When tragedies occur, a silver lining is often the generosity of people who make financial donations. The National Compassion Fund helps ensure these acts of kindness go to help survivors of mass casualty crimes. So far, they’ve reached more than 3,000 victims across 14 separate funds.
Here’s a deeper look at how they’re helping people get back on track.
A victim-centered approach
For more than two decades, Jeffrey Dion has tirelessly championed the rights of violent crime victims. While working for the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) in the early 2000s, Dion was approached by survivors of past mass casualty crimes who sought a new model for distributing aid to future victims. The survivors wanted to eliminate the stresses they experienced in collecting donated funds from ad hoc groups while trying to restart their lives.
In response, the NCVC established the National Compassion Fund and named Dion executive director. Dion and other volunteers began building an infrastructure capable of passing 100% of donations to victims, with complete transparency to donors, victims and their communities.
Expertise that makes a difference
“Collecting funds is relatively easy process—we typically use GoFundMe and wire transfers—but distributing them can be complicated,” Dion notes. He and other volunteers bring specialized expertise that makes the latter part much easier. They created a low-cost template that channels every donated dollar to victims. They do this by working with hospitals and law enforcement to identify victims and verify eligibility, and navigating numerous state laws that govern charitable donations. They also structure all payments as gifts—rather than reimbursement for economic loss—so that they don’t interfere with state-sponsored victim compensation funds.
Low overhead is key to their model. Many victims receive payment via Zelle®, which is fast and simple to administer. Receiving payments using just an email address or mobile phone number allows people to receive their funds quickly, and directly into their bank account.
Creating solidarity among victims
Unlike many other funds, the National Compassion Fund treats everyone the same. “Income and insurance status aren’t considerations for us,” says Dion. “We distribute gifts equally, regardless of economic background.”
This sense of unity and togetherness is core to the National Compassion Fund’s mission. “Being a victim can be very isolating—I know from experience,” notes Dion, who lost his sister to a serial killer. “When donors contribute, it can help recipients overcome this feeling. It’s incredibly powerful to know that someone cares.”
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- 1Enrollment required. Payments can arrive within minutes but may take as long as three business days. Actual times may vary.
- 2Send money with Zelle using just the recipient's email address or U.S. mobile number. No need to collect or store sensitive bank account details.