics of campaigners (J. Snyder, personal communication, January 18, 2018). Lack of research in this subject area impedes understanding on how “medical crowdfunding affects access to medical care” (Snyder et al., 2016, p. 27) that could enable the identification of gaps and inequities within the Canadian healthcare system (Snyder, 2016).

Previous Work

Background on Medical Crowdfunding

There exist ethical concerns pertaining to which groups will benefit most from crowdfunding. Groups incapable of accessing or using crowdfunding platforms may be left at a disadvantage within the overburdened healthcare system. As Snyder (2016, p. 39) explains, it “perpetuates systemic injustices.” Lack of social networks, technological capabilities, or accessibility to certain technologies will impact an individual's ability to conduct or succeed in medical crowdfunding initiatives (Robinson et al., 2015). Although medical crowdfunding campaigns can greatly benefit some users, the proliferating use of these platforms has the potential to exacerbate existing gaps in healthcare systems.

The Importance of Campaign Narratives on Crowdfunding Platforms

Crowdfunding success for “patronage-based” platforms relying on unreciprocated donations effectuates campaigner-sponsor interactions (Murphy, 2017). Campaigners are equipped with a template enabling careful crafting of narratives to persuade sponsor action. Narratives permit campaigners to relate to sponsors and instill “emotional resonance” by “tapping into individuals most basic values, beliefs, and experiences” (Murphy, 2017, p. 16). Compelling text “can change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours” of sponsors, motivating them to financially contribute to a cause (Murphy, 2017, p. 16).

Geovisualization to Support Decision-Making and Hypothesis Generation

Geovisualization encompasses “visual exploration, analysis, synthesis, and presentation of geospatial data” (Kraak, 2009, p. 468). Geovisualization techniques provide “a visual approach to problem-solving” with the support of online and offline cartographic products (Kraak, 2009, p. 469). Cartographic products such as Google Maps and Mapbox support expert and non-expert users in displaying their spatially-referenced datasets and sharing this information with other users to interpret. Combined with intuitive interfaces, geovisualizations incorporate interactivity to support “decision-making and hypotheses generation” (Çöltekin, Bleisch, Andrienko, & Dykes, 2017, p. 117). Users from varying backgrounds perceive visualizations in different ways, necessitating descriptive and informative user interfaces and cartographic design (Çöltekin et al., 2017). Dimensionalities of datasets pose a problem in geovisualization design, as information needs to be clearly conveyed to promote understanding and to aid decision-making processes (Çöltekin et al., 2017).


Our goal is to perform basic exploration of geodemographic trends using simple data analysis methods. These methods will include an exploratory spatial data analysis by creating quintiles for specific income, education, and home ownership measures. Additionally, we will employ a frequent text mining algorithm to extract any correlations between diction and success of campaigns, subsequently identifying if this correlation is geographical in nature. The purpose of this work is to contribute a foundation to answer the first question posed by Snyder et al. (2016) and to establish a framework to encourage further research and inquiries on the subject of medical crowdfunding in Canada.