UK

'I raised £52,000 after Manchester... I wish I hadn't'

I love Manchester poster Image copyright Getty Images

From attending vigils to laying flowers, getting bee tattoos to giving blood, people have felt a need to act in response to the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London. But while launching a fundraising appeal can be one of the most effective ways of helping, some good Samaritans end up ruing the day they decided to become involved.

"If I could go back, if I could envisage the problems and stress it would cause, I would have avoided it."

So says Michael Johns who was "compelled" to raise money for a campaign for a homeless man who helped the victims of the suicide bombing at the end of the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on 22 May.

But ever since, "multiple, multiple times", he has wished he had not.

The 25-year-old, from Nottingham, set up a page on the GoFundMe website for Chris Parker after reading about how he had come to the aid of people caught up in the Manchester Arena attack.

"Hopefully this campaign will go some way to helping Chris off the streets and also show our gratitude for his actions," Michael stated as the aim on his funding page.

The response was "unprecedented", surpassing £52,000 - his original target was £1,000.

But getting people to donate was just the start. Getting the money to Chris has proved much more complicated.

"It has gone from being a fairly straightforward case of just handing over a relatively small amount to having an amount that is potentially life-changing," he said.

Michael initially struggled to track down the 33-year-old.

People then started asking for refunds after a woman in Manchester wrote on social media about bumping into Chris, who said he was still homeless and had no money - and the post went viral.

Michael has faced accusations of not doing enough and trying to gain financially out of the situation, and has received abusive messages online.

The pair did eventually manage to meet up and Michael came up with a model to have the money put into a trust with five trustees - donors, a solicitor, an accountant, a homelessness outreach worker and a homelessness support professional.

Michael negotiated with GoFundMe to release a small amount of the money so Chris's "needs can be met in the meantime".

Chris, says Michael, is a "vulnerable person" who had had to deal with a terror attack, a reunion with his mother and unprecedented press coverage in a short space of time. But he says that despite offers of help from a number of organisations, Chris "is actively not engaging with that support".

"Whilst this is the case, the process will be slow and there are likely to be other Facebook posts that do not bother to grasp the complexities of the situation," Michael added in an update on the appeal site.

"I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place but I'm trying my hardest to plough on with this in the correct direction."

A sting in the tale

Image copyright PA
Image caption Rochdale-based tattoo shop Inkspire saw fundraising idea turn sour

When Rochdale-based tattoo shop Inkspire started another appeal for the victims of the Manchester attacks, it never expected to end up facing criticism.

Inkspire offered bee tattoos - the symbol of the city - to customers for a donation of £25, raising more than £1,000.

Staff then decided, rather than donating the money to the official We Love Manchester appeal which had already raised millions of pounds, they would donate to the "Save Samantha fund" set up to help a local mother with a rare genetic condition.

In a Facebook post, later deleted, they wrote: "As such a huge amount has been raised already for such a great cause we thought perhaps we would also help another of our own from the Manchester/Rochdale area."

Samantha Smith, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and is trying to raise £150,000 for life-saving surgery in the US, was subjected to vile messages and numerous death threats online.

Image copyright Samantha Smith
Image caption Samantha Smith became inadvertently caught up in a social media storm about fundraising donations

The 30-year-old, left "heartbroken and exhausted" by the reaction, transferred the £1,285 donation herself to the Red Cross appeal for the Manchester victims.

Inkspire have since posted: "All the funds raised for Manchester victims has been donated as originally planned.

"We deeply apologise for any upset caused as we promise this was never our intention.

"We have also decided to re-donate £1,285 to Samantha Smith a local mother who is in need of life saving medical assistance."

'So disappointed'

One of the most high-profile crowdfunding campaigns in the UK ended with the woman behind it never wanting to do charity work again.

Beautician Katie Cutler, from Gateshead, set up an internet appeal which raised hundreds of thousands for disabled pensioner Alan Barnes, after he was mugged in 2015.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Katie Cutler raised more than £300,000 for disabled pensioner Alan Barnes

But she was then taken to the small claims court by a PR company, who gave the campaign publicity, and was ordered to pay £6,200 for an unpaid bill.

After the hearing, a tearful Miss Cutler said: "I'm happy that I have done some nice things and have helped some people.

"But because of this I will not do any more charity work. I won't take part in anything for anyone else because I am so disappointed."

More on this story