102: How The CEO of GoFundMe Rob Solomon Is Helping The Online Community Make A Difference

Aug 31, 2016
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My guest tonight is Rob Solomon, the CEO of GoFundMe. GoFundMe shouldn’t need too much of an introduction. Using technology to break down geographical barriers and stereotypes to actually unite international communities to make a difference together is what GoFundMe is all about. They have already raised over $2 billion dollars for fantastic causes. And in a world where the media seems intent on dividing communities rather than uniting them GoFundMe is a fantastic story. Anybody who thinks we can make a difference in this world and everybody listening to this show has more in common than differences, and I think you’re going to love this one.

Can you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and what you do?

My name is Rob Solomon. I’m the CEO of GoFundMe, and I’m responsible for bringing GoFundMe to the world. We’re at the point now where more than 25 million people have donated on the GoFundMe platform. We’ve raised more than 2 billion dollars for personal causes. We’re launched in the U.K, Australia, Canada, and we started in the United States about six years ago.

The clue is probably in the title. But for anyone hearing about GoFundMe for the first time can you explain what makes it unique and how it’s different from Kickstarter or Indigogo for example?

Indigogo and Kickstarter really focus on crowdfunding for creative projects and entrepreneurial pursuits such as launching a movie or CD or product. You’re funding that, and you’re also going to get something in return. GoFundMe is quite a bit different. We’re a funding platform for causes, specifically personal causes that focus on people helping people in times of need.

What I love about GoFundMe is it combines technology and the human element to make a difference in people’s lives. Do you have any examples you are especially proud of?

Thousands and thousands. Each month we see 100,000 campaigns on the platform. A difficult campaign raises about $1500 dollars, so these are small personal causes. These aren’t big giant campaigns as you will see with UNICEF or the Red Cross. These are people helping people. A great example is a campaign we saw this summer called Chauncey’s Chance. Chauncey is a sixteen-year-old kid. He was very hungry, very poor. He was in a parking lot at a grocery store and asked one of the shoppers to give him a few dollars so he could buy a glazed donut.

This person decided to create a campaign for Chauncey and got to know him and his mother who is disabled. They had many financial burdens and were struggling to make ends meet. This person started a campaign for Chauncey, and it ended up raising $340,000 dollars from 14,000 donors over a two month period. It really changed the game for Chauncey and his mother and helped them get on their feet.

Over 140 GoFundMe campaigns have been created in a hub on the platform specifically for Olympians. I think over $750,000 has been raised for travel and training costs. Can you explain and expand a little on that?

Over the last few years we started to see many different sports teams raising money for kids and uniforms and travel. These are typically little league baseball teams or small soccer or football teams trying to raise a little money to travel to tournaments. Before at the last Olympics in London and then at these Olympics in Rio we’ve seen truly hopeful Olympians raising money on the platform. Because most aren’t Michael Phelps and they don’t get endorsements and a stipend from organizing committees to focus on training.

Most athletes have to compromise between how am I going to train and become a world class athlete and how am I going to pay for that? We saw 140 hopefuls raise nearly one million dollars on the platform to make it to Rio. The ones who were lucky enough to qualify for the Olympics then had family members that wanted to see their loved ones participate. Getting to Rio from a foreign country is very hard. It’s thousands of dollars or pounds. So it was incredibly exciting to see this.

For anyone listening who is considering raising money for a worthwhile cause or a loved one what advice would you give on how to make that campaign successful?

There are a few important things to do. The most important thing is to tell a story that’s very compelling. Explain what you’re raising money for, why you’re raising money for it getting as specific as possible. People want to see what the ask is. There’s this notion now of radical transparency. Tell the story and explain what you’re raising money for people will know what they are giving to and people want to help.

What’s next for GoFundMe? Is there any big goals, ideas or features you’re looking at?

We definitely want to expand globally. We’re seeing there’s a need on a worldwide basis for GoFundMe. We’re seeing interest from hundreds of countries where people want to give to campaigns.

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