How Will The Rise Of Crowdfunding Reshape How We Give To Charity?
Last September, a Chicago resident named Joel Cervantes Macias spotted an 89-year-old man named Fendicio hawking Mexican ice pops–they’re called “paletas”–out of a street cart. The man looked too old to be working, but Macias only had so much spare cash (and so much room for dessert). So he posted a picture of Fendicio on the charitable crowdfunding site GoFundMe, asking others to pitch in for a vacation.
That campaign, called “Relief for Fendicio the paleta man,” quickly went viral. It’s since become a sort of digital parable, which GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon shares constantly to illustrate the power of social fundraising. “It spread across the Internet in a very short amount of time,” he says. “They thought they could raise $3,000 to help him but they ended up raising over $300,000.”
In Solomon’s view, this represents the power of a new cultural frontier, where one small action can lead to an unimaginable impact for good. It exists in a new place–“the giving layer of the Internet,” as Solomon puts it—that combines two previously distinct channels of online interaction, e-commerce and social sharing, into something far more democratic and altruistic. Through charitable crowdsourcing, virtually anyone can quickly start and share a campaign for any imaginable social issue, funneling the proceeds directly to a nonprofit group or person in need. As Solomon puts it, “We want to introduce new audiences and new donors to charities and nonprofits and we want to do it with as much transparency as possible.”
THE EXPLOSION OF THE GIVING LAYER
While GoFundMe may be the largest global player in this space, it represents just a fraction of the new industry’s potential. Since launching in 2010, the platform has topped $3 billion in total contributions, playing host to other viral charity cases like the Chick-fil-A employee who suffered a car accident but was still working in a neck brace and Haus, the German Shepherd, who needed medical attention after saving a young girl form a rattle snake attack.