Does GoFundMe skew liberal? ‘Times Up’ is the No. 1 fundraiser for 2018

Donations poured into fundraising site GoFundMe in 2018. The largest campaigns may reveal the political leanings of those who donated.

Two of the 5 most popular funds skew liberal — Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund (No. 1 in terms of dollars raised) and Stoneman Douglas and March for Our Lives (No. 3) — and no traditionally conservative causes were listed among the biggest donations. Many people using GoFundMe were also donating for the first time. In fact, 61% of those who gave money in 2018 were first-time donors. (The fastest-growing areas for donations are events, family, and animals.)

It’s not clear whether progressive causes are traditionally more popular on crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe or whether there’s simply been a backlash or — at the very least — a strong emotive reaction to some of President Trump’s most socially and politically divisive policies. The president has pledged to build a wall on the Southern border with Mexico, for instance, and restrict the number of immigrants and refugees entering the U.S.

‘People can vote for Donald Trump and hate the separation of children. They can vote Democrat and still think the wall is a good idea.’

—David L. Thompson, vice president of public policy for the National Council of Nonprofits.

“It’s not surprising that political causes are popular this year because people on the left are really angry about policies on the right,” said David Callahan, author of “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age” and founder of Inside Philanthropy. “But a few years from now if we have a Democratic president, we may have a lot of successful crowdfunding from the right.”

Each administration brings its own set of policies and each generation their causes, Thompson said. “Had it been the Obama administration? Perhaps it would have been more conservative,” he added. “This administration has caused people to react. It may come across as liberal now, but it’s a matter of timing. When you’re crowdfunding, you’re not thinking in terms of charitable tax deductions, you’re acting upon your emotions of the day.”

GoFundMe’s latest figures released this week are supported by other recent charitable data, which show a significant uptick in progressive social and scientific causes. The number of campaigns addressing gender reassignment on YouCaring, a crowdfunding platform that was purchased by GoFundMe in 2018, increased by 78% year over year, while fertility treatments rose by 36.5% and social justice causes increased by 34%.

People appear to have found a way to make a difference with their smartphones instead of “liking” posts on Facebook and Twitter TWTR, +1.23% “Strikingly, the number of fundraisers with ‘immigration’ as a key topic increased by 117% in the last year, and those with ‘climate change’ by 112%, though both represent a relatively small proportion of all YouCaring fundraisers,” according to that organization’s annual report released earlier this year.

Don’t miss: Dueling GoFundMe pages raise $500K each for Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford

‘It’s not surprising that political causes are popular this year, because people on the left are really angry about policies on the right.’

—David Callahan, author of “The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age”

“It’s primarily a matter of timing,” said David L. Thompson, vice president of public policy for the National Council of Nonprofits, the nation’s largest network of nonprofit organizations. “Younger donors are asking, ‘What are the hot issues?’ You’re donating using your phone and that’s one of the flash points affecting people that aren’t used to having a philanthropy budget, and those people that aren’t used to participating in longstanding movements.”

The 24/7 news cycle triggers people, too. “Unless they’re giving to a political party, people are reacting to policies and the news,” Thompson added. “People can vote for Donald Trump and hate the separation of children. They can vote Democrat and still think the wall is a good idea. Policies are what people respond to. When people are responding to immigration, they are responding to a public policy issue.”

Politics means different things to different people, he said. “For that reason, I don’t use the word political,” Thompson says. “You could talk to five people and come up with seven definitions of what political means. Young people are more agitated. These issues are generating strong reaction and they want to do something.” Most people are one click away from giving to a cause close to their heart. “It’s very easy to do something about it now,” he added.

There is, however, another reason Thompson shies away from “conservative” and “liberal” when talking about donations. Charities don’t tend to get involved in the machinations on Capitol Hill, and avoid supporting or denouncing political figures. “To maintain their tax-exempt status, charitable nonprofits cannot be politically partisan, but they can have strong public views on policy matters like immigration or abortion or marriage,” he said. “The majority of charitable nonprofits like it that way.”

‘Strikingly, the number of fundraisers with immigration as a key topic increased by 117% in the last year, and those with climate change by 112%.’

—YouCaring 2018 report

Women are typically on average twice as likely to donate money online than men, with younger generations displaying a smaller donations gap between genders. However, when men do donate online, they tend to give larger sums than women, the YouCaring report added. That could be because they tend to earn more. (Government data suggests women earn approximately 83 cents for every dollar earned by a man, an issue influenced in part by occupation.)

Also see: Struggling middle class give less to charity, but donations by wealthy surge

Overall giving is on the rise: “Giving Tuesday,” which fell on Nov. 27 this year and is intended to kick of the holiday season of charitable giving, hit a record of $1 billion in donations in 2018, up 27% on the year before, with more than $380 million given by Americans. Other platforms have set up their own donation platforms and Facebook’s FB, +1.23%  fundraising features have raised more than $1 billion since they were introduced in 2015.

With that in mind, here are the top 5 fundraising campaigns on GoFundMe in 2018:

1. Time’s Up Legal Defense: $22 million

A page raising money for legal defense funds to combat sex discrimination in the workplace raised more than $22 million since it was created in December 2017. The page was made in response to the growing #MeToo movement, in which women shared their experiences with harassment and sexual assault.

The movement has raised a staggering amount of money since it took off in October 2017, according to Charity Navigator chief operating officer Larry Lieberman, with “many tens of millions” going to women’s causes as a result of issues brought up. The GoFundMe Time’s Up funds will be managed by the National Women’s Law Center, a national women’s legal rights association. It is still active and will continue to take donations into 2019.

2. Funds for Humbolt Broncos: $15.1 million

Tragic accidents can hit people hard, and encourage them to help by digging deep into their pockets. One of the most successful fundraisers in GoFundMe history was the “funds for the Humbolt Broncos” page, which raised more than $15 million Canadian dollars ($11.2 in U.S. dollars) for the families of the Canadian hockey team killed in a bus crash in April 2018.

The page got 1.9 million views within the first 24 hours of going live and more than 90,000 donations from 65 countries in just a few days. People raising money after reading about tragic news stories or seeing them reported on television has been a trend throughout 2018, according to Rob Solomon, GoFundMe’s chief executive officer. “This year, we saw social fundraising become an integral part of bigger movements that inspire others,” he said in a statement.

3. Stoneman Douglas and March for Our Lives: $10.1 million

After the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, which left 17 people dead, more than 60 fundraisers sprung up to support “March for Our Lives,” the anti-gun violence movement started by teenagers affected by the tragedy. Fundraisers were created for similar movements around the country to support tougher regulations for gun ownership, the GoFundMe report said.

Social activism and donations among young people are on the rise, Solomon said. “It’s clear that with the youth of today, we are witnessing the next generation of change makers,” he said. “They borrow techniques from their predecessors, such as marches and protests, but they also leverage the most powerful new tools at their disposal: social networks.”

4. Houses for Rohingya Refugees: $2.1 million

Of course, many campaigns are non-partisan. Nearly 700,000 refugees have arrived in Bangladesh in recent months, “having been violently expelled from their homes by Buddhist extremists in Myanmar,” the Houses for Rohingya Refugees page states. “They have experienced and witnessed many atrocities. Most of these refugees have settled in two sprawling camps just over the border: Kutupalong and Balukhali. While aid agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are doing their best to cope with the humanitarian crisis, most refugees are provided with only the basics they need to survive.”

Tree of Life Synagogue Funds: $1.2 million

Another fundraiser that sprung out of a public tragedy, the Tree of Life Synagogue Funds page is still taking donations and has raised more than $1.2 million since it was created on Oct. 27 following a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, which left 11 people dead. “Respond to this hateful act with your act of love today,” the charity description said. In addition to this GoFundMe, there was a 1,000% increase in donations to Jewish groups, CharityNavigator.org found.

Ultimately, donating via smartphone is likely based on what’s happening in that exact moment. A donor could be spurred by a television commercial, cable news debate or dinner party conversation. Emotion, not politics, matters most, Callahan added. “Crowdfunding is most successful when it’s fueled by some kind of strong emotion, whether personal, social, or political,” he says. “After mass shootings, you’ll often see crowdfunding for those issues.”

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