Famous for sudden and sometimes astonishing acts of charity, Reddit is about to supercharge its crowdfunding powers, thanks to a special deal with Crowdtilt.
The agreement, in the works for months, will make the spunky startup Reddit’s official fundraising partner. The goal is to make donations simple, fast, and safe, Erik Martin, Reddit’s general manager, told the Daily Dot.
“It just seemed like the Reddit community wasn’t really being served by options out there. People would ask for us to get involved and verify and make sure the money was going to the right place.”
Under the agreement, redditors who use Crowdtilt will pay no fees, and all donations will be tax-deductible. Crowdtilt, meanwhile, will assume responsibility for verifying payees’ identities and ensuring sure the money really does end up in the right person’s hands.
“For redditors it’s always been a concern that people will scam [their] good will,” Crowdtilt’s CEO James Beshara told the Daily Dot. “And it’s been a never-ending concern of Reddit staff as well.”
What sets Crowdtilt apart—and what made it immediately appealing to Reddit staff—is its flexibility. While the guidelines for Kickstarter fundraisers can be at times opaque (and leave customers vulnerable to potential scams), Crowdtilt allows anyone to raise any amount of money for any type of project.
Such adaptability is a necessity for Reddit, considering that it will cover everything from r/atheism’s massive annual fundraising drive (which brought in $200,000 earlier this year) to a bunch of r/Chicago redditors trying to raise cash for some beer kegs. Likewise, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian successfully “tilted” his March campaign to raise $15,000 to put up a billboard protesting Stop Online Piracy Act author Lamar Smith.
“The real reason we’re building this is to have one platform and one login for anything from a $150 Reddit meetup to a $150,000 fundraiser,” Beshara said.
There’s also a fair bit of hand-wringing that often accompanies Reddit fundraisers: How do you know the right people are going to receive the donations?
In the case of the recent IndieGoGo fundraiser for harassed bus monitor Karen Klein, for instance, donations officially went to Max Sidorov, the redditor who started the campaign. While Sidorov was honest with the money, there’s nothing to prevent a far less-scrupulous redditor from abusing the system.
“The fact that there was even a question may have prevented some people from donating,” Martin said. With Crowdtilt, however, “once you say the check is going to ... charity, you can’t go and change it.”
So far the relationship is being tested in a kind of beta mode. Reddit admins have run two fundraisers through Crowdtilt. Breaking Good, a campaign coordinated with actors from AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad, brought in $1,000 in 45 minutes for A Place Called Home, a Los Angeles charity that helps keep at-risk kids off the street. The second has pulled in a little more than $700 for the Special Olympics.
An active redditor, Beshara called the deal with the social news site “a dream come true.”
“I went from being super stoked to losing a lot of sleep and thinking ‘holy shit,’” he said. “‘This is going to be really hard. This is going to take a lot of finesse for the Reddit community.’”
He’ll have a lot of help in the finesse department. Ohanian recently became a Crowdtilt investor after serving as an advisor since February.
Update: Martin noted via email that, while Crowdtilt is Reddit's official partner, that doesn't make the relationship exclusive. Reddit has " other options coming on board hopefully soon," he noted.
Photo by James Cridland