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GoFundMe’s New Film Studio Wants To Help Giving Campaigns Go Viral

The giving platform is putting a glossy finish on some of its favorite campaigns to help drive awareness–and dollars.

GoFundMe’s New Film Studio Wants To Help Giving Campaigns Go Viral

Walt is a young boy who gives pajamas and stuffed animals to foster kids. In a new video about his charity work, he approaches a young girl and–in polite if imperfect kid-speak–asks if she’d like to have a free stuffed ‘a-mi-nal.’ When she says yes, Walt hands three over delicately. (“They’re yours now.”) Another short clip shows Khloe, a girl who collects and distributes care packages to the homeless, as she makes a new friend on the street. Later, she tells the camera that her favorite part is receiving hugs. (“When they say ‘thank you’ it’s sort of like paying for everything I’ve done . . . it’s very valuable,” she adds.)

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Walt and Khloe are two of the children featured on GoFundMe’s recently launched “Kid Heroes,” an online fundraising hub that showcases many of the charitable campaigns on the giving platform that are created by children. The video about both–and several more little change makers–is part of a new move by the company to get into the content business. Rather than just surfacing the pages of its kid givers, it’s created a cinematic montage about the lives of several different kids, their motivations, and the people whose lives they touch.

The work was done by GoFundMe Studios, an in-house film division that launched in late October and marks GoFundMe’s next play to capture more attention and interactions from potential campaign creators and donors. “The power of storytelling through video is bar none,” says GoFundMe chief marketing officer Raquel Rozas. “You know, a picture is worth a thousand words. A written story is also impactful. But nothing trumps the way that you can tell a story through video. This just elevates our ability to tell our community’s stories and, you know, help it cut through the clutter if you will.”

In an age where much of what’s going viral on other social networks is video driven, the rise of GoFundMe Studios seems predictable. GoFundMe has raised $40 billion from over 40 million donors since starting in 2010, with the company taking a 5% fee for each transaction, but it needs a consistent supply of new campaigns and new donors to stay viable. Helping its most powerful campaigns go viral with high-production videos is an obvious step. The division is being lead by executive producers Wil Tidma, the former VP of creative strategy and original productions at GoPro, and Chris Neil, who has directed work for creative agencies like Digitas, Publicis, and Commonwealth.

And in a year where the company struggled with perception issues, after it allowed white nationalists to use it as a fundraising platform, the video content is a chance for the company to publicly project more of the campaigns it feels are worth endorsing or giving a little boost. GoFundMe has been coy about exactly how it will identify what campaigns to focus its new lens on, but the videos so far touch many of its biggest giving constituencies, playing to things like human dignity, social justice, and animal rights. Rozas says that stories aren’t picked based on how well the individual campaign succeeds but by whether there was “some sort of human truth that we thought would resonate with our audience and broadly.” The general goal, says Rozas, is to “inspire other people to do similar things and take action in their own communities and help make a broader difference in the world.”

In the same vein, on Giving Tuesday, the company will donate $100,000 to be distributed among 100 of those kid-inspired campaigns. Recipients were chosen after an internal vote among company employees. Donors who visit the hub can also give to their own favorite causes, or to a central fund managed by the Direct Impact Fund, a nonprofit that promises to create a methodology for distributing the money fairly.

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GoFundMe plans to release one 10-minute documentary per month, interspersed with shorter one- to two-minute stories that appear weekly on its home page. The company’s first mini-movie, which came out in late October is called “Jim Ford, Repo Man,” a film about the GoFundMe push that a repo man began for a couple after he took their car. Other documentaries that will air in the coming months include “This Ends with Me,” a story about a former Ku Klux Klan member who needs help removing his racist tattoos. And “The St. Louis 6” about six bulls rescued from a slaughterhouse and transported to a new home.

The weekly dispatches serve the same purpose, but will allow the company to highlight what’s happening at any point in a campaign’s lifecycle, from inception, to midway through (or beyond that, if goals are raised as donations come in) and the aftermath when funds get distributed, and those involved might have to figure out what’s next for themselves. The films so far include heartwarmers like how a single mom raised about $1,600 to help her daughter attend a national track championship, a baseball fan in Detroit who raised over $2,000 to replace a peanut vendor’s stolen moped, and a person in California who raised over $50,000 for a neighbor that lost their home and cat in a house fire.

In general, these narratives are upbeat and earnest. Take the Kid Heroes montage: “You’re never too young to help. You can always do something,” Walt says at the end of video. That’s followed by a superimposed message–“In the season of getting, some kids want to give”–and a link for donors to help them.

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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