Las Vegas Sun

December 14, 2017

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Las Vegas has brought in millions in donations. But where will they go?

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John Locher / AP

People pause at a memorial set up for victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. A gunman opened fire on an outdoor music concert on Sunday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, with dozens of people killed and hundreds injured, some by gunfire, some during the chaotic escape.

#VegasStrong Marquees

Marquees along the Las Vegas Strip pay respect to the victims and first responders of the previous Sunday's mass shooting Tuesday, October 3, 2017. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau) . Launch slideshow »

Community Reacts to Las Vegas Strip Mass Shooting

Dashenka Giraldo of Las Vegas lights candles at a makeshift memorial for shooting victims at the Las Vegas Strip and Sahara Avenue Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Vigils for Mass Shooting Victims

Many gather in prayer as the city of Las Vegas and Clark County host a prayer vigil for the victims of Sunday nights shooting on the Las Vegas Strip at Mountain Crest Park on Tuesday, October 3, 2017.   . Launch slideshow »

When tragedy struck Las Vegas on Sunday, community members, elected officials and corporations alike stepped up not only with their hearts and labor, but their pocketbooks.

More than $14 million in donations have been made to the victims of Sunday’s massacre per crowdsourcing sites like GoFundMe as well as direct individual contributions. On Sunday evening, gunman Stephen Paddock fatally wounded at least 59 attendees at a country music festival from his 32nd-floor room at Mandalay Bay.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak and Sheriff Joe Lombardo established the “Las Vegas Victims' Fund” on the GoFundMe website. In less than 72 hours, the fund raised more than $9 million from more than 70,000 individual donors, including a $3 million gift from MGM Resorts International. Zappos, UFC and Station Casinos all pledged $1 million separate of the fund.

Sisolak said the funds will be overseen by the National Center for Victims of Crime, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group that performed a similar role in the wake of last year’s mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. The nonprofit’s fund for mass shootings, called the National Compassion Fund, also played a similar role distributing funds in the wake of deadly events in Aurora, Colo., and Chattanooga, Tenn.

Sisolak said he’s only in charge of raising the money and that the county will have “absolutely no role” in where it is distributed after that. All Sisolak can do is identify and refer areas of highest need to the National Compassion Fund and he wants the money to be distributed to cover surgeries, funeral costs and transportation of victims.

“All I do is raise money and then I’m out of it,” Sisolak said. “But we want them to know this was made for major things, not replacement of backpacks or stuff that people dropped.”

All donations collected by the National Compassion Fund will be publicly accounted for on their website, spokeswoman Tara Ballesteros said.

In the wake of earlier mass shootings, the National Compassion Fund was established to provide more fairness and transparency in how donations are awarded.

A panel of victim representatives and individuals with experience with compensating crime victims deliberate individual awards, which are based solely on the type of injury. Such awards do not factor in a victim’s age, income or whether they have insurance. The center fundraises separately through sponsorships and donations to pay its staff and cover administrative costs.

Ballesteros said all contributions received by the fund go directly to victims, not other third parties or nonprofits.

“Victims of criminal mass casualties need financial assistance and support from experts in serving victims of crime,” Ballesteros said. “The National Compassion Fund exists to meet that need.”

While donations for relief efforts are high, Sisolak also set up a Las Vegas Victims' account at Nevada State Bank, where individual donors including Wayne Newton and businessman Stephen Cloobeck have pledged direct contributions to the same efforts. That money will be pooled with the GoFundMe proceeds in a Nevada State Bank account and distributed together to the National Compassion Fund.

“A lot of people don’t like to deal with GoFundMe, so we created that account for direct donations as well,” Sisolak said.

Beyond Sisolak’s collections, families and friends of individual victims have also raised money through GoFundMe, Crowdrise and other crowdsourcing sites. Some victims have raised up to $500,000 for families, while corporations like Zappos have pledged to match donations raised by the crowdsourcing sites. A search of GoFundMe showed $1.55 million raised through individual pages unrelated to the Las Vegas Victims' Fund.

GoFundMe, the largest such crowdsourcing site, deducts a 5 percent fee from every donation and charges a 2.9 percent processing fee, plus 30 cents per donation. The site donated $100,000 to relief efforts in Orlando following last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting, and in Houston following Hurricane Harvey. According to information on the page, “GoFundMe has committed significant resources to the management and distribution of these funds in the most ethical, effective and timely way, and they have also donated $150,000 to directly help victims and their families.”