GoFundMe Comes Out as a Blue Company

Thoughts on the “internet’s take action button” calling on Congress to pass COVID relief

The CEO of GoFundMe, the largest crowdfunding platform in the world, the site that millions of Americans have turned to in the hopes that their fellow Americans would throw them some pennies to keep them from falling through the gaping holes in our nation’s basic systems, and the self-styled “internet’s take action button” penned a remarkable op-ed in USA Today.

After cataloging the extraordinary volume of COVID-19-related fundraisers the site has hosted over the past year, and categorizing those desperate pleas into heartbreakingly telling categories — monthly bills, food, and saving local restaurants and small businesses — Tim Cadogen ends on a call to action… for Congress:

“We are proud of the role that GoFundMe plays in connecting those in need with those who are ready to help. But our platform was never meant to be a source of support for basic needs, and it can never be a replacement for robust federal COVID-19 relief that is generous and targeted to help the millions of Americans who are struggling.”

This is worth noting for a few Everything Is Politics reasons:

First, it’s an admission of the limits of side-stepping systems in favor of individual charity. GoFundMe may be the “internet’s take action button” (it’s not, and I will never not put that phrase in quotes) but the action it’s driving isn’t up to the challenge of the moment. So much so that their CEO is taking to the pages of the nation’s most widely read newspaper to say so, and to call for an entirely different kind of action to address the very systems failures the site has heretofore benefited from.

Second, it’s wading into political territory that is interesting for the platform that hosted a fundraiser that raised $25 million for a right-wing firebrand who had been banned from Facebook for his bile and misinformation to build a (very small) portion of Trump’s border wall. At the time that was GoFundMe’s biggest fundraiser ever, and GoFundMe has never taken an official position on the border wall or made any public calls to action about it.

This statement is no “anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy.” It sidesteps fully wading in by calling for “generous” and “targeted” help but not any of the specifics that Congress is debating. And it doesn’t call out the people standing in the way of robust, generous, and targeted COVID-19 relief — Republican Senators.

But by making the call at all GoFundMe is being partisan, in the same way that all companies that take any stand at all must be in these deeply polarized, partisan times. If you’re calling for the federal government to act as a shared safety net, then you are answering a core political question in the same way Democrats are and in a way antithetical to Republicans right now. That is partisan. Even if you don’t use the words. GoFundMe came out as a blue company with that op-ed, at least right now.

As companies figure out how to navigate the realities of a Republican party that has been captured by its most extreme wing, there will be more of this. And I think we should be cheering it. The private sector and its leaders have a vital, even central, role to play in how we resolve the critical political questions of our age, and the more transparently, forthrightly, and clearly they play the role the better for all of us.

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