Apr 24, 2015 · 2 minutes

GoFundMe is reportedly raising funds at a roughly $500 million valuation to help expand its "very profitable" -- and controversial -- crowdfunding platform.

TechCrunch's report on the funding round is full of important information. Accel Partners* could lead the round. The valuation could change because of the success GoFundMe found as a bootstrapped company. Nothing, as per usual, is set in stone until the official press release is sent out.

Yet there's something you won't find in TechCrunch's report on the funding: GoFundMe's history of allowing controversial campaigns to continue on its platform -- that is, as long as these campaigns raise large amounts of money.

GoFundMe is the crowdfunding platform that allowed hundreds -- some of whom left racist comments -- to donate more than $235,000 to a legal defense fund for Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown in August 2014. (That campaign appears to have been disappeared from GoFundMe's website. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice cleared Wilson of criminal wrongdoing).

It also helped an Indiana pizzeria that garnered national attention for refusing to cater same-sex weddings raise more than $840,000 earlier this month. In both cases, someone embroiled in national controversy was able to find support at GoFundMe, which has become the bigot's platform of choice.

That is, as long as the campaign turns out to be a lucrative one. For example, the company didn't allow a campaign for the legal defense fund of a police officer accused of raping eight people, or the house mother of that Oklahoma fraternity most famous for its racist chant, to raise more than a few thousand dollars.

This discrepancy led Pando's David Holmes to point out that GoFundMe, like other crowdfunding platforms, might have a financial motive for allowing some controversial projects to raise lots of cash while suspending other campaigns:

Certainly, GoFundMe has a right to remove or preserve campaigns however it sees fit. But if it’s going to allow some campaigns that raise cash for people accused of a crime while removing others, it needs a consistent policy.

Let’s not forget that GoFundMe, like virtually all crowdfunding platforms, takes a cut of each donation. And by cracking down on Holtzclaw’s modest $7,390 campaign while allowing Wilson’s $235,550 campaign to shoulder on despite similarities between the two, it invites criticism that perhaps its actions are based less on standards and more on profits. TechCrunch's report doesn't make any mention of these high profile campaigns. Instead, it notes that investors are interested in GoFundMe because it plays host to "many campaigns centered around aid and education projects," and because they're desperate to "fund companies in new sectors." (How, exactly, it decided crowdfunding is a "new sector" is a mystery to me.) The white-washing begins.

  • Disclosure: Accel Partners is an investor in Pando