Social media

Ways YouTube celebrities have raised money for charities

Few things make you appreciate the speed of change the internet has catalysed than the sudden realisation that our favourite social networks – Facebook, Youtube and Twitter – are only nine, eight and seven years' old respectively. These giants of the internet, which are viewed by literally billions of people on a regular basis, still haven’t reached a double digit birthday.

By Reason Digital · August 29, 2013

Don’t forget about YouTube

While it’s become widely accepted that using Facebook and Twitter to promote your charity or not-for-profit, YouTube is often overlooked, which is remarkable when you think that over a billion users visit YouTube every month. What makes YouTube more interesting than the other social networks though isn’t the traffic it pulls in, it’s where it pulls it in from. Every day 500 years of YouTube videos are watched on Facebook. Every minute 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter. It’s a social media network that not only works well in its own right, but also enhances others around it.

YouTube is also a great network for reaching younger demographics that charities and not-for-profits typically find difficult to influence. Among the ages of 18–34, 85% of men and 65% of women are on YouTube. So why aren’t there examples of successful charitable YouTube videos, you ask? Well there are, quite a lot of them in fact. Here are five examples of how people have raised money for their charity of choice, using YouTube.

Honeydew’s Honey Drive (Yogscast) – Oxfam

From starting as a couple gamers who made simple guides on how to play World of Warcraft, to becoming the most viewed British-based YouTube channel, to creating one of the most successful fundraisers on JustGiving – The Yogscast have travelled a long way from their simple beginnings. After gaining a huge following on YouTube the Bristol-based collective decided to use their popularity for good and started a fundraising campaign for Oxfam.

Throughout December 2011 they created a video advent calendar, uploading a short humorous video every day until Christmas. Many of the videos reached over a million views and the campaign was a success, raising over £60,000 and earning them the Most Popular fundraiser award for JustGiving’s 2012 ceremony. A year later the team returned with even bigger plans and instead of merely uploading small videos to YouTube, they streamed 6 to 8 hours a day of video through The extra effort paid off, and this time they raised over £200,000.

Project for Awesome (Nerdfighters) – Humane Societies

Though it’s become an ever-present in modern day life, we often forget how young YouTube is – it’s remarkable to think that the video-sharing site was only set up in 2005. During its fledgling years, when nobody quite understood the site, two brothers – Hank and John – used it to send daily video blogs to one another. The Brotherhood 2.0 project, as it was named, started attracting viewers and a growing fanbase until it ended on December 31st 2007. It was not the end of the duo’s video blogging though, and the two continued to upload regular videos to YouTube.

Since 2007, the brothers have encouraged their viewers to raise money for charitable causes through the Project for Awesome, a yearly event on the 17th of December where they urge users to upload and promote videos for their favourite charity, and to mark them with a specialised tag and thumbnail. These videos often reach hundreds of thousands of views, and it’s not unusual in late December for the frontpage of YouTube to be completely monopolised by Project for Awesome thumbnails. So far the campaign has been an amazing success and has raised over $480,000 for a number of different charities.

Desert Bus for Hope (LoadingReadyRun) – Child’s Play

In the early 90s world-famous magicians Penn and Teller created the Penn and Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors – a video game that included a satirical minigame, Desert Bus, which was meant to protest claims that video games cause violence. The minigame made players drive an empty bus from Nevada to California, through the featureless desert, with no challenge save for a slight defect that made the bus veer ever-so-slightly to the right – forcing players to concentrate at all times. It is considered one of the worst games of all time by everyone, except those who refuse to even acknowledge it as a game. Surprisingly Penn and Teller could never find a publisher and the game was never released. That is until 2005, when a promotional copy was made available on the internet. Enter LoadingReadyRun – a Canadian sketch comedy group.

To raise money for the video game charity Child’s Play, LoadingReadyRun decided to see how long they could last playing the infamous Desert Bus, and thus the First Annual Desert Bus for Hope begun. Taking it in turns, the members of LoadingReadyRun live-streamed their tedious journeys across the virtual desert of America, inviting viewers to watch on and donate to Child’s Play. After a world-record five trips from Nevada to California and back, and an amazing $22,000 raised for their charity of choice the team finally succumbed to the monotony of the game and gave up… at least for 2007. Though the event was originally meant to be a one-off, the team have returned yearly to raise funds again and again and – as they approach the 7th year – have so far raised nearly $450,000.

Battle Royale 2012 (TotalBiscuit) – Charity: Water

The King of the Web is a fortnightly competition that highlights and awards a cash prize to YouTube personalities based on a public vote. These biweekly winners are then pitted against one another at the end of a year in a Battle Royale to win $50,000. In 2012, after finding out that he’d unwittingly been entered into the Battle Royale tournament, John Bains – the cynical brit known by his online alias TotalBiscuit, and for his professional video games casting – decided to win the competition and donate the winnings to Charity: Water.

Though he learnt of the tournament several days into the voting period and after his competitors had gained a substantial lead, TotalBiscuit rallied his viewers and quickly became the highest voted contestant of all time. As he promised, TotalBiscuit donated all his winnings to Charity: Water along with extra donations raised through the competition campaign. By the end of the Battle Royale a total of nearly $53,000 dollars was raised to help communities gain access to clean water.

10 Million Bros Unite (PewDiePie) – Charity: Water

With nearly 11 million subscribers Felix Kjellberg – or PewDiePie, as he’s more commonly known – is currently the second most subscribed to person on YouTube and, as he gains more and more followers every day, is likely to soon overtake the current most popular channel – Smosh. Though he’s known primarily for his irreverent commentary on popular video games and his inimitable persona, PewDiePie has also used his fame for charity.

First, he emulated TotalBiscuit by winning one of the fortnightly King of the Web competitions and repeated the Brit’s gesture by donating his winnings to charity – this time to the World Wildlife Fund. Then, to celebrate becoming the second YouTube channel to ever break the 10 million subscribers mark, the divisive gamer did something that few would protest and started a fundraising campaign for Charity: Water. For every 500 views of his fundraising video PewDiePie promised to donate $1 to the charity, and the YouTube network to which he is signed – Maker Studios – promised to match that with another $1. In less than two weeks, the video has been viewed over 2.3 million times and campaign has already raised $160,000, with the majority of donations coming from PewDiePie’s loyal fan base and only a fraction from the Swede himself.