In a 2015 report, GoFundMe humbly boasted that its ‘charitable giving’ ranked it — financially speaking — among the United States’ top 10 charities. Using the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s yearly rankings, GoFundMe inserted itself right between the National Christian Foundation and the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Fund in terms of annual fundraising.
On its surface, this seems pretty amazing. But knowing better, we can’t help but pick this apart.
GoFundMe is using a number they prefer to use for obvious reasons — donations made on the platform. That means every dollar given to every cause — both genuine and manufactured — for any reason. That would be like me bragging I’ve given $20 to the homeless gentleman in my neighborhood this week, all of which he converted into alcohol. These numbers are absolutely meaningless without GoFundMe telling us how much of that is refunded, how much of that is involved in cases of fraud, and how much of that disappears into the void never to be heard from again. Do we want to believe most people on GoFundMe are honest? Sure. Are we that naive? Of course not.
The report, issued by GoFundMe, the world’s largest crowdfunding site and one that focuses exclusively on personal causes, shows that donations on GoFundMe alone totaled $1.09 billion, which puts crowdfunded giving on par with donations to the top 10 of America’s largest charities.
Now, former Groupon COO and current GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon tells The Australian Business Review he’s ready to make a move in Australia, though not without talking about why he’s glad he left Groupon first:
“Building a company worth a few billion, that’s hard to do. There was some evolution on the tech side that just didn’t happen. Things like food delivery, instant ordering, they’re things they hoped to do but they didn’t, and they missed some opportunities to become a massive meaningful company.
“They’re still a semi-interesting company, but they didn’t build the right tech stack. It’s a cautionary tale: the company got too big too quickly and relied too much on the human side rather than technology.”
Mr Solomon also rues rejecting Google’s $US6 billion takeover offer, admitting that Groupon should have taken the deal.
“Hindsight is 20/20, and we were the fastest growing company in history and at the time it was really spectacular,” he said. “It was an amazing experience but I’m glad I left when I left.”
Meh, water under the virtual bridge, amiright? The important thing is GoFundMe’s world domination plans, Groupon has to figure their own shit out.
And as for what’s next? According to Mr Solomon, GoFundMe is well positioned to grow at an order of magnitude and get to $US10bn donated on the platform, positioning the company as the world’s largest giving organisation.
“If you look at giving organisations, The Gates Foundation is largest of the world; it gives about $US3bn a year to various causes. And there’s United Way, too. We’ll eclipse those guys very quickly, and I hope we can continue to empower people, to help people.
“Sometimes the social safety net just isn’t up to it and that’s where we come in.”
Bill and Melinda Gates are well-known for their work with infectious disease, poverty, and child health in third world countries. GoFundMe, however, is best known for chicks with 420 tattoos on their foreheads and dudes wanting to fight Trump supporters. I mean, the difference is pretty clear.
Solomon does make an excellent point: the social safety net just isn’t up to it. However, giving society a wide-open platform from which to ask for everything from concert tickets to tattoo removal isn’t exactly bettering society in the same way the Gates Foundation does. To pretend otherwise would be, well, actually pretty expected from Silicon Valley.
Can GoFundMe do some good? Duh, of course. Can it do good on the scale it believes it’s doing good? LOL.