By Tori Hawkins
Charity livestreams have become an increasingly popular way for online creators to give back to their communities.
A charity livestream is an event where an online creator hosts a live video to raise funds for a nonprofit organization, while online creators are individuals who create and upload content to the internet. This content can vary from streaming gaming sessions, makeup tutorials, video blogs (known as vlogging), and more. With this wide array of content available, it is not surprising to find that there is a large audience interested in online content.
As online creators have grown their audiences, some have chosen to mobilize their fanbases into vehicles of giving through the creation of charity livestreams. Through charity livestreams, online creators have raised funds for a variety of nonprofit organizations. Understanding charity livestreams and what makes them successful can help nonprofit organizations develop meaningful partnerships with the right online creator.
YouTube creators have been some of the most prominent online creators involved with charity livestreams. Typically, online creators will set “mile marker” goals for their audience to try to hit during the stream. These could be simple goals like dying or shaving their hair, or giving away prizes. These livestreams are also used as a way for the creator to directly engage with his or her audience by responding to comments on air.
In late 2018, YouTube released a suite of tools for its creators so that they can raise funds for their favorite nonprofit organizations through the platform itself. GTLive, a YouTube channel ran by Matthew and Stephanie Patrick, helped kick off YouTube’s Charity Week with a nine-hour stream dedicated to raising funds for the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. Ultimately, they raised just over $192,000 for the organization.
The following year, the GTLive team partnered with St. Jude’s and raised over $1.3 million on another charity livestream. However, the Patricks are not the only YouTube creators involved with charity livestreams. Mark Fischbach, a popular gaming personality known online as Markiplier, has run several charity livestreams since as early as 2012. He has collectively raised over $2.6 million over the course of his career and has mentioned that he regularly donates privately to nonprofit organizations as well.
One of the best and most recent examples of a charity livestream that is making a difference is the #HopeFromHome campaign. Sean McLaughlin, also known by his channel name JackSepticEye, saw what was happening because of the COVID-19 pandemic and decided he had to do something to help. As he is no stranger to running livestreams, he decided to host one dedicated to raising funds for nonprofits fighting the pandemic, as well as organizations supporting people affected by it. When he reached out to Tiltify, a popular crowdfunding site, he found that they were already speaking with nonprofit organizations about creating a fundraising event.
Together, they launched the #HopeFromHome campaign. This campaign is the first of its kind, as it involves multiple online platforms and is open to all online creators to join in. The funds raised will be evenly distributed to three different nonprofit organizations, including the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, United Way, and Red Nose Day. The campaign kicked off on April 7 when McLaughlin hosted an 11-hour livestream. Over the course of his stream, he raised $678,020. Overall, the campaign has raised just over $1.9 million.
Are charity livestreams legitimate?
Since charity livestreams have become an increasingly popular mode of philanthropy for online creators, some may wonder if they are a legitimate fundraising tool since they are so new. However, charity livestreams are not an entirely new concept.
It could be argued that they are the modern-day equivalent to telethons of years past. They both broadcast live to an audience with the express purpose of raising money for a nonprofit organization. The only true differences are where the events are held and the cost of each event.
Telethons were broadcast on TV, whereas charity livestreams are broadcast over the internet. The cost of a telethon versus a charity livestream can also vary. A telethon requires the cooperation of a television network, paid staff or volunteers, lighting, and more. However, at its core, all an aspiring charity live streamer needs is a laptop and an internet connection. Between the two, the start-up costs can be significantly lower for a charity live streamer.
A concern some may have is if the funds raised are going directly to a nonprofit organization. This depends on the platform used to collect the donations. Tiltify is a popular option, as it provides an easy-to-use platform for creators to use and viewers to donate. One-hundred percent of the proceeds are passed through third-party payment processors, like Paypal, and subject to any processing fees that they have. The payment process is secure, and the donor receives confirmation that his, her, or their donation has been processed. Then, one can see how much has been raised.
Charity livestreams have become a popular mode for YouTube creators to give back to causes they care about. Depending on the platform used, it can be easy to accept donations and track progress toward the fundraising goal. These livestreams are an easy way for anyone to raise funds for a cause they care about.
Tori Hawkins is a junior in the philanthropic studies program at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.