Crowdfunding and payment companies are no strangers to cutting off access to organizations that violate their policies, but their latest move could be more contentious than usual. PayPal and GoFundMe have confirmed to BuzzFeed News that they’ve shut down fundraising campaigns for the United Constitutional Patriots, a right-wing militia group in New Mexico that has been detaining migrants at the border with Mexico despite doubts about its legal authority. The sites claim that UCP has violated their policies barring support for hate or violence, in one case allegedly using funds to buy guns.
The group has been accused of not only detaining migrants at gunpoint, violating citizen’s arrest limits, but of impersonating law enforcement.
Mark Cheney, who describes himself as a commander for UCP, denied that the group had used online donations for weapons. However, he acknowledged that the cutoff “killed” the group’s resources — it’s scrambling to find alternatives to keep its operations going.
The decision highlights both the ubiquity of online crowdfunding. Many groups will quickly turn to crowdfunding to support their causes, even if there’s a good chance they’ll violate site policies in the process. This incident also illustrates the mounting challenges for the sites themselves. They’re increasingly having to make decisions that, while necessary, risk inserting them into political debates they weren’t prepared to join.
GoFundMe.com has made a name for itself as a wildly successful platform for people to raise awareness virally and collect money for their personal causes, with $5 billion coming from 50 million donors since launching in 2010. More recently, it has been building out a wider presence working with charities.
It is making the latter more official today, with the launch of GoFundMe.org. And alongside this, it’s debuting a new way to donate to larger fundraising efforts by way of GoFundMe.org Causes, which lets people make donations that might go to one of many charities working to support a variety of general causes, initially covering six “evergreen” areas like animal rescue, K-12 classrooms and mental health.
GoFundMe says that the tax-deductible donations that people make on GoFundMe.org will be disbursed to hundreds of verified fundraisers and charities related to the cause.
“Together with GoFundMe, we are expanding the benefits of social fundraising and continuing to support some of the most impactful needs within our community with tax-deductible donations,” said Yoshi Inoue, CEO of GoFundMe.org. Inoue had previously been legal counsel at GoFundMe, and previous to that had worked at The Life You Can Save, another organization that helps recommend charities for those who want to give but are not sure of what steps to take next.
GoFundMe.org is not exactly new: it is the new name for the Direct Impact Fund, which has been working with GoFundMe since 2017 — and before that, it was working with Crowdrise, which GoFundMe acquired that year — to help pool funding for mass events like natural or man-made disasters, where it helped distribute what got raised to charities helping to address individuals’ needs. It’s an independent, registered 501(c)(3) public charity.
YouCaring, another acquisition GoFundMe has made in its consolidation push in the causes and charitable giving space, had also been a leading platform for larger charitable efforts. At one point, it had the distinction of running the largest fundraising campaign of any kind, on any platform, with the JJ Watt’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund ($37 million raised). Having one platform for GoFundMe to collect for wider causes like this, which in itself is a charity, is a smart move.
The renaming and launch of the Causes element underscores two areas of development for GoFundMe.
First, it’s creating a more formal way for those who want to donate money to charity, but unaware of the best way to go about doing this, to have a more obvious channel for doing this, distinct from the personal causes that are on GoFundMe.
Second, it’s underscoring GoFundMe’s own hope that people do not associate it just with personal fundraising (sometimes with very questionable ends) but also with a wider spirit of giving, and giving back. That is something it has been working on for a while, for example when it partnered with former First Lady Michelle Obama on the Global Girls Alliance.
This is, therefore, more to the spirit of how people sometimes come to platforms like GoFundMe, even if it’s not always what they find there (since the majority of campaigns will be for individuals). That is something that Facebook had capitalised on with its own launch of fundraising options for non-profits on its platform several years ago.
“We’re dedicated to bringing more people together to support causes they care about,” says Raquel Rozas, GoFundMe chief marketing officer. “By working with our non-profit arm, GoFundMe.org, we’re providing people the opportunity to give to one topic they’re passionate about rather than having to pick just one fundraiser to support.”
If you’ve ever tried to choose between supporting similar campaigns for the same worthy cause on GoFundMe, you know it can be challenging to pick just one.
That’s why the crowdfunding site launched GoFundMe.org Causes on Thursday. The initiative allows donors to support several campaigns related to one of six causes: animal rescue, mental health, environment, kindergarten through high school classrooms, veterans, and kid heroes.
The company knows its donors are passionate about these issues, said Raquel Rozas, chief marketing officer of GoFundMe. New topics will be added in the future.
A single donation to one cause will be distributed to multiple individuals and nonprofit organizations vetted in part by the new GoFundMe.org, an independent public charity working with GoFundMe.
The goal is to reach people who perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise learned about the campaigns as well as to engage high-profile influencers who prefer to back a broad cause instead of a single fundraiser.
“Our hope is to bring new donors and new communities to these existing campaigns,” said Rozas.
The initiative is an evolution of fundraising GoFundMe was already doing with the Direct Impact Fund, a nonprofit organization that helped fund time-sensitive campaigns for multiple groups working on issues like disaster relief and political crises. That has included support for California wildfire survivors and those affected by the Trump administration’s family separation policy. GoFundMe.org Causes will still include campaigns for urgent campaigns, Rozas said.
GoFundMe.org Causes launched by marking National Pet Day with a call from Matt Nelson, who runs the popular WeRateDogs™ Twitter account, to support the platform’s animal rescue cause.
GoFundMe, the company, just donated $5,000 to a GoFundMe campaign set up to both counter and troll yet another GoFundMe campaign. But wait, it gets even weirder. In this convoluted battle of the GoFundMes, the tech company comes down on the humane side.
Welcome to San Francisco, 2019, where nothing makes sense, but you can still count on the city to collectively thumb its nose at some cartoonishly awful jerks.
According to SF Weekly, this all started with a group of wealthy San Francisco residents uniting to oppose the construction of a Navigation Center — think of it as a more comprehensive homeless shelter that offers services and counseling as well as a place to sleep — in their mostly fancy neighborhood.
“[The] guillotine is coming for you all.”
The initial inciting GoFundMe, dubbed “Safe Embarcadero for All,” sought to raise $100,000 to be used “exclusively for legal and related costs to oppose the proposed Navigation Center at Seawall Lot 330.” It was created on March 20 by a self-described “resident of South Beach” and sought to retain counsel from Zacks, Freedman & Patterson — a law firm known for representing property owners.
And the money poured in. At the time of this writing the campaign had received $48,745 of its goal.
Although, at least $5 of that appears to be from someone who just wanted the ability to leave a publicly viewable message on the GoFundMe campaign page. “[You] people should be ashamed,” read the note in question. “[The] guillotine is coming for you all.”
And then GoFundMe, the Redwood City-based company, got involved. In a somewhat surprising move, the company donated $5,000 to Fitzgerald’s pro-Navigation Center campaign.
“Every month, GoFundMe gives over $100,000 to deserving campaigns nominated by GoFundMe employees as part of our Gives Back program,” a company spokesperson wrote to Mashable via email. “GoFundMe employees choose to nominate worthy causes throughout the year and we believe this campaign to support the Coalition is an important effort.”
“I think it was quite cheeky of them and pretty smart,” Fitzgerald said of GoFundMe’s donation when reached by phone.
The company assured Mashable over email that it would not be taking a cut of its own donation, and that the Coalition on Homelessness would receive the entire $5,000 minus 2.9 percent (plus $.30) pulled from all donations on the platform to cover “the cost of third party card processors and the safe and secure transfer of funds.”
As of the evening of March 28, the same day it was launched, the SAFER Embarcadero for ALL campaign (remember, that’s the good one) has raised $16,623 from 210 people. The Coalition calls this “a big chunk of change for [them].”
So, there you have it. A GoFundMe campaign set up in part to troll another GoFundMe campaign was backed by GoFundMe and will end up contributing to a noble cause.
The popular fundraising website says it will no longer allow anti-vaccine groups and activists to raise money to spread anti-vaccination conspiracies on its platform, according to a statement provided to .
“Campaigns raising money to promote misinformation about vaccines violate GoFundMe’s terms of service and will be removed from the platform,” said GoFundMe spokesperson Bobby Whithorne in a similar statement provided to Mashable.
The company’s policies state that “products that make health claims that have not been approved or verified” by regulatory bodies are prohibited from using its service.
While it’s unknown exactly how much anti-vaccination campaigns have raised money through GoFundMe, The Daily Beast reports that it had discovered previous fundraisers from anti-vaxxer activists, legal funds, and Facebook pages that totaled around $170,000.
While losing GoFundMe as a resource to raise money will certainly hurt, anti-vaxxers have been using other means to fund their efforts. A report earlier this month discovered that anti-vaccine groups were through Amazon’s charity program, AmazonSmile.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been of measles — a once nearly eradicated disease — reported in the U.S. so far this year.
Experts say that anti-vaccination conspiracies, on Facebook and other social media services, have played a major role in the outbreak. Thanks to public outcry, many online companies have ramped up efforts to remove anti-vaccination content from their platforms in recent months.
In February, blocked anti-vaccination-related search queries from its platform. Shortly after, YouTube announced that it would be anti-vaxxer content on its site. Amazon followed suit by from its Prime video service.
Faced with increasing public pressure, Facebook also announced it would take action to anti-vaccination pages and groups just this month.