YouTube has a reputation for being a platform for entertainment, but YouTubers also understand how to wield their influence for the greater good. For example, Tyler Oakley has raised money for The Trevor Project, or Epic Meal Time partnering with Arnold Schwarzenegger for After-School-All-Stars. Perhaps the most notable example of using YouTube to raise both funds and awareness for charities is the Vlogbrothers’ Project 4 Awesome (P4A). P4A reveals just how powerful fan communities on YouTube can be.
KIVA.org and the Bank of Nerdfighteria
Nerdfighteria, the community surrounding the works of John Green, author of the hit novel The Fault In Our Stars, and his brother Hank Green (together known as the Vlogbrothers), not only exists robustly online but manages to put their money where their mouth is by supporting awesome things and decreasing world suck. This is an interesting lesson for everyone else because the money that flows through this community supports what they love and believe in. It would not have been possible to move this amount of money through a community that was not deeply passionate about the cause and how funds were being used. Here is a video of John Green delivering the Bank of Nerdfighteria’s quarterly report:
The Vlogbrothers started talking about setting up a fund for charity as a “punishment” for breaking the rules of Brotherhood 2.0, an experiment in eliminating textual communication from their fraternal relationship for one year:
Nerdfighters have, through KIVA.org, given millions of dollars in micro-loans. In November 2011, they loaned $75,000. In 2012, they loaned a total of $1,568,325, and in 2013 that number jumped to $1,694,950. The community, through May 2014 has loaned almost $4 million in total.
The Project 4 Awesome
Nerdfighters even hacked YouTube in its early days for a charity event called Project 4 Awesome (P4A). The community coordinated their efforts, repeatedly engaging with videos about the charities in order to have them promoted to YouTube’s front page, increasing exposure and view counts. While the whole “front page of YouTube” thing is no longer as relevant, the event has morphed and grown with the platform .
On December 17th, 2007, P4A occupied every available space for videos on YouTube’s front page, with only a single unrelated video managing enough engagement to squeeze through the community-built firewall. The following year, YouTube essentially capitulated, inviting the Vlogbrothers to guest edit the site’s front page, to do “officially” what their fans had previously conspired to accomplish. John Green donated $200 to each of five charities, with Hank also donating. In 2008, Nerdfighters commented 200,000+ times on P4A videos.
The P4A started with the brothers and Nerdfighteria drawing attention to charities and donating if they felt like it, to a massive period of fundraising for charity. In 2010, Nerdfighteria raised over $140,000 during the P4A, including matching funds. In 2012 alone, the P4A raised $483,296 and viewers left 724,167 comments. In 2013, a total of $869,591 was raised, complete with an Indiegogo campaign and 48 hour live-stream telecast.
YouTube’s Powerful Communities of Fans
Looking at the Vlogbrothers and Project 4 Awesome as an example demonstrates that YouTube is more than just a platform for entertainment. It is a breeding ground for cultures, where communities use videos to rally around causes. YouTube is not only for brands, or cats, or teenagers. It is also for anyone searching for likeminded people to take action.
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