Orlando crowdfunding campaign collects $3.5m

By Caitlin Dewey

Chris Drozd, left, and Stefan Salvatore, right, are consoled by Don Raber after leaving flowers and pictures for victims of the nightclub shooting in Orlando. Photo / AP
Chris Drozd, left, and Stefan Salvatore, right, are consoled by Don Raber after leaving flowers and pictures for victims of the nightclub shooting in Orlando. Photo / AP

A crowdfunding campaign to raise money for victims of the horrific Orlando nightclub shooting raised almost US$1.6 million in a day, becoming the fastest campaign to clear the US$1 million mark in GoFundMe's six-year history.

The money raised now stands at more than US$2,490,000 ($3,537,000) from 58,000 donors.

The campaign was launched by Equality Florida, the state's largest LGBT rights group, which is aiming to collect US$3 million for victims and their families. The total includes major donations from California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Executive Pride and Cricket Wireless, as well as thousands of smaller donations from individual people and businesses.

Although the organisation has not elaborated on how the money will be distributed, or to whom, the campaign and Equality Florida are legitimate.

Equality Florida has confirmed its support of the GoFundMe page on its Facebook account and in a news release; the 19-year-old nonprofit has, among other things, successfully lobbied to add explicit protections for gender identity and sexuality to Florida's state hate-crimes statute.

"Every penny raised will be distributed directly to the victims and their families," the organisation said. "We are working with a team of [lawyers] and experts, including the National Centre for Victims of Crime, which deployed funds in both Chattanooga and Aurora, to ensure funds are distributed correctly."

Equality Florida's campaign is only the second GoFundMe campaign to collect US$1 million, and it is by far the fastest to do so. The previous record-holder, a viral campaign to cover medical expenses for a 4-year-old South Carolina girl, received US$500,000 in contributions over a two-week period and US$2 million total.

Notably, of GoFundMe's five most-successful campaigns, four are related to fatal shootings or terrorist attacks. In 2015, donors contributed nearly US$820,000 for Chris Mintz, who was shot seven times during the Umpqua Community College attack, in Roseburg, Oregon. Two years before that, donors raised a combined US$1.6 million over the course of two campaigns for Jeff Bauman and Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, all three of whom were severely injured during the Boston Marathon bombing.

It would seem that, in those cases as in this one, people just wanted to do something: "Tears are not enough," wrote one donor, who gave US$500.

- Washington Post

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