GoFundMe CEO Tim Cadogan is revolutionizing crowdfunding with a conscience, securing over $30 billion for ‘good causes’ since 2010


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Sometimes, it doesn’t take much time to judge someone’s character. That was the case when I virtually met Tim Cadogan, the British-born CEO of fundraising platform GoFundMe. When I told Tim I couldn’t meet him in the evening because of childcare duties, he went out of his way to reschedule instead at a time that was less convenient for him.

Of course, such small efforts may appear meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Shouldn’t we judge a leader by their corporate track record, rather than a personal gesture? I’d counter that the two are closely correlated. People’s characters don’t tend to change whether they deal with strategic or more trivial matters.

19

GoFundMe’s rank on Fortune’s Change the World list 2022.

The way GoFundMe works is a case in point. There is no shortage of platform companies taking the lion’s share of the revenues generated on their websites, with Airbnb, Uber, and Apple charging fees of between 14% and 30%. GoFundMe, however, limits their share to 2.9% and 30 cents of each transaction they process, alongside an optional “tip” left by their users. 

It’s not enough of a gesture to shield GoFundMe from criticism on review sites such as TrustPilot, where the company scores a meager 2 out of 5 stars, despite raising over $30 billion for good causes since 2010. But its fee structure does make GoFundMe profitable, Cadogan told me, and allows the company to invest in new features, such as AI-generated narratives for fundraisers at a loss for words. 

$30,000,000,000

The amount that has been raised on the platform for individuals and nonprofits since 2010.

Personally, I became convinced that the balance Cadogan’s GoFundMe found is right; both from talking to the CEO himself, who comes across as a decent man with a moral compass, and from having used the service recently myself. But don’t let my judgment cloud yours.

This interview has been edited for brevity.


Down to business

Fortune: What is the single most important project you are working on with your company?  

Tim Cadogan: At GoFundMe we are focused on helping people help each other. We know that it is hard to ask for help. We are currently focused on helping people by using AI coupled with the extensive data set we have built from the many millions of fundraising campaigns we have enabled. 

The impulse to help each other is hardwired into us; it’s central to what makes us a social species.

For example, we have recently introduced AI-enhanced storytelling options, suggested fundraiser titles, and a new class of sharing tools. These innovations use AI to apply the lessons we’ve learned from over $30 billion in fundraising, while always keeping the integrity and authenticity of the individual fundraiser’s story at the core.

Which long-term trend are you most bullish about for society and the economy at large?

I continue to be inspired by the tremendous power of help. The impulse to help each other is hardwired into us; it’s central to what makes us a social species. I’m encouraged by the way technology is enabling people to more easily connect across communities and countries to help each other. I’m particularly hopeful about how empathetic applications of AI will nurture even more humanitarianism and support – both for individuals and nonprofit organizations.

More than $500 million of help for natural disasters has been raised on the platform from more than 4 million donors since 2018.

jhorrocks via Getty

If you were an economic policymaker, what would be your top priority?

One area where we see an opportunity is to improve resilience – ensuring communities affected by crises have immediate resources for support and recovery. When we look at natural disasters specifically, more than $500 million of help has been raised from more than 4 million donors since 2018. Over the past five years, there has been a 90% increase in fundraisers for natural disasters on GoFundMe. While it is inspiring to see millions of individuals helping each other in times of disaster, it would be great to make resources for immediate help easier and more accessible.

Being productive

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I aim to start my day at sunrise by taking my dog out for a run. That works except for the winter, when I need to get going before sunrise. We usually do about 5-7 miles on a weekday, more on weekends. Getting outside clears the mind and jump-starts the body for the day. It also keeps my dog happy.

Man running with dog on lead
Tim starts his day at sunrise by taking his dog out for a run.

Zero Creatives via Getty

Who is on your “personal board”? 

I operate extremely closely with my colleagues on our exec team. I am lucky to have such experienced colleagues and we are constantly riffing on ideas and issues together. I also have a group of trusted folks I’ve worked with over the years and it’s great to be able to share challenges and situations with each other. Finally, I have a few running partners with whom I’ve done big endurance events; they give me a special and different perspective.

Getting personal

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you? 

I just finished Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford. An extremely creative and compelling book. The ability of the author to imagine a different version of history, transport you into that world with a visceral sense of being there, and produce such a powerful story was remarkable. It’s a testament to what the human mind can do with nothing more than time and words.

Cahokia Jazz by Richard Osman
Cahokia Jazz by Richard Osman is a book that inspires the GoFundMe CEO.

Courtesy of Amazon.co.uk

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

I believe great leaders are talent multipliers; the most vital thing they do is find ways to enable their teams to do genuinely unbelievable things together. So my question is: What is the most important thing you do as a leader to unleash the full talent and capacity of your teams?

CEO Agenda provides unique insights into how leaders think and lead and what keeps them busy in a world of constant change. We look into the lives, minds and agendas of CEOs at the world’s most iconic companies. Dive into our other CEO Agenda profiles.





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