Amid reports that the water in Flint, Mich., was too contaminated to drink, Marseille Allen and a friend responded by distributing bottles of water at a church and outside city hall.
Allen posted a photo of her volunteer efforts on Facebook and was overwhelmed by the response from friends, family and former classmates from Wellesley College — many of whom urged her to set up a crowdfunding campaign through GoFundMe. Since launching the Water for Flint initiative last month, she has raised some $51,731 in donations from more than 1,000 contributors — enough to purchase and distribute 76,800 bottles of water for people in the community.
“I can’t afford to buy a $400 pallet of water every two weeks, but I knew there were people who wanted to be part of this, and wanted me to represent them and be their boots on the ground,” said Allen, who has also done relief work in Haiti. “What the GoFundMe page allows me to do is serve as boots on the ground for people around the world.”
Water for Flint is one of more than 100 grassroots campaigns that collectively raised more than $405,000 to help residents without access to clean drinking water — including some 8,600 children who may have been exposed to lead contamination. Such efforts illustrate the power of the GoFundMe site, which today announced it had reached a milestone — helping raise $2 billion in support of personal causes.
The cause-based funding site has seen its growth accelerate. It took nearly 60 months for users of the platform to raise $1 billion in support of their causes. GoFundMe reached the $2 billion mark in little more than nine months.
The campaigns and causes are varied — one seeks money for a memorial service for 32-year-old Domonic Prince, who suffered a fatal allergic reaction to peanuts; another looks to support the training program of five-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan, who hopes to represent India in the luge during the 2018 Winter Games. Even talk show host Ellen DeGeneres turned to GoFundMe to raise $500,000 to renovate a rundown middle school in Detroit, where many of the students are poor or homeless.
GoFundMe President David Hahn said people are gravitating to GoFundMe because it offers donors something they don’t always get when they donate to a traditional charity: Transparency.
“You know where the money is going to. You know who’s receiving the money,” said Hahn. “There’s a sense of radical transparency and speed in helping a cause.”
GoFundMe says it doesn’t investigate all the claims made by those soliciting donations — though it does certify charities. Instead, it encourages people to donate to the people they know and trust. The site deducts a 5 percent fee from every donation to cover costs.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.