GoFundMe has racked up over $4 billion in donations as the world’s biggest platform for people setting up donation campaigns, in part by leveraging the power of social media to get people to share stories around those campaigns, with the biggest of these often going viral. Now, to tap deeper into the estimated $500 million in charitable donations that are made globally each year, the company is adding a new feature into the mix as it looks to tap into the popularity of video, currently the hottest medium on social networks.
The studio will be led by two people: Wil Tidman, who had been the VP of creative, strategy and original productions for GoPro — the camera maker that once had high hopes of its own move into content before shutting down its entertainment unit in 2016 amid many other cuts (but didn’t exit content altogether: Tidman was actually in his role there until May 2017); and Chris Neil, who has a long list of production credits in Hollywood films to his name.
The studio is releasing its first film today, a nine-minute short called “Jim Ford, Repo Man” (embedded below), and there are several other films already in production. They sound pretty compelling, I have to admit, above and beyond the donation aspect, which speaks a lot to the emotive nature of GoFundMe (and, perhaps, what makes the content world go round these days).
Others in production include a film about a reformed Klansman; a film about bulls that escape from a slaughterhouse.
“In my career, I have yet to come across so many truly incredible stories as the ones we’ve found on GoFundMe,” said Tidman in a statement. “GoFundMe Studios will showcase the extraordinary stories of humans changing the world through the simple act of giving. Through a documentary storytelling lens, we aim to inspire our community and the world to turn compassion into action.”
“Now is the time for these stories,” added Neil. “With so much tragic news these days, people are hungry for artfully told, real-life stories that remind us of the transformative power of kindness and compassion.”
The idea behind the new division, according to Raquel Rozas, CMO of GoFundMe, is (fittingly) one of marketing: it will be used both to spread the word about interesting campaigns, to get more people to contribute; and by association, spreading the word about GoFundMe as a place to start fundraising for a cause.
“Wil and his team will be working with different formats, from one to two-minute short moments to more in-depth docu-series in order to bring these stories to life,” she said in an emailed interview. She said GoFundMe is aiming to release at least one film a month and a shorter “moment” every week.
“We will share these with a wide audience over our social channels, and we are also talking with networks and digital platforms who are interested in helping our community by amplifying these stories,” she added.
It is not — at this point — a mission to replace all the video on GoFundMe with video natively created by or on GoFundMe’s platforms.
The in-house studio is an interesting twist on the concept of native content — which today has largely become a term that is equated with advertising. As with the rest of GoFundMe, while this is a kind of advertising of its own as well, it’s in aid of the cause itself.
For now, GoFundMe is hand-selecting the causes that it will choose to profile in video form — one example of which you can see below.
It’s early days but you can see how this might develop over time. Video, potentially, could be an interesting and extra line of revenue for the company, if they decided to make this into a service.
Today, those making campaigns can create and upload their own videos, and many do, often using other platforms like YouTube, so there is clearly an appetite for using video to build stories, and this is GoFundMe’s way of tapping into that and potentially getting involved in that part of the process.
Rozas declined to comment on any plans, if they exist, to open up the service to any and all campaign creators as a paid or free service, nor would she say anything about whether GoFundMe planned to and add in any other features to those videos, such as the ability to, say, donate directly during the videos themselves — both features that would make sense in GoFundMe videos.
“Right now we are focused on launching GoFundMe studios and sharing these powerful stories,” she said, “but we are always looking for ways to help amplify more stories, and bring more features and tools to our community to make helping even easier.”
To date, GoFundMe has not disclosed the total amount it has raised in venture funding, nor its valuation. The company counts Accel, Iconiq, TCV, Stripes and more among its investors. The company typically charges 7.9 percent + $.30 processing fee for personal or charity campaigns and competes against the likes of Facebook (which natively hosts much of the video posted on its site), JustGiving and more.