How This Crowdfunding Campaign Went From $1,500 to $15M
It began as a simple $1,500 Facebook fundraiser, sparked by a couple that wanted to make any difference in any way that they could for the family separation crisis that is happening along the southern border of the U.S. Despite its small beginnings, if you have Facebook, I just about guarantee that you’ve seen, “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child,” within these past few days, as it is still being shared from page to page at over $15 million donated (at the time of this article’s writing) by over 430,000 people.
How did this such a small movement spiral into something this grand? What underlying factor enabled this fund to turn $1,500 into $15 million?
As a charity professional, I am blessed to find myself routinely in awe with my work, the unbelievable phenomenon that is 21st Century crowdfunding. Out of all of the fundraising drives that I’ve had the great fortune of organizing, however, one pioneering initiative in particular stands out to me, due to just how personal the cause was to me. It not only further affirmed the deep passion that I have for my work, but because of the emotional value of the experience, I also experienced a revelation about a little known aspect of human nature, which sheds light on the aforementioned Facebook fundraiser—the miraculous sensation of togetherness.
Ironically enough, the moment that fostered this sense of unity was one of sorrowful separation. Three years ago, a close friend of mine—Nadiv—passed away at 30 years old, leaving behind a lovely wife and four beautiful children. Unable to collect life insurance due to a heart condition, his family was left in the lurch, struck by both the loss of a great father and husband, and a source of income.
Immediately, a group of friends and myself began a crowdfunding campaign, looking to help them in whatever way we could with the assistance of those in our local community—imagine our shock when by the end of the very first week, the fund exceeded any of our wildest imaginations. Backed by 5,678 separate individuals, our campaign—as well as another that was organized by other members of the community—had managed to raise over $1 million for the widowed family.
As one of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met, Nadiv was truly loved and respected by all those he knew, but 5,678 people? Nobody knows that many people; we were absolutely stunned.
What exactly compelled these complete strangers to donate their hard-earned money to a family that they had never even met? The answer to our question came in the unlikeliest, but most Millennial of forms: a Facebook post, one that changed my understanding in the power of charity, and my contribution as well.
It read as follows: “I never met Nadiv or his family, but I’ve been watching the campaign, and from seeing how many hundreds of people are participating—$5, $10, $15—and how many people are sharing it, I want to be a part of this.”
“I want to be a part of this.” I stared at that those words for a while, my eyes transfixed to the screen as I came to my realization. This person—whoever they were—was convinced by the same innate desire that I spoke of earlier, which everyone eventually comes to be motivated by. It’s one that we tend not to consciously recognize, even though it shapes much of our lives—the need to belong, to be a part of something greater than oneself.
Think about just how many seemingly mundane elements of our daily lives are impacted by this: We gleefully don our “Officially Overpriced NFL/NBA/NHL Jerseys” and feel an instant kinship with others dressed similarly. We feel this same sensation in nearly everything we do, from our political alignment, hometown and alma mater, to even where you choose to get lunch or what kind of car you happen to drive.
I began to notice the same thing in other fundraisers that I helped put together—complete strangers giving away vast sums of money to a young girl who desperately needed a life-saving procedure for example, as well as other families who unfortunately found themselves in similar situations as Nadiv’s. Thus, I look at “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child”, and I see the exact same thing that I saw during that week three years ago.
Yes, people are frustrated and want to see an end to the crisis, but at the end of the day, they press that “Donate” button because they, in empowering others, feel empowered when they act in concert with their sisters-and-brothers-in-charity.
Moshe Hecht, winner of the 2017 NonProfit PRO Technology Professional of the Year, is a philanthropy futurist, public speaker and chief innovation officer of Charidy, a crowdfunding platform and consulting company that has helped 3,000 organizations raise over $700 million.
Moshe's passion lies at the intersection of technology and charitable giving. When Moshe is not at the office, he is writing music and enjoying downtime with his wife and three redheaded children.