When the Cardwell, Missouri, Volunteer Fire Department needed to raise money for new equipment and to build a new fire shed, they posted a request online. When the residents of Massapequa, New York, wanted to raise funds to provide food to show their gratitude to the local fire department, they also posted an online fundraising request.

Both requests used Fund the First, a new crowdfunding platform for first responders. Unlike other online fundraising tools that can be subject to fraud or abuse, Fund the First verifies each fundraising campaign to ensure donated money goes to the right place. The new secure online platform enables users to create, manage and promote verified campaigns to help verified first responders raise money in times of need.

Ensuring support reaches first responders

The platform seeks to eliminate fraud and ensure that support reaches first responders in need

Raising funds for local fire departments is one use for the platform, which also seeks to provide funding as first responders experience illnesses, surgeries or other catastrophic losses, which are more common among first responders than other occupations. In short, the platform seeks to eliminate fraud and ensure that support reaches first responders in need.

Fund the First bills itself as “the first online verified financial contribution platform designed by first responders.” It seeks to avoid risks associated with criminals and scammers who seek to take advantage of people’s generosity and create fake online donation campaigns that might, for example, use the likeness of first responders.

The site leverages advanced authentication and identity verification technologies from ID.me to fully confirm the accuracy of first responder credentials. The platform also uses a manual investigative process to ensure that all campaign claims are legitimate.

Beneficiary to be verified

Any first responder can register and become “pre-verified” on the site for free

Because all requests are verified, contributors can have added peace of mind that their money will go to a campaign’s designated beneficiary.

Any first responder can register and become “pre-verified” on the site for free, even before they face a need or hardship. Registering now avoids having to complete the process during a more stressful time. If an intended beneficiary is not pre-verified, the platform will send him or her an invitation to sign up. Campaigns do not go live until a beneficiary has been verified.

In the case of a line-of-duty or off-duty death, the next of kin of the fallen first responder must be verified manually. This can be accomplished by submitting a manual verification request. The platform’s Campaign Director will work directly with a family member or next of kin to ensure verification.

Trusted place for first responders

A check will be sent to the verified beneficiary of the campaign after the campaign has run for at least 30 days. The platform says 92% of each dollar contributed to a campaign goes to the beneficiary; the rest goes toward costs of payment processing, verification and operating the platform.

The fact is that many of the campaigns seen on larger crowdfunding sites are actually scams. In contrast, Fund the First provides a trusted place where first responders can get the support they need, when they need it.

Fund the First’s Founder and CEO is Robert Garland, a New York City Police Department detective with experience developing and implementing business plans. Four co-founders are John Eichhorn, a law enforcement officer in Florida; Michael LaLuna, a Certified Public Accountant; Kevin Darcey, a New York City Police Department lieutenant; and Mitch Weinstein, a retired law enforcement professional with a 40-year business career.

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Larry Anderson Editor, TheBigRedGuide.com, Notting Hill Media

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