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Nicholas Ivie, a Border Patrol agent stationed in Arizona, was killed recently while on duty.

Billy Sanders, who worked with Ivie at the Naco station, turned to online fundraising to help Ivie's wife and two daughters. His Web page on GoFundMe raised nearly $30,000 in a few weeks and is well on its way to a $100,000 goal.

Raising money online, or crowdfunding, is the new model for everything from music albums to video game consoles.

Last year, crowdfunding platforms helped artists, entrepreneurs and companies raise about $1.5 billion. Fundraising sites will probably double that number by the end of this year.

Some crowdfunding campaigns make headlines by raising jaw-dropping amounts of money. For example, OUYA, an Android-powered gaming console, recently raised more than $2 million on its first day on Kickstarter.

Thanks to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, however, it's easy for regular folks to ask for help in funding mission trips or covering unexpected medical and funeral expenses.

You can create a free personal donation website at GoFundMe in just a few minutes. You can raise funds for just about anything: a creative project, a small business startup or a honeymoon trip.

It's a great place to bring in money for sports teams, schools, charities and volunteers.

Many people use GoFundMe to help friends and family members cover the cost of medical, veterinary and funeral expenses. One woman, for example, raised more than $134,000 for her brother's cancer treatment. The donation page for a wounded survivor of the Aurora, Colo., shooting reached $140,000 in a day and is now approaching $200,000.

So how do you get started? First, you create a free donation page. This is an opportunity to tell your story.

Put some thought into explaining why you need the money and how much it means to you. You can easily share this page through email and social media to quickly spread the word.

GoFundMe has you set a fundraising goal, but unlike other sites you're under no obligation or time limit to meet the goal. Donations are transferred to you as they come in. Fundraisers aren't expected to give away freebies to backers.

GoFundMe does deduct a 5 percent fee from each donation you receive (4.25 percent for certified charities and nonprofits).

Additionally, online credit card processor WePay will deduct 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction. Your donors pay no fees and don't need to open any kind of account.

To guard against fraud, GoFundMe won't add a donation page to the search directory until it's reviewed and several conditions are met.

You must connect an authentic Facebook account to the GoFundMe donation page. Facebook accounts that have a low number of friends and no photos will be rejected.

Donation pages are also required to have a photo or video of you or your group; clip art, logos and other graphics aren't allowed.

Finally, your page must raise $100 in online contributions before it can be publicly listed.

If you want to make donations, give money only to individuals you know and trust. Pages from nonprofit groups display a Certified Charity banner.

Email Kim Komando at techcomments@usatoday.com.

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