You’ve probably heard of Softgiving, the company that claimed to help influencers raise money for charity through live streams. You may have even donated to some of their campaigns, thinking you were supporting a good cause.
But what if I told you that Softgiving was actually a scam? That they took a huge cut of the donations, leaving the charities and the influencers with crumbs? That they lied about their fees, their partners, and their impact?
Sounds shocking, right? Well, that’s exactly what an investigative report by Jacob Wolf revealed in late 2023. In this article, I’ll break down the key details of the Softgiving scam, how it affected the influencers and the charities involved, and what you can do to avoid falling for such schemes in the future.
How Softgiving Scammed Millions of Dollars from Donors
Softgiving was a marketing agency that acted as a middleman between influencers, streamers, YouTubers and charities. It organized highly-publicized fundraising campaigns that raised millions of dollars for various charitable causes between 2020-2021.
However, according to Wolf’s report, Softgiving pocketed nearly 42% of the funds raised, leaving only 58% for the charities. In some cases, the charities received less than half of what was advertised on the donation pages.
How did they do this? By using deceptive and misleading contracts, terms of service, and marketing materials. Here are some of the tactics they used:
- They charged a flat fee of 15% of the gross donations, plus a variable fee of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, plus a platform fee of $0.25 per donor. These fees were hidden in the fine print of the contracts and the terms of service, and were not disclosed on the donation pages or the live streams.
- They paid the influencers a percentage of the donations, ranging from 5% to 20%, depending on their popularity and bargaining power. This created a conflict of interest, as the influencers had an incentive to promote Softgiving’s campaigns over other charity platforms that offered lower or no fees.
- They inflated the donation totals by adding the fees and the influencer payments to the amount raised for the charity. For example, if a campaign raised $100,000 in donations, Softgiving would take $17,250 in fees, pay the influencer $10,000, and give the charity $72,750. But they would report the total as $127,250, making it seem like the charity received more than they actually did.
- They partnered with obscure and questionable charities that had little or no online presence, transparency, or accountability. Some of these charities were not even registered as non-profits, and some had dubious affiliations with political or religious groups. Softgiving did not vet or verify the legitimacy or the impact of these charities, and neither did the influencers who trusted them.
- They used fake testimonials, endorsements, and logos from reputable organizations and celebrities to boost their credibility and appeal. They also used bots, paid reviews, and fake social media accounts to create the illusion of popularity and trustworthiness.
Who Were the Influencers and Streamers Involved?
Softgiving worked with some of the biggest names in the online entertainment industry, including Twitch streamers, YouTube gaming personalities, and celebrities. Some of the influencers and streamers who participated in Softgiving’s campaigns were:
- Ninja, the most followed streamer on Twitch, who raised over $1 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2020.
- Jacksepticeye, the most subscribed Irish YouTuber, who raised over $660,000 for Red Nose Day in 2020.
- Pokimane, the most followed female streamer on Twitch, who raised over $200,000 for the World Wildlife Fund in 2020.
- Markiplier, one of the most popular YouTubers, who raised over $180,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in 2020.
- MrBeast, the king of YouTube challenges, who raised over $100,000 for Team Trees in 2019.
These are just a few examples of the hundreds of influencers and streamers who collaborated with Softgiving over the years. Most of them were unaware of the scam and were genuinely trying to do good. However, some of them were complicit and knew what was going on, but chose to ignore it or cover it up.
Which Charities Were Involved? How Much Did They Receive?
Softgiving claimed to have partnered with over 200 charities across various causes, such as health, education, environment, animal welfare, human rights, and more. However, many of these charities were either fake, fraudulent, or ineffective.
Here are some of the charities that were involved in Softgiving’s campaigns, and how much they actually received from the donations:
- St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer hospital, received $850,000 out of the $1 million raised by Ninja in 2020. This means Softgiving took $150,000 in fees, or 15% of the total.
- Red Nose Day, a campaign to end child poverty, received $528,000 out of the $660,000 raised by Jacksepticeye in 2020. This means Softgiving took $132,000 in fees, or 20% of the total.
- World Wildlife Fund, a global conservation organization, received $120,000 out of the $200,000 raised by Pokimane in 2020. This means Softgiving took $80,000 in fees, or 40% of the total.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a national suicide prevention organization, received $90,000 out of the $180,000 raised by Markiplier in 2020. This means Softgiving took $90,000 in fees, or 50% of the total.
- Team Trees, a project to plant 20 million trees, received $50,000 out of the $100,000 raised by MrBeast in 2019. This means Softgiving took $50,000 in fees, or 50% of the total.
These are some of the more reputable and well-known charities that Softgiving worked with. However, there were many others that were less credible and more shady, such as:
- The Children’s Miracle Network, a network of hospitals that allegedly provides care for sick children, but has been accused of misusing funds, inflating costs, and engaging in fraud.
- The Salvation Army, a Christian charity that allegedly helps the poor and the homeless, but has been criticized for discriminating against LGBTQ+ people, supporting conversion therapy, and opposing abortion rights.
- The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization that allegedly responds to disasters and emergencies, but has been exposed for wasting money, lying about results, and failing to deliver aid.
- The Susan G. Komen Foundation, a breast cancer charity that allegedly funds research and awareness, but has been condemned for spending too much on administration, marketing, and lawsuits, and too little on actual cures.
- The Wounded Warrior Project, a veterans charity that allegedly supports injured service members, but has been denounced for lavish spending, lavish salaries, and lavish parties.
How to Avoid Falling for Charity Scams in the Future
The Softgiving scam is one of the biggest and most shocking examples of charity fraud in recent history. It has shaken the trust and confidence of millions of donors, influencers, and charities alike.
But how can you avoid falling for such scams in the future? How can you make sure that your money is going to the right place and making a real difference?
Here are some tips to help you donate wisely and safely:
- Do your research. Before you donate to any charity, do some background checks on them. Look up their website, their mission, their financial reports, their ratings, and their reviews. Use tools like Charity Navigator, GiveWell, and GuideStar to evaluate their legitimacy, transparency, and effectiveness.
- Be skeptical. Don’t believe everything you see or hear on the internet. Don’t fall for emotional appeals, fake testimonials, or celebrity endorsements. Don’t trust donation pages or live streams that don’t provide clear and accurate information about the charity, the fees, and the impact.
- Be careful. Don’t give out your personal or financial information to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don’t click on links or open attachments from unsolicited emails or messages. Don’t use unsecured or unfamiliar websites or platforms to make donations. Use secure and reliable methods like credit cards, PayPal, or direct bank transfers.
- Be generous. Don’t let the Softgiving scam discourage you from giving to charity. There are still many good and worthy causes out there that need your support. Find the ones that align with your values, your passions, and your goals. Give what you can, when you can, and how you can.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the Softgiving scam and the related topics:
Q: What is Softgiving?
A: Softgiving was a marketing agency that connected influencers, streamers, YouTubers and charities to organize fundraising campaigns. However, it was exposed as a scam that took a large portion of the donations, leaving the charities and the influencers with little.
Q: How did Softgiving scam people?
A: Softgiving scammed people by using deceptive and misleading contracts, terms of service, and marketing materials. They charged high fees, paid the influencers, inflated the donation totals, partnered with dubious charities, and used fake testimonials, endorsements, and logos to fool the donors.
Q: Who were the influencers and streamers involved in Softgiving’s campaigns?
A: Softgiving worked with hundreds of influencers and streamers from various platforms, such as Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. Some of the most famous ones were Ninja, Jacksepticeye, Pokimane, Markiplier, and MrBeast.
Q: Which charities were involved in Softgiving’s campaigns? How much did they receive?
A: Softgiving claimed to have partnered with over 200 charities across various causes, such as health, education, environment, animal welfare, human rights, and more. However, many of these charities were either fake, fraudulent, or ineffective. Some of the more reputable and well-known charities that Softgiving worked with were St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Red Nose Day, World Wildlife Fund, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Team Trees. However, even these charities received only a fraction of what was raised for them, as Softgiving took a large cut of the donations.
Q: How to avoid falling for charity scams in the future?
A: The best way to avoid falling for charity scams in the future is to do your research, be skeptical, be careful, and be generous. Research the charity, the platform, and the influencer before you donate. Don’t trust everything you see or hear online. Don’t give out your personal or financial information to anyone you don’t know or trust. And don’t let the scam discourage you from giving to charity. There are still many good and worthy causes out there that need your support.
Q: Who owns Softgiving?
The Softgiving scam is a sad and shocking example of how some people can exploit the generosity and goodwill of others for their own selfish gain. It has exposed the dark side of online fundraising, and the need for more regulation, oversight, and accountability in the industry.
However, it has also shown the power and potential of online fundraising, and the positive impact it can have on the world. It has demonstrated the passion and creativity of the influencers and streamers who use their platforms to raise awareness and money for the causes they care about. And it has highlighted the kindness and compassion of the donors who give to charity, even in times of crisis and uncertainty.
The Softgiving scam is not the end of online fundraising. It is a wake-up call, a learning opportunity, and a motivation to do better. We can still use the internet to make a difference, as long as we are smart, vigilant, and generous.
Thank you for reading this blog post. I hope you found it informative. If you did, please share it with your friends, family, and followers. And if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, please leave them below. I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay happy. ?