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Fund the First, which helps front-line workers, crowdfunds for itself

Robert Garland, an NYPD detective and CEO of

Robert Garland, an NYPD detective and CEO of the business startup Fund the First, stands in front of the company banner at a Massapequa park in July. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Fund the First, a business that raises money for armed service members and first responders in need, is turning to a crowdfunding site to raise money for itself.

The Merrick-based fundraising company, a for-profit venture which launched its site in July, has listed a funding goal of $1.07 million on Republic.co.

As of Monday, the campaign had raised $103,380 from 50 investors, according to the Republic site.

Robert Garland, a New York City police detective and chief executive of Fund the First, said that the crowdfunding drive will supplement the $550,000 from more than 40 investors that helped launch the business.

Investors in Fund the First on the Republic site will receive a Crowd SAFE document instead of the preferred stock typically received when angel investors or venture capitalists take a stake in a startup.

A Crowd SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) contract obligates the company to give investors cash or equity, but only if a triggering event occurs, such as an initial public offering, another funding round or the sale of the company or its assets.

In 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors that SAFEs entail risk, may be difficult to sell and may never be converted, "leaving you with nothing."

A spokeswoman for Republic.co, responding to a request for the percentage of campaigns where Crowd SAFE documents converted to equity or cash, said such a calculation would be "tricky."

"The overwhelming majority of our portfolio are companies that ran campaigns in the past two years, which means that the portfolio is still too young to draw conclusions about conversion percentages, etc.," she said in an email.

Fund the First's website raises funds for police, fire, corrections, medical and military personnel and their families facing crises such as medical emergencies.

The company earns money by keeping a small percentage from each contribution. It says that 92% of every donation goes to the beneficiary, about 3% pays payment processing fees and about 5% is allocated to the company, including the cost of an identification service to ensure that Fund the First campaigns go to legitimate beneficiaries.

"All campaigns on our platform are vetted by our team by contacting both the organizer of the campaign and the beneficiary," Garland said in an email.

An online posting by Fund the First chief financial officer Michael LaLuna said that the company's revenue projections for the next three years are $194,000, $740,000 and $2,035,000.

"The long-term plan would be to grow the platform and expand the brand across the U.S.," LaLuna said.

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