When Crowdfunding Meets Social Media: The Karen Klein Story

Yet another crowdfunding campaign went viral in the past two days, largely as a result of this Reddit post that started the campaign and called attention to the cause.  We would like to give some details of the story, then speak to the message this sends about how social media and crowdfunding, when combined, will continue to amaze.

The story: Karen H. Klein, a bus monitor, was subjected to brutal verbal harassment by middle schoolers while on the bus in Greece, NY.  The kids shot a video of themselves viciously making fun of her weight, age, and financial status.  They then posted the video on Youtube.

After having been bullied on a school bus, crowdfunders are sending Karen Klein on quite the vacation.

Reddit user Max Sidorov, under the username Heavyballsareheavy (creative) saw the youtube video, created this indiegogo campaign to raise $5,000 to send Karen on a nice vacation, and called fellow Reddit users to action.  According to Sidorov’s Reddit post, the campaign raised $1,300 in the first three hours.  Pretty strong for a campaign without much more than a Youtube video and a plea for sympathy.

But by the next morning, that total had reached $125,000.  The LA Times, MSNBC, and CNN had reported on the story by that point.  When I started writing this blog in the mid-afternoon yesterday, roughly $280,000 had been raised for Karen’s vacation, and by the time I post this, there will be more than $465k raised, with 29 days of crowdfunding left.  I get the sense that wherever she goes, Karen won’t be flying coach…or working much…ever again.

So how does this happen?  How does one $5,000 ambition derived from sympathy turn into a $465,000+ success story?  Keep in mind that Max Sidorov still has never met Karen Klein, a 68-year-old widow grandmother of eight whose son took his own life ten years ago.  Where does all of this come from and how can it explode so quickly?

With crowdfunding and social media, it seems clear that we’re going to continue asking these types of questions in stunned wonder.  The Pebble Smartwatch broke through as a the biggest crowdfunding success, but it has been followed by several other crowdfunding campaigns that have also raised more than $1 million. Is Karen on track to do the same?

Let’s look at the numbers quickly.  More than 21,000 people have contributed to the $465,000 raised so far.  That’s only a little more than $20 per donor. If this keeps up for even part of the next 29 days, Karen might win the lottery, crowdfunding style. Launcht found the article through our twitter account, which, like Reddit, is likely the source of thousands of donations so far.  With the crowd only growing larger as more people learn about crowdfunding, these amazing stories are going to keep coming up.

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