The person who gave the biggest, single donation is Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani.
What does a talented engineer, a non-profit director and a film producer have got to do with LaunchGood?
These were all jobs Chris Abdul-Rahman Blauvelt had before founding the tech startup, LaunchGood.
LaunchGood is the largest faith-based crowdfunding platform today that has helped charities, organisations and individuals raise over US$296 million across 151 countries.
The platform recently celebrated their 1 millionth donor and looks to be a staple in the Muslim community, but the journey for LaunchGood to even be — starts with Blauvelt’s own growth.
A piece of advice he received from Mohamed Marei, Founder of Qasid Arabic Institute, was, “Spend your 20s learning as much as you can; the challenge is to walk away from something once you’ve mastered it and learn something new. Then spend your 30s coalescing your knowledge into a focused project.”
Qatar Red Crescent Society provides reproductive health services in Somalia
Blauvelt said, “I was 24 when he told me that. Although that advice felt vague at the time, it ended up being spot-on.”
Blauvelt had left a comfortable job in engineering at Intel to become a non-profit director which gave him valuable insight into fundraising.
When he felt he wasn’t being challenged enough, he went into an industry he had zero experience in: the entertainment industry. It was here that he got his first taste of crowdfunding.
As a film producer, he was looking for funds to produce DVDs and set up a website.
Blauvelt explains, “By then we had tapped out our investors, and in looking for new money a friend from New York recommended we check out this new website called Kickstarter. Today Kickstarter is well-known as the creative crowdfunding platform, but at the time it was just a year old. We were one of the first campaigns in Michigan, and I believe we were the first Muslims to ever use the platform.”
Power of the Crowd
If the advice from Mohamed Marei gave him the confidence to learn as many things as he can in his 20s, his experience with crowdfunding solidified the purpose and focus of how he would spend his 30s.
Blauvelt said, “I started to think, “What if we had a crowdfunding platform for the Muslim community? Something that empowered and inspired us, that moved us from a victim mindset to an agency one?”
He set out to build LaunchGood together with Omar Hamid and Amany Killawi, his 2 other co-founders.
This month, LaunchGood hit a great milestone: one million donors.
Whilst reflecting on it, Blauvelt said: “We started LaunchGood not as a fundraising platform, but as an inspiration platform. Humans are inspired by stories, and every fundraiser can inspire – when Faatimah Knight saw Dylann Roof shoot dead 9 African-American parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, she raised $724 on LaunchGood to send the church flowers as a gift from Muslims showing solidarity.
After the shooting, a disgusting streak of arson attacks took place on other southern Black churches, and a few community activists including Linda Sarsour reached out to Faatimah to see if they could raise US$10k for those damaged churches. This time, the campaign went viral, and “Rebuild With Love” ended up raising over $100k.
Fast forward a year or so, Trump is elected president and Jewish cemeteries start getting desecrated, Linda Sarsour partners with another community leader, Tarek El-Messidi (of CelebrateMercy), to raise $20k through “Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery” to show solidarity and lend a hand of support. JK Rowling, renowned author of the Harry Potter series, came across the campaign and tweeted “This is such a beautiful thing” – immediately crashing our website!
Eventually many “Muslims United…” or “United for…” fundraisers were born from these, and have become a hallmark of LaunchGood: when we need to stand up as a community, we do it through LaunchGood, because actions speak louder than words.”
Amany Killawi noted, “Our goal at LaunchGood is to facilitate change by providing a platform that connects generous people with those in need, wherever they are. Our donors have kept this platform alive and thriving – they’re the real heroes of this story.”
One million donors
A million donors means there are a million stories to be told on the platform.
The person who gave the biggest, single donation is none other than Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani.
Sheikh Hassan, the grandson of the former King of Qatar, is the founder of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.
He studied Art of the 20th Century in the 1980s at a time when there wasn’t any institution dedicated to Arab modern art in the Middle East and North Africa; thereafter starting his own collection in 1986.
In 2010, Sheikh Hassan officially established Mathaf, which is considered the first museum in the region dedicated to Arab modern art.
Sheikh Hassan donated $68,483 to support the victims and families of the horrific shootings in 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019.
Whilst the team is celebrating this incredible milestone, Blauvelt already has his sights set on the next one: one billion raised.
“Getting to one million donors is impressive, but one million people is a single neighbourhood in Istanbul. We are still early. We still have a long way to go to connect two billion Muslims but we’re on the right path. And I’m looking forward to having raised $1 billion on LaunchGood.”
Ameera Aslam is a Senior Writer at LaunchGood, and an award-winning poet.