There is some precedent for massive giving at cultural inflection points. In mid-2018, as the Trump administration was separating families at the border, a single Facebook fund-raiser for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in Texas went viral, raising $20 million in a few days.
But that was one fund-raiser and one group, not the vast array of organizations that have experienced recent windfalls, including the activists and advocates as well as some of the journalism outlets that cover them.
One tiny group in Chicago, Equity and Transformation, which serves black people left behind in the economy, saw a dormant GoFundMe page go freshly viral, raising $44,000. “We’ve never had that kind of resources,” Richard Wallace, the founder, said.
Unicorn Riot, an alternative media company that closely covered the early Minneapolis protests, blew past an initial $5,000 online fund-raising goal by a factor of 100, raising $570,000, according to the site’s online tracker. And The Marshall Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit news organization that reports on the criminal justice system, saw its membership double, from 4,000 to 9,500, according to Carroll Bogert, the group’s president.
“We’re just sitting here doing our jobs and donations started skyrocketing,” she said.
The energy to contribute is so vast that even those without money have sought ways to contribute, including watching videos on YouTube that promise to direct every dollar of revenue to racial justice causes.
“I wish I could give money — I can’t, I’m broke,” said Zoe Amira, a 20-year-old who lives outside Chicago and posted an ad-laden video that was viewed more than nine million times, generating $42,000 — before it was yanked for violating ad policies. She later said on Twitter that YouTube told her it would make a donation of an equal size because it “so believed in the essence of the project.”
Celebrities — Chrissy Teigen, Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, among others — have joined and amplified the giving, too. One pop singer, Abel Tesfaye, known as The Weeknd, posted receipts for $500,000 in donations. And the K-pop boy band BTS announced giving $1 million to Black Lives Matter; its fan group matched that by donating $1.3 million to a dozen advocacy groups.