THE GREAT TALK
A series of occasional interviews with Americans challenging the status quo.
When Heather Wilson and her younger brother Jacob Wells launched the GiveSendGo crowdfunding platform, they did not intend it to be an option for those who clash with Big Tech politics.
But it has turned out that way.
“They were here. We are an alternative,” said Wells, 42. “We took our meager God-given talent and developed a platform of freedom.”
GiveSendGo is a smaller player in what has become a kind of venture capital for all, a market known in Internet jargon as “collaborative financing via the web.” There was a time when Kickstarter seemed somewhat exotic, but now the field is packed with options. There is also real venture capital involved under the rubric of “investment crowdfunding.”
Certainly, GiveSendGo, which follows the family giving model where people give what they can to causes or people they support, is not as well known as GoFundMe. But to some extent, the strong growth of the former is attributable to the evil eye of the latter for politically incorrect fundraisers.
Since 2016, when the site was fully opened, the devoted Christian brothers behind GiveSendGo have seen their business nearly double in the first two years, double again between 2017 and 2018, and more than double by the end of 2020.
Billed as “the number one free Christian crowdfunding site,” it now hosts up to 1,500 new fundraisers per month, 80% of which are people. In the first quarter of this year, the site saw its total number of active users increase by 286% and donations increase by 836%, according to Wilson and Wells.
The site had its first big drink of controversy when Kyle Rittenhouse’s defense fund was looking for a home after it was launched from GoFundMe.
Rittenhouse, now 18, faces murder and other charges after being involved in an altercation during violent protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He has said he shot people in self-defense during the riots that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man.
GiveSendGo’s founding brothers say they did not take sides in the high-profile case and, in fact, struggled to decide whether to accept Rittenhouse as a client.
“We thought, ‘Oh my God, what should we do here?’” Ms. Wilson recalled. “I mean, we were primarily a place for mission trips and puppy dogs.
“But everyone else had deemed you unworthy of funding, and we believe that in the United States you are presumed innocent, or you should be,” he said. “People have the right to a lawyer, even if they are bad or have done something wrong.”
Similarly, when William Kelly was fired from the police department in Norfolk, Virginia, for making a private contribution of $ 25 to Mr. Rittenhouse’s defense fund and writing a supporting comment, it was GiveSendGo that enabled him to raise funds.
They have paid a price in a virulent hate mail. Discover Card would not allow donations to the website and Facebook has also blocked it.
“Freedom has a price,” Wilson said. “But it seemed like a fundamental principle to us. He opened a whole can of worms, but were we going to ban it because they are not ‘following the narrative’? You know what? That’s what we are going to do. “
The trend continues. Most campaigns involve small personal goals. But one of the website’s most recent campaigns raised more than $ 500,000 for Facebook whistleblower Morgan Kahmann, who was fired after leaking the social network’s documents about censorship posts on vaccines to the conservative group Veritas Project.
Neither of which makes GiveSendGo particularly popular with big tech.
“The mob wants to shut us down,” Wells said. “But people get so obsessed with national news that sometimes they forget that God gives us sovereignty.”
Ms. Wilson, 45, calls herself “the oldest and wisest sister, and she can print that.”
“I think when you start a business you are excited and you think, ‘This is going to change the world! People are going to love it! People will just flood us and want to use it! ‘”Mrs. Wilson said with a laugh. “But in hindsight, I think if we had had immediate growth, we could have failed. We have been able to learn our lessons as we go. “
One lesson is that no matter how deeply ingrained one’s belief in charity, and no matter how many good causes there may be, there simply isn’t an ocean of donors to tap into.
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions, there just aren’t a lot of people who want to give money,” Wilson said. “There has to be a level of faith.”
To that end, a GiveSendGo board member personally verifies each proposal and offers regular prayer calls – all part of the site’s effort to ensure that the fundraisers are legitimate and the true recipients of the funds, the brothers said.
“We have to verify the person, who is a real person and not someone who could appear on a terrorist watch list,” Wells said. “We want donors to know that he is the one who filled out the forms, it is his bank account and when you give, you know exactly who received it.”