Venmo Proves Mobile Payments Chops a New Way: Impromptu Charitable Crowdfunding

June 11, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

We all know that mobile payments are a great tool to have on hand when shopping online. When coordinating with a rewards program, they also make a formidable force in shopping in brick-and-mortar outlets as well. They’ve done well for bill payments, and might be the last word in cross-border commerce solutions. Yet one more use has just come to light: impromptu charitable crowdfunding mechanism.

One recent story spotted in The Star Online introduced us to Indira Marquez Robles, a college student whose father had just been arrested on “suspicion of DUI.” Robles’ father had been routed to ICE in Georgia, and with the family’s only earner out of commission and bills aplenty in the waiting, Robles took to a combination of Twitter and Venmo to help out.

Robles related the story on Twitter, then provided links to her Venmo account—as well as Cash App—and hoped she could raise a few bucks from charitable souls looking to help out.

Within two days, Robles had raised just over $1,000.

Neither Venmo nor Square is keeping data on just how many users are using their platforms like this, or how much cash is being raised as a result. In fact, a Venmo rep noted that “We’re definitely not a GoFundMe and we certainly don’t facilitate charitable payments. A lot of use cases for Venmo are people splitting a dinner bill or utility bills, and it’s really happening between friends.”

Some of a more cynical bent could be forgiven here for believing the opposite is true; Venmo is facilitating charitable payments because the platform is being used for exactly that purpose. Sure, Venmo didn’t set out to do that, but it’s happening. In fact, it’s probably a point worth embracing. After all, it’s just like they said: a lot of Venmo’s use cases are happening between friends, people splitting bills, so why wouldn’t it be used among large numbers of comparatively temporary online friends to cover some sudden disaster like Robles’ earlier?

Of course, if such a use caught on and  Venmo was regarded as nothing more than an e-begging platform, that could damage its reputation and brand image pretty substantially. Yet is it something Venmo can even really stop?