In 2014, Houston Texans defensive end and Pro Bowler J.J. Watt became the first player in NFL history to record two 20+ sack seasons (his first was in 2012). This week, Watt set another record – but off the field. Watt’s Houston Flood Relief Fund hit the $10 million this morning, cementing it as the fastest growing, largest crowdfunding charitable fundraiser in the ten-year history of crowdfunding.
You might think that kind of response would take weeks of coordination and an army of public relations and fundraising experts to get started. Not so. According to Dan Saper, CEO of YouCaring.com, the site hosting the fundraiser, it just took a few minutes. Watt set up the fundraiser through a YouCaring.com page on August 27. He kicked off the fundraiser with an initial personal donation of $100,000 with the goal of raising $200,000 for charity. He made a quick video introducing the challenge that he uploaded to Twitter. With support from friends and fans, he reached the $200,000 goal in two hours.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Watt raised the goal to $500,000 that same day. He met that goal within 24 hours. So, of course, Watt boosted the goal to $1 million.
On August 29, Tennessee Titans Owner Amy Adams Strunk donated one million dollars to the fund. Strunk is a Houston native and maintains a home just outside of the city. Watt thanked her on social media – and raised the goal again.
Yesterday, the charity got another boost when talk show host Ellen DeGeneres surprised Watt, announcing:
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, local hero J.J. Watt sprang to action by raising funds for those affected. Through his crowdfunding page, the football star has raised over $7 million to help families in need. And now thanks to the generosity of our friends at Walmart, $1 million more has been donated to his Houston Flood Relief Fund.
Just before the donation was made public, Watt noted that more than 75,000 donors had already contributed to the fund. He said the donations would ensure that much-needed supplies, like drinking water, would get to the people who needed it.
This morning, Watt took to social media again to thank donors for pushing the fund over the $10 million mark. He promised that donations would get to the folks that need them, saying that supplies are already on their way.
But what about all of those fundraising expenses for charities that you’ve heard about in the press? That’s not the case here. The money that’s being directed to donors from Watt’s fund isn’t subject to additional fees. Saper says that unlike other crowdfunding platforms, there are no fees taken out of donations to YouCaring.com campaigns other than processing fees assessed by the credit card companies. The site is, he says, “completely free to use” and the plan is to remain that way “forever.”
So how does YouCaring.com make money? The for-profit corporation is a B-corporation, which means that the company is organized for maximum social and environmental impact, factors that shareholders must factor into decision-making. When it comes to making money, the company keeps the lights on through optional contributions from donors. So far, it’s worked. The company had just three full-time staff in 2014 when Saper came on board. Today, the company has 50 employees in its San Francisco office.
Saper says that the popularity of the site has to do with the potential for “incredible reach” to donors. To ensure quality, the company has a “pretty robust process” for verifying fundraisers. The model has struck a chord in the fundraising company, attracting a number of campaigns, including many from high-profile organizations like Major League Baseball (MLB). After the Oakland A’s used the platform, Saper says that YouCaring.com became the preferred crowd-funding platform for MLB.
In addition to Watt’s campaign, Saper says there are more than 1,000 active fundraisers on the site intended to benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey. They’re going to need it: with tens of thousands of people displaced and billions of dollars in damage, the disaster is considered the worst in the history of Texas.
To donate to Watt’s campaign, which now stands at over $11 million, click here.
For other ways to help after Harvey, check out this prior article.
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