Belltown Couple Raises $20K for Homelessness on Facebook

Helpless.

That’s how Belltown residents Maggi McConnell and Jeff Few felt about the homelessness crisis. They saw people struggling on the street every day. The problem seemed too big to tackle.

But then Jeff realized he wasn’t tackling it alone: Pearl Jam is partnering with United Way for this August’s Home Shows to do that very thing.

Pearl Jam’s Safeco concerts this summer, and their contribution to the Home Fund, made me aware of what United Way is doing to relieve homelessness in our city,” he said. “We decided to follow their lead in helping to fund these vital efforts.”

He wanted to make a positive impact where there was so much negativity: social media. “I’d seen Facebook used by some of my neighbors to demonize the people and families battling homelessness in Seattle,” he said. “I decided to channel my sadness and frustration over this into something positive.”

Really positive. Their ambitious goal? $20,000.

Maggi knew she had a mission for the next few weeks. “I’m not gonna not meet this goal.”

And meet it they did— in just four days.

Jeff and Maggi were tired of feeling like they couldn’t impact the homelessness crisis, so they used social media to change that.

How? They put their money where their mouths were, matching all donations up to $5,000. Jeff’s employer also matched employee donations by 200%, meaning a $1 donation on Facebook was suddenly worth $4.

Maggi wanted to show people their money would make a difference. She also wanted to break a few norms, including how we talk about philanthropy.

“Get over the stigma. Putting it out there that it was $5,000 of our own money. ‘We’re putting this money into this, what can you do?’”

People talk about new cars or vacations with ease on social media, she argued, but for some reason it’s still not okay to talk about charitable giving. “Why not talk about providing services for people living underneath the highway?” she said. By plastering this Facebook fundraiser all over Instagram and Twitter as well, she and Jeff spread the word widely.

Which was the other norm she was wanted to break: making people feel powerless because they can’t afford to give.  “Not everyone can afford to give cash and that’s fine, but maybe you can repost or retweet,” she said.

We’ve often said that this crisis won’t end without help from everyone, and Jeff and Maggi’s fundraiser is proof of what can happen when we come together. “It’s going to take all of us and we have to really face it,” Maggi said. “No more putting it out of mind or acting like it’s someone else’s problem.”

Jeff added, “The people in Seattle forced into homelessness are refugees of an economy that left them behind. It is incumbent upon those of us with the fortune and privilege to do so to give them a helping hand back into stable, accessible and affordable housing.”

Tips for Your Own Fundraiser

Inspired to start a fundraiser of your own? Jeff and Maggi have some learnings to share:

First, check to see if your employer matches funds you donate to charity. If so, use can them to augment your own donations. Jeff said the matching contributions “inspired a great deal of generosity” from people wanting to see if they could hit the big goal.

Second, to hit that big goal, you’re going to need a lot of people. Reach out to friends and family with large networks. All they can say is no thanks, Maggi pointed out, and they usually don’t. “Sometimes it’s all about building a culture of giving in your social circle.”

With a summer of giving before The Pearl Jam Home Shows, we can’t wait to see what we can accomplish!

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