Aid Refugees

Kickstarter and the UN Refugee Agency are launching something important this morning. It is called Aid Refugees and its an attempt to leverage the power of the leading crowdfunding community to raise funds to deal with the global refugee crisis.

As many of you know Kickstarter is a USV portfolio company and it has traditionally avoided getting involved in charitable efforts, choosing to stay focused on helping creative projects come to life. But like other big Internet companies, it gets asked from time to time to leverage the scope of its reach and community to tackle big problems. Until now, Kickstarter has chosen to decline those invitations but the scope of the global refugee crisis is so large and the mission is also consistent with Kickstarter’s recently filed public benefit corporation charter in which they committed to fight inequality. So this time they said yes. This doesn’t mean Kickstarter will start allowing charitable projects on its platform. It does mean it will do this sort of thing when the company feels like it can help make a difference.

Here’s how Kickstarter explains this effort on their blog post this morning:

Two weeks ago, the White House reached out to us with an idea: what if you could use Kickstarter to help the millions of refugees seeking safety in the Middle East and Europe?

We immediately told them yes — and at the White House’s invitation, Kickstarter is working with the UN Refugee Agency to raise money and deliver aid to those in need of it. We’ve all seen the images of people fleeing for safety, on foot and in boats, with nowhere to go and precious few resources. It’s not a crisis that can be solved overnight, but the White House, the United Nations, and Kickstarter all believe that a strong outpouring of support can provide crucial assistance for people fleeing their homes and risking their lives to find a safer future.

To learn more about how we can provide that support, just visit this campaign. It’s not a typical Kickstarter project. There’s no all-or-nothing funding goal. The rewards are all about giving, not getting. And we’ll be donating 100% of our usual fee to support these aid efforts. Most days, this site is a home for people working together to create new things, but this campaign is about something else: working together to bring the most basic of necessities to people who need them dearly. Even a little support can give a family dry clothes, fresh water, or a place to sleep — those “small” things that become everything as soon as you’ve lost them. We’d love your help.

Thank you,


If you have been looking for a way to engage in the global refugee crisis, check out Aid Refugees. I plan to “back this project” and I hope you will too.

#crowdfunding#hacking philanthropy

Comments (Archived):

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Andy. i wrote this post in advance and scheduled it to post at 9am and had the link wrong. i appreciate you finding the right link. i fixed it.

  1. jason wright

    US foreign policy is largely responsible for the refugee crisis (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria), although a significant number of refugees arriving in western central Europe do seem to be on the move for largely economic reasons.Is the US going to front up and take in its fair share of the displaced, or is it leaving the burden to Germany?

    1. LE

      We provide defense for Europe. Curious if Germany is going to take any of the Mexicans that stream into this country. (Your ball now..)

      1. jason wright

        is Germany destabilising Mexico? i missed that news report. (thwack…)

        1. LE

          Good return. However the reason that we got involved and yes made mistakes is because others didn’t do the same thing at least not to the degree that we did. (An assumption I will make here). The things that we did (that didn’t work out as planned) would be things that would greatly benefit Europe in addition to our country. After all, geographically what is going on over there is more significant to Europe than it is to the US.

          1. jason wright

            NAFTA makes life difficult for the average Mexican, hence they stream across the border like refugees from an ‘economic’ war zone (as opposed to a ‘military’ one – wars are fought not just with tanks and planes and bombs).White House window dressing with sexy web companies isn’t the answer to the Syrian refugee crisis. Is Ellis Island ready, or should they be flown by UPS to Louisville for processing and delivery to caring American homes? ‘Adopt a Syrian’

        2. kidmercury

          def have to side with jason in this beef, no contest really. america has no business being the policeman of the world, doubly so when they completely lack the moral high ground. germany bears no responsibility for mexico as germany didn’t go in there unprovoked and create a mess like the US did in syria.

          1. LE

            Well we help plenty of countries in the world where we didn’t create the mess or have no role. Think of it like nato or just “doing a solid” for us.

          2. kidmercury

            i don’t think the US helps a lot of countries. even if we pretend that they did, helping a few people doesn’t justify killing 200,000+ syrians, many of whom are civilians, because the US thought, ostensibly out of kindness, that the syrians should have a new leader (even though they didn’t ask for the US to get them one).

          3. LE

            Germany wouldn’t have asked for a new leader either.

          4. kidmercury

            lol this is the problem with america. unprovoked, kill 200,000+ people (100,000+ civilians), fund terrorists that believe raping teenage girls is okay, and refuse to apologize and admit a mistake.

          5. LE

            fund terrorists that believe raping teenage girls is okayDoesn’t that shit also happen with village elders in some countries?And why stop there. What about all of those honor killing fathers. To wit:A Muslim man has confessed to strangling his 19-year-old daughter to death with his bare hands after learning from police she had been caught shoplifting condoms to have sex with her forbidden boyfriend.

          6. kidmercury

            i don’t understand your point.

          7. Cam MacRae

            Terrible parallel to draw; they would have had no cause to need one with such immediacy had he not terminated the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

          8. Cam MacRae

            Doesn’t that make your parallel seem more unreasonable?

          9. LE

            Sure but that is the point of posting Godwin’s law. (There is probably an equivalent way to summarize when a marital fight gets ridiculous..).My idea is simple. Extract some help just because we can. You don’t get what you don’t negotiate for. And whether something is deserved or not doesn’t enter into it either. It’s leverage, plain and simple to be exploited. When possible of course. Subject to consideration of all relevant downsides etc. A complex undertaking.

        3. LE

          Oh again to your point this is what Trump talks about regarding negotiating. That we are schmucks for what we do and don’t get as much as we can in return. Very little apparent quid pro quo. Most situations a benefit can be derived in return for agreeing to a request or saving someone else the effort. This is in fact the way Congress used to work and why in some ways the old days (with backroom deals) were so much better. Less fighting and practically no stalemates. You support my pet project I will support your pet project and give you my vote to the best of my ability. Very good system actually. The “just do the right thing” simply doesn’t work at all in politics. I honestly don’t believe that Obama has a gut for this process. He was raised where he was just head and shoulders over anyone he dealt with (on the local basketball court). Later he went to Harvard and was around rational people where the most logical and intellectual argument will work. Gentlemen and very polite. Later he also dealt with people who most likely were far inferior to his abilities. So he thinks he can win with logic and rationality has no clue how to deal with world class pricks. This “we will just talk it out” that he spoke of prior to getting elected? Well he was way off the mark on that one.

  2. pointsnfigures

    Interesting in their statement they said, “immediately said yes”. For a company that carefully considers what they get involved in, and acknowledge that they are averse to getting involved in things like this, “immediately” is an interesting verb.

    1. andyswan

      I have a hunch they are “fans” of this White House. It’d be a pretty tough call to say no to in any event.

      1. Barry Nolan

        “pretty tough call to say no” – pledging or Kickstarter getting involved?

        1. andyswan

          Kickstarter to White House

      2. LE

        It’s all about the White House. That’s obvious. Has nothing to do with being a fan or not. Not to mention that it has great PR value. The cost is simply the moral hazard of creating a precedent that others will attempt to exploit going forward. So for example if a lesser known entity contacts them (say Susan Komen) and they say not then on it’s face they have creating a negative.

      3. pointsnfigures

        I have no doubt they are fans of the White House. But, from what I can gather Kickstarter is pretty protective of its culture. As Fred said, it’s extremely rare when they do this. The question I have is this: Is it a test to have the platform go broader?

    2. Jess Bachman

      The marketing team wrote that. I suspect there was considerable consideration considered.

    3. LE

      Well it won’t score a seat at a White House state dinner [1] but it’s a step in getting on the radar of people in power. And getting access and your calls returned. Much better than a linkedin contact. right? Hopefully when the next administration is in power that access won’t dry up (it will new house is in the house).Here are the tech people that were at the China State Dinner: [2]Marc Benioff – SalesforceTim Cook – AppleMark Cuban – (hard to summarize but you know the guy)Larry Ellison – OracleReed Hastings – NetflixReid Hoffman – LinkedinSteven Mollenkopf – QualcommSatya Nadella – MicrosoftVirginia Rometty – IBMMark Zuckerberg – FacebookQuite obvious that each person was invited for a specific reason. They either have done something for the government or the government feels that they need to maintain good relations with them and needs access. After all, not everyone wants or can be the ambassador to the UK (or Japan or German).[1] Which is a bit more of an honor than a candle at a bar mitzvah let’s stipulate.[2]

  3. andyswan

    Arab Spring!

    1. William Mougayar

      If you follow the UNHCR link who is the beneficiary of this campaign, it’s not just for Syria, but throughout the world:

  4. Jess Bachman

    “So this time they said yes. This doesn’t mean Kickstarter will start allowing charitable projects on its platform. It does mean that every once in a while it will do this sort of thing when the company feels like it can help make a difference.”Why not do charitable projects? Seems totally inline with the PBC status they have got going. The “every once in a while” thing doesn’t sit right with me.

    1. LE

      Why? Because there are not an infinite supply of dollars for people to give. Dollars given for a charitable cause take away from the brand and the mission of kickstarter which has made them successful. It’s like saying “why doesn’t Starbucks sell flashlights and umbrellas?”. ( <— you get the point )The reason that Kickstarter did this appears to be because they were contacted by “the White House” (whatever that means). As such there is an implied or fantasized “you scratch our back, we will scratch yours” and potential reciprocity. I am sure that if they were contacted by any number of important or famous people about any cause they would most likely do the same thing. Just like all of us with any common sense would.Along those lines there are any number of important causes and suffering in our own country. You just don’t hear about it. And it’s long term suffering, not acute suffering so since it hasn’t been solved “in the first 48 hours” it becomes accepted.For a similar theme, take the time to read this excellent NY Times opinion piece “The hypocrisy of helping the Poor”.The other day, in an attempt at mortification, I looked at the Clinton Foundation website and saw as the leading headline, “Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants.” Since I had recently been in rural Arkansas, I thought: If you want to help closer to home, how about the black family farmers in the Delta, who — rebuffed by banks, trifled with by the United States Department of Agriculture, squeezed by vast corporate farms — are struggling to survive?It’s something that I’ve always felt annoyed by and brings out the cynicism. In particular people with money and resources doing photo ops helping people (and even animals) overseas when there are plenty of things to do in this country. And everybody claps about it.

      1. Jess Bachman

        A very reasonable and well crafted reply. Kudos.

      2. Middle East

        Exactly, what hubris. This is totalitarian.

      3. Aviah Laor

        Maybe the aid to refugees is just an easy target? Easier to see that governments neglect their own people? The refugees are strangers, from distant countries – so why should a government prioritise them over me? It’s harder to spot this when a government priorities some hidden, faceless, political agenda. Western governments take 40%-50% of the GDP, so they probably have enough resources to help their people, and a bit to the refugees (Bill Gates focuses on developing countries, since he believes that western governments have enough resources to solve the issues, if used properly).

    1. Jess Bachman

      Right below the photo in that article it says:”These vacant apartments in the Pujiang area of Shanghai appear to be unwanted supply for non-existing demand but they’re actually new homes for residents who were evicted from the World Expo site.”Journalism. ¯_༼ᴼل͜ᴼ༽_/¯

    2. jason wright


    3. ShanaC

      what do they do once they get there?

      1. Tom Labus

        start hustling to make a new life. Same as if that guy buys a Greek Island or they land here

  5. William Mougayar

    I wished the world (UN, US, EU, etc.) would work harder to find a real solution to the Syrian situation. Helping the refugees is a good thing of course, but let’s also focus on the root of the problem, or the problem is going to get even bigger than it is right now. As a reference, there are 6.5 Million displaced Syrians, with the largest recipient countries being: 2.1M in Turkey, 1.4M in Jordan, 1.2M in Lebanon.

    1. awaldstein

      Fair enough and I’m sure you are correctWhat action are you suggesting?i’m going to make a solid contribution to the campaign today. I’m a follower not a leader here.but will do my share for this one, possible blog on it later.To your point, whose setting the path for that which concerns you as a priority?

      1. William Mougayar

        It’s a very complicated geo-political equation. The local actors know what they are doing, but the Western world is being played and they aren’t understanding it. The scars of failing in Iraq are still hurting. The UN is powerless and the rest of the world is clueless.But in the meantime, doing the humane thing to help other humans is the right thing to do.

        1. ShanaC

          What are you hearing that I get the feeling I am not in the west

    2. TeddyBeingTeddy

      Why should we even focus on this problem at all, when we’ve got our hands full with our own problems (inner city kids getting shot to death daily, entitled white kids shooting up schools, etc.). Should we fix our house before worrying about all the houses across the water?

      1. William Mougayar

        That’s a good question, but solving these internal issues is not dependent on foreign policy.

        1. LE

          No but then people will then think that they’ve done their part to help another person and be less likely to put any effort or money into a cause in our own country or their own town. [1] Much of this is really a head game anyway. Something to make you feel better about yourself as a person.The problems in our country are the “farshlepta crenk” (rough yiddish for “long standing illness”). The things that are happening overseas are an acute problem. Of course today’s acute problem becomes tomorrows farshlepta crenk.[1] This happens with charities here as well. What could be wrong with Susan Komen? Well for one thing money and walks for Susan Komen means probably that someone would be less likely to do a walk for another cause.

          1. jason wright

            interesting. “crenk” (yiddish) = ‘krank’ (German).

          2. ShanaC

            yiddish is a variation of german

          3. TeddyBeingTeddy

            You’re a real mensch Shana, I mean it. keep up the good work.

          4. William Mougayar

            Well, the way I see it is that this fund raiser is totally optional and volunteers decide to partake at their own will, so nobody is forcing anybody to donate. But when it comes to the issues that Teddy has mentioned, a large part of them is in the hands of the powers at be- local/state/federal who have a hand in fixing these issues, and that’s not optional for them.

          5. TeddyBeingTeddy

            Exactly. a sarah McLaughlin song might convince me to donate $1 per day for some kid in Africa that may or may not exist, that will make me feel like a hero. But a 5 year old shot down the street from me…or a starving homeless person standing in my way to the train…yawn? The Syrian refugees are not our problem. Don’t let special interest lobbyists and PR stunts distract you from focusing on fixing our own, first.

    3. ShanaC

      There is a growing failed state crisis there. I’m not sure what to do.

  6. kidmercury

    the biggest thing any american can do who is interested in taking responsibility for the refugee crisis is stop voting for politicians who promote policies that create it. meddling in syria and supporting al qaeda to get assad out of office is none of america’s business and endangers america by fueling terrorism.

    1. JLM

      .Agreeing with you more than you agree with yourself.The only thing worse is what we have done — getting in halfway with no real plan, withdrawing thereby creating a vacuum into which the Russians have now been drawn.The Russians will be propping up Assad and he WILL prevail in the civil war now that there are Russian troops, rockets, artillery, armor, and air power at his beck and call.We are so incredibly inept as to offer words against Russia when they are investing tanks. Words v tanks? Bet on the tanks.Hello?Crimea, Ukraine, Syria — the Russians are not playing here. They will continue to press forward as long as their only real penalty is being banned from Disneyland.The key to all of this is a coherent American energy policy that makes our gunboat oil politics unnecessary.This situation is going to get immensely more fucked up in the next year. We will look back on this and think we had it easy now.I want to see Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Yemen, Bahrain, UAE and other countries step up in THEIR region.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. christopolis

        I do not follow all of it but to think countries with as much wealth as they have cannot take care of themselves when Israel can is beyond comprehension. To think even one American could die for one of those countries you listed. Disgusting.

      2. Dave Pinsen

        I don’t think Syria has much to do with American energy policy. They aren’t much of an energy producer. Our intervention seems more motivated by naivety and ideology than any rational self interest. Obama bought in to the myth of the Arab Spring, that if only the old autocrats went away, freedom and liberalism would blossom. Libya showed that was a lie, but he doubled down on Syria anyway.My condolences on the passing of your father.

        1. JLM

          .Thanks, Dave.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. Middle East

      Assad was freely elected and got 80% of the vote, the elections were monitored by the UN. This is a problem caused by the Arab league, whose kings (are you kidding me, it’s 2015) are a different brand of Islam than ASAD.

      1. JLM

        .Holy shit! Really?The Assad family has been ruling Syria, as dictators, for decades since the 1963/1966/1970 coups d-etat.His older brother, Bassel, was being groomed for succession and managed to get himself killed in a car accident whereupon Hafez (the first al-Assad dictator) grabbed the eye doctor son to become the next dictator.There has never been a free election in the history of this country.This is a dictator who is slaughtering his own people stemming from a March 2011 protest in which teenagers who painted slogans on gov’t buildings were murdered.If you are going to pretend to quote election results, why not the 2007 “election” in which Bashar al-Assad received 97.6% of the “vote”?Sounds like a rigorous democracy to me. You?This is a brutal, murderous dictator and regime who has sought succor and survival at the hands of another such dictator in Putin.Read about it here:http://themusingsofthebigre…JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. BillMcNeely

          Syria is a bad place. The folks before the Assad’s were pretty bad as well. No one wears a white hat there. Beige at best.

        2. LE

          What’s fascinating about Assad is if you watch the 60 Minutes Interview he sounds so reasonable, gentle and practically avuncular that it’s scary:…Assad guy is totally stealth. The way he comes across vs. the way that he is.…Would you rather have Assad at the other side of a negotiating table or Putin (based on this video I mean)?

          1. JLM

            .I’m surprised that Assad didn’t shoot Charlie Rose after that intro.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. LE

            I am sure he got the Michelin 3 star treatment compared to what happened to Mike Wallace with the Ayatollah. (Remember the fictional portrayal in “The Insider”.)…

          3. Dave Pinsen

            In Godfather terms, Bashar Assad is Michael, not Sonny. His older brother (his father’s heir apparent) was killed. Like Rand Paul, Assad was an eye doctor before getting into politics.

          4. LE

            Godfather should be a required subject in high school (I am serious it’s such a foundational piece to other movies and to life ..)

        3. Middle East

          Assad is awful by western standards, but he is not a religious zealot, do we really believe that putting a group of armed religious crazies is the answer ?

          1. JLM

            .You are arguing the choice of spoons with soup while the man is a brutal, murderous dictator who has displaced 12MM of his countrymen and killed over 300K.He routinely uses artillery and air power against civilian neighborhoods which provide shelter to suspected opposition fighters. He has used chemical weapons.He is evil.This is not a parking ticket.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Middle East

            Opposition fighters getting getting slaughtered, now there is something other counties wouldn’t do! Al Queda being the solution? I remember a time when the U.S. Dropped bombs on this group (oh that’s right, it was practically yesterday).

          3. JLM

            .Reading comp problem. This situation is incredibly screwed up and there are no good guys.We supported the rebels in opposition to Assad which included elements which became ISIS. There were likely also Al Qaeda elements involved.That was a huge strategic mistake made worse by inept and incompetent execution.We may not be able to fashion a good solution as the mess has spun so completely out of control. The Russians will be impossible to dislodge and as long as they stay in Syria, Bashar al-Assad will remain in power.The Russians are already engaging directly against ALL Assad enemies regardless of their other affiliations.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          4. Middle East

            Exactly, that’s what countries do when facing armed rebels, they try to kill them. Always have, always will. Want to know who to back? Ask how does the group treat its women and minototies not it’s enemies.

        4. Tom Labus

          This Assad is a bloody saint compared to his father

        5. markslater

          the fact we even debate this…

    3. William Mougayar

      That’s a simplistic view Kid. The time has passed for getting involved in an orderly fashion. The mess that currently exists is a consequence of prior inaction and confusion.

      1. kidmercury

        no, the mess exists because the US went in there and created it. al qaeda was practically dead before the US went in there and funded them/their allies.

        1. BillMcNeely

          Al Qaeda and ISIS are two very different organizations

          1. kidmercury

            ISIS is simply an offshoot of al qaeda. to avoid confusion it is simply and accurate enough to simply label them both as “radical islam.”

          2. Middle East

            yep, Check with Israel to see if they have any regrets for allowing Hamas to counter the PLO.Have an enemy? Pray that he is secular and not motivated by Religion.

      2. JLM

        .The current mess is beyond comprehension. If anyone every predicted that the Russians would be conducting ground, air operations in support of al-Assad six months ago they would have been committed.This is a world class cockup.http://themusingsofthebigre…This is going to get so much worse, it is not funny. The Damascus Axis will be Syria, Iran, Russia. Hang on for dear life.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    4. SubstrateUndertow

      On behave of the fleeing families I would like to thank you for that abstracted global framing.Now back to the fleeing families and their more immediate/problematic perspective !

      1. kidmercury

        americans who want more fleeing families (and lots of other problems) can keep voting the way they are.

        1. Cam MacRae

          Who would you vote for?

          1. kidmercury

            i don’t know yet, but probably some third party candidate, probably from the libertarian party. support for escalating in syria is pretty much an immediate disqualification, its one of those data points that reveals so much about the person.

          2. Cam MacRae

            You really need to implement proportional representation in your Senate.

    5. Dave Pinsen

      Pat Buchanan praises Trump and Sanders for opposing our intervention in Syria:

      1. kidmercury

        i dislike all three of those people, but glad they are being honest about syria!

  7. iggyfanlo

    Kudos to the team at Kickstarter

  8. BillMcNeely

    I contributed $25 in honor of my friend and Interpreter from Afghanistan Zebi.Zebi continues to do the right thing and wait for his SIV visa he has earned by served the British forces, the American military and the US State Department/contractors honorably.Zebi’s patience is wearing out as going the legal route has led has to his father’s murder and last week his family’s home burned by the Taliban forces as they took Kunduz.Many of his friends have fled to Greece and Turkey illegally and are contributing to the Refugee Crisis in EuropeAt the moment he is ok but the clocks ticking very loudly at the moment.

    1. William Mougayar

      Wow. That’s a touching story. And I’m sure there are thousands others equally touching and unique in their sad ways.

      1. BillMcNeely

        Putting a face to the subject makes it real, not theoretic

    2. ShanaC

      Given what is going on, why is there no fasttrack process for someone like him

      1. BillMcNeely

        The U.S. representative Eikenberry actually fought to limit the number of visas due to a limited number of English speaking folks in Afghanistan

  9. bobmonsour

    Thanks for sharing this Fred. The scale of the crisis is unimaginable with the number of people both internally (estimated to be 8 million) and externally (estimated at 4 million) displaced from their homes. The UN does not have the funding to do enough. I hope that all of us that care as well about the politics of the situation will also take a moment to offer their support to this cause.

  10. kirklove

    Very nice approach from KS as always. Glad they relaxed the rules a bit for this one. Noble, on point, and must be done.

  11. TeddyBeingTeddy

    I think ~10 kids were shot in Chicago this past weekend. Should we rescue our own people before getting involved with other countries’? How about a fund raiser to get 5 year olds out of our own inner city war zones? Why is it cool to rescue people in another country, meanwhile Katrina victims were treated largely like the plague?

    1. Middle East

      How about a fund raiser to support Mexican seasonal farm workers in the U.S.?

      1. TeddyBeingTeddy

        If Carson is elected they’ll be full time farm salves anyway, so that may solve itself

    2. ShanaC

      we should do both

      1. TeddyBeingTeddy

        You’re half right ; )