Watt targets $10M with fundraiser
Texans standout’s efforts pay off in online donations
The fundraising effort by Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt is expected to raise
$10 million for Hurricane Harvey victims after surpassing $6 million Wednesday and dwarfing the original goal of $200,000, according to YouCaring, the online company taking donations and managing the effort.
Watt, a four-time all-pro end and three-time NFL defensive player of the year, started the campaign on YouCaring.com on Sunday with a donation of
$100,000. Since then, Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk donated $1 million and NBA star Chris Paul donated $50,000, but the most of the money raised has come from 65,000 donors contributing between $20 and $100 apiece.
“This thing is gaining only more and more steam and momentum,” Dan Saper, CEO of YouCaring, told USA TODAY Sports. “Who knows? But we’re confident we can get to $10 million. J.J.’s confident he can get there.”
Saper said Watt’s fundraising campaign is on pace to raise more money than any other crowdfunding effort, with the record being about $8 million raised through GoFundMe in 2016 for victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
When Watt posted his first tweet about his Hurricane Harvey relief campaign, Saper said, YouCaring ’s website crashed.
“Our poor head of engineering the other day, he was up until 2 a.m. shoring up the servers and back at it at 7 a.m.,” Saper said. “We had never experienced a surge of traffic of that magnitude before.
“Our engineering team has been working to ensure that it (the website) has been up, and it’s been largely up 99.9% of the time since then. So we’ve got through the woods on that initial surge.”
Saper, noting that his staff of about 50 based in San Francisco operates solely on optional tips, said the money raised by Watt’s effort will be handled by the JJ Watt Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit.
“He’s now posting photos and his team is posting photos showing massive cafeterias filled with supplies that they’re purchasing, that this is real, they’re not just sitting on a pile of cash,” Saper said. “They’re taking action immediately and they’re going to be delivering supplies in trucks as soon as they get in. So he’s been amazing at this.”
Watt’s mother, Connie, and members of the Texans staff have been communicating with YouCare.com on Watt’s behalf, according to Saper. But Watt has been active on Twitter, posting updates when the campaign reached new milestones and Wednesday setting the $10 million goal.
The campaign raised $500,000 within 24 hours, and the surge continued with the following milestones: $1 million by Monday night, $3 million by midday Tuesday ( bolstered by the Titans’ $1 million donation) and $6 million by Wednesday afternoon.
The Texans’ J.J. Watt signs autographs for fans holding signs referencing Hurricane Harvey on Saturday in New Orleans.