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More than 200 GoFundMe pages have been created to support victims of the Queensland and New South Wales bushfires

Sharon Masige
  • Since GoFund me removed its platform fees, it has seen a 61% rise in donations.
  • In 2019, more than 700,000 Australians have donated to causes on the site.
  • More than 280 campaigns related to the bushfires have been created and more than $500,000 has been raised to support bushfire victims.

Australians are a generous bunch, it seems.

It's been a year since crowdfunding platform GoFundMe decided to remove its 5% platform fee and it has seen some positive results. Following the move, GoFundMe has seen a 61% rise in donations in Australia.

GoFundMe highlighted that already in 2019, more than 700,000 Australians have donated to causes on the site. On top of that, it noted that one in 10 Australians have given to a GoFundMe page.

GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon told Business Insider Australia that those statistics showed him that Australia is "one of the more generous countries that we've seen." In the US, he said roughly 1 in 14 people have given to a GoFundMe page.

"There's only one other country that's a little better than Australia – that's Ireland," Solomon said. "They're probably about one in eight. So the Aussies are incredibly generous and in a lot of ways, we're just getting started. We haven't been in the market all that long."

The US-based company launched in Australia in 2016, with people seeking funding for a variety of causes such as health issues or emergencies. With the bushfires that have ravaged parts of New South Wales and Queensland, Aussies have been quick to take action and lend a hand.

In the past few days, more than 280 campaigns related to the bushfires have been created on GoFundMe and more than $500,000 has been raised to support bushfire victims, communities and animals. On top of that, donors from more than 30 countries have also been chipping in to support the victims.

Solomon said GoFundMe has become a "take action button" where, when something happens anywhere in the world, people start a GoFundMe page.

"Already we've seen more than 200 campaigns started for the victims in New South Wales and Queensland and more than $250,000 has been raised so far," he told Business Insider Australia. "We saw the exact same thing happened in California during the recent wildfires of this year and the previous wildfires of last year and the years before that."

Solomon added that in the old days, communities would rely on the government or NGOs to handle such global issues but now people are taking it upon themselves to help each other out. "The power of communities is really important," he said.

The fee-free model

When Solomon first floated the idea of removing the 5% fee to the company's board of directors, they weren't too thrilled, according to CNBC.

Solomon explained that the fee "allows us to pay our employees, to invest in future technologies, to expand into new markets. So it's essentially our revenue."

Instead of the fee, GoFundMe introduced a tip section where people can voluntarily make contributions, according to Dynamic Business. Removing the fee was designed to make it easier for people to donate.

Looking back at the decision now, Solomon said it was a "brilliant". While the board believed that a 5% fee was reasonable, Solomon had a different approach.

"My pushback was, when people open up their pocketbooks and their wallets, they really want all of the money possible to go to the cause. And it was a very controversial decision but in hindsight, it was the right one. It's allowing us to thrive in the markets in which we've conducted business."

Solomon added that the main driver for the change in the business model was listening to feedback from people who created campaigns and those who were donating.

"In listening to both the campaign organisers who are in need of help, and the donors who are wanting to donate, everyone wanted more money to be able to go to causes," he said.

When asked whether the tipping option makes people more generous, Solomon said it didn't show a growth in donation amount.

"I think people have a really good general sentiment around GoFundMe the platform. And I think they want to do anything they can to help make sure it not only thrives but is there in times of need.

"We haven't seen a huge increase in the donation amount. We've seen more people giving, which is important. But the average donation amount stays pretty constant regardless of whether there is an option to tip or not."