GoFundMe froze $350k in contributions after BLM supporters mistakenly donated to an unaffiliated group with the same name

Business Insider reports donors looking to support the global Black Lives Matter movement raised an estimated $4.35 million in June for an organization called Black Lives Matter Foundation, but most of those funds are now in limbo after BuzzFeed News discovered that the foundation is completely unaffiliated with the movement.

The BLM Foundation, is based in Santa Clarita, California and was founded in 2015, BuzzFeed News reported. Robert Ray Barnes, the founder and sole paid employee of the foundation, told the outlet that the two groups have nothing to do with one another and have vastly different missions.

“Our whole thing is having unity with the police department,” Barnes told BuzzFeed News in a report Monday.

Despite differing approaches to ending racial injustice and police brutality, their nearly identical names led many donors and supporters to give to Barnes’ organization, mistakenly assuming it was associated with the global BLM movement, according to BuzzFeed.

After George Floyd was killed while in police custody and donations to racial justice organizations began pouring in, individuals organized campaigns on charity sites like GoFundMe and employers offered to match donations using platforms like Benevity, and both listed BLM Foundation as a recipient option.

Employees from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox, took advantage of their company’s donation-matching programs via Benevity, to raise over $4 million for BLM Foundation, according to BuzzFeed News (while Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston both listed the organization as an eligible organization in letters to employees).

BuzzFeed News said none of the platforms appeared to be aware that BLM Foundation and the global BLM movement weren’t connected until it contacted them, and now they’ve halted donations to the group and are trying to get the funds to the intended recipients.

A GoFundMe spokesperson told Business Insider that the company uses the PayPal Giving Fund database to enable people to donate to causes and that it’s working with PayPal to redirect funds.

The spokesperson said that “180 campaigns have recently raised money for the Black Lives Matter Foundation, raising $350,000. GoFundMe placed all funds on hold and we are working with PayPal and the campaign organizers to ensure all of the money raised is transferred to the Black Lives Matter movement via their fiscal sponsor.”

“A number of donors have recently given to PayPal Giving Fund in support of the Black Lives Matter movement by making donations through one of our platform partners,” a PayPal spokesperson told Business Insider. “We are diligently looking into the matter and working with the donors, our partners, campaign organizers, and charities involved to ensure that the funds are granted as quickly as possible.”

“The [$4 million in funds] mentioned in the BuzzFeed article have not been distributed to Black Lives Matter Foundation per our standard vetting and disbursement process,” a Benevity spokesperson told Business Insider.

“No funds will be going to the Black Lives Matter Foundation as they’ve been deactivated from our platform. Benevity is working closely with our clients to redirect the funds to other social justice causes,” they added.

The BLM movement that has gained global attention in recent weeks began as a hashtag (#BlackLivesMatter) following the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2013 and became more widely known as simply Black Lives Matter in 2014 after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police.

Read more here.