Celebrities have long been known for their charitable work and donations but recently, tinsletown’s hottest have found a new way to give back.
Starting in 2015, celebs such as Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Kristen Bell and Jon Bon Jovi began using the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to donate thousands of dollars towards causes of their choosing. And it’s a trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed well into 2016.
“We’ve definitely seen a big increase in celebrities and influencers," GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon told International Business Times.
Just like regular folks that are turning to GoFundMe as their go-to platform for online donations, Solomon says celebrities are taking the same route. “It’s become the platform that defines social fundraising and celebrities are following the same trends… They’re donating, they’re creating and sharing campaigns that really matter to them personally,” Solomon told IBT.
So why are these celebrities driven to these campaigns? According to Solomon, its the draw of the campaigns that hit close to home for A-listers. When country superstar Brad Paisley’s home state of West Virginia was hit by floods in June, Paisley started his own GoFundMe campaign and kicked it off by donating $100,0000.
But it’s not just causes close to home that inspire celebs. “We’ve seen celebrities, just like everyday people… They are inspired by campaigns that touch them. Taylor Swift is a great example of that,” Solomon said.
When it comes to GoFundMe, Swift is no stranger. The “Blank Space” singer recently contributed to one supporter’s funeral experience and has made numerous donations through the site. In July 2015, she single-handedly changed the platform by giving $50,000 to an 11-year-old fan who had been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. In the early days of the website donations exceeding more than $1,000 or $2,000 were rare and maximum limit allowed was $5,000.
“[Taylor Swift] came in and wanted to donate $50,000, and our system at the time wasn’t built for that, so she actually made multiple donations that totaled $50,000 and once she did that, we fixed the system and didn’t limit the amount of money that a donor could leave on the platform. She actually changed the way that we do business,” said Solomon.
Although many celebrities make their donations public, there are still some who prefer to keep their generosity under wraps. Solomon says most celebrities “will in fact make the donation in their name” but the stars that prefer to remain anonymous most likely do it in an effort not to take attention away from the campaign.
“We’ll see some very big donations in the $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 range and often times they’re anonymous,” Solomon said. “I think it’s a personal choice that people make. They want to help the cause and feel really good about donating money, and they don’t necessarily want to bring attention or attention to themselves for donating.”
But celebrities aren’t only donating, they’re also raising money. This year, rapper The Game teamed up with his son to raise finances for Officer Tommy Norman of Arkansas. Praising the way Norman patrols his community and builds relationships with the residents, The Game and his son wanted to help the officer with his mission of strengthening the community.
The Game set out for a goal of $50,000 and in just four months raised $73,000. While the perfomer could have easily donated his own money, he was able to rally his followers to give to a good cause. So why are fans so willing to donate to celebrities? Solomon believes it goes back to the days of Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day telethons.
“I think the average fan looks up to the celebrities they care about. They care about what they’re interested in. The Brad Paisley, West Virginia flooding campaign is a great example of that. He’s a local son. He grew up there. He’s a very authentic country star,” said Solomon. “He tapped into his community and he knew his community would rally and support the cause. These influential people have followings… They want to leverage their influence in positive ways. They know their followers care what they’re into.”
So what’s next for GoFundMe? The site recently announced its “#GoBeyondGiving Challenge,” which will enter campaign organizers for a chance to win a $10,000 donation to their cause. “We’re trying to motivate people to start campaigns in their communities,” said Solomon. The company also has plans to partner with some celebrities, but Solmon couldn’t reveal the names just yet.
GoFundMe to expand into more markets in “many more countries in the coming years and as soon as early next year.” With the plans for expansion, the site has also adapted a new mission. “We now want to empower people to help people. We want to give everyone the power to change their world,” Solomon said.
As for people starting their own campaigns, Solomon offered a few tips. “The main thing that helps is being very descriptive about why you’re raising money, why it’s going to be important. The more time you spend on providing information about the cause, the more you share in terms of video — the more the story comes to life."