Charitable giving is a tricky thing. It's not enough to be generous; it's also important to be sure your money is going where you intend it, and is doing actual good instead of lining the pockets of drug pushers, thieves, and/or tin-pot dictators.
As a society, we're not all that good at giving to recognized, established charities, but let some new cause or tragic event take our fancy, and we pour out money like water, generously and carelessly. Recent events have been an object lesson in why it's not only foreign dictators who stop charitable gifts from getting to the intended recipients.
I had, of course, heard of the organization GoFundMe, which is used to organize fundraising campaigns for various causes. I have never had any dealings with them, myself—and now I think I never will. Trust, once broken, is very difficult to recover.
A GoFundMe project was set up to support the Freedom Convoy 2022, and quickly raised over 10 million dollars (Canadian). After releasing about a tenth of that, however, GoFundMe pulled the plug, claiming the organizers had violent intentions and as such violated their Terms of Service. (Never mind that after watching some 20 hours of unscripted, unedited livestream video from the protests, I've seen no evidence at all for such a claim; indeed all the evidence points to the contrary.)
You know those Terms of Service that we never read? It turns out they matter. GoFundMe, apparently, can pull the plug at their own discretion, without recourse.
[With my propensity for word play, it is SO tempting to switch out two of the letters in GoFundMe. But I will refrain. Obviously I have been listening to too much Gordon Ramsay. Besides, I know I'm not the only person to have thought of that one.]
Initially, GoFundMe said that donors had 14 days to request a refund (or until the 14th, I'm not certain anymore, and the site has changed since I first read it); otherwise all the money donated would be given to a "recognized charity" acceptable to both GoFundMe and the organizers of the blocked account. After an uproar, however, they changed that to automatically refunding all donations. So that's as good as we can expect, I guess. But it leaves me with zero faith that I can trust GoFundMe with my money.
Next chapter: Enter GiveSendGo.
I'd never heard of GiveSendGo, but they are an established fundraising platform that offered to step into the breach.
Viva Frei, my much-mentioned favorite Canadian lawyer, spent some time looking into GiveSendGo and gave it this review.
Almost immediately, the Freedom Convoy campaign on GiveSendGo garnered even more money than they had raised on GoFundMe.
From this point on, the story gets fuzzy, as rumors fly, and I'm not sure what to believe, but this is what I can make of it:
The Canadian government obtained a court order to freeze the campaign's assets. GiveSendGo is an American company and did not take kindly to that action, responding that the Canadian court lacks proper jurisdiction.
GiveSendGo was then hit by a Denial of Service attack, but still managed to continue to take in funds for the work of the truckers.
This was followed by an attack by hackers who redirected the GiveSendGo URL to a bogus site, and allegedly stole donors' personal information.
Then a Canadian bank (TD Bank), which was holding some of the money that had been released, froze the account.
And that's all I know so far.
Not true. I do know one more thing—lawyers are going to win big, whoever loses.
I've heard some complaints that there is a lot of "foreign money" in those accounts. While that may conjure up images of shadowy Russian or Chinese espionage, my impression is that the foreign supporters are much closer to home: cheerleaders from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Europe supporting their Canadian brothers and sisters in a campaign close to their own hearts.
Charitable giving is a tricky thing. That's no reason not to give, but it is sobering to know that even in a Western, democratic, and supposedly civilized society, governments, governmental agencies, and large private corporations are misappropriating our gifts.