Donors who sent checks must wait for refunds
While people who donated online to the GoFundMe raising money for a wall along the southern border will be refunded their money automatically, donors who mailed checks to a Castle Rock UPS store will have to wait for a letter in the mail before they can ask for their money back or opt into an effort to privately build the wall.
The original fundraiser, organized by Florida-based Brian Kolfage, aimed to raise $1 billion to donate to the federal government for the construction of a border wall. It offered those who did not want to donate online the option of mailing their checks to Castle Rock, where Kolfage’s unnamed business associates would retrieve them.
But Kolfage, a conservative pundit, changed the purpose of the fundraiser Friday and said the money instead would be sent to his new nonprofit that aims to build parts of a wall without the government’s help. The change in purpose prompted GoFundMe to start automatically refunding donors’ money and alert them via email of the change, though donors can choose online to not receive a refund and instead send their money to the nonprofit.
But those who donated via mail will have to wait. Kolfage said in an email to The Denver Post on Sunday that every person who sent a donation via check will receive a letter in the mail giving them the option to send their money to the new nonprofit or get a refund.
“We are mailing every snail mail donor a letter in the mail and updating them our new big plans to build the wall, and if they want a refund for not meeting our $1 billion goal yet, which we will, we will allow them to back out of the deal as I promised to all donors,” he wrote.
Kolfage said he didn’t know exactly how many people had mailed donations or how much money had been raised via the checks because “we are still processing the mail.” He expects to hear back from all mail donors within the next two weeks.
The popular fundraising company decided to refund the money because the campaign did not meet its funding goal and changed the destination of the money, GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne said in an email to The Denver Post. The original campaign information also said all money would be refunded if the goal was not met, Whithorne said.
“This means all donors will receive a refund,” Whithorne wrote. “If a donor does not want a refund, and they want their donation to go to the new organization, they must proactively elect to redirect their donation to that organization. If they do not take that step, they will automatically receive a full refund.”
GoFundMe did not respond to questions Sunday about whether the company has any oversight over mailed donations.
While Kolfage raised more than $20 million in less than a month, the fundraiser was more than $979 million short of its $1 billion goal as of Sunday afternoon. Hundreds of people continued to donate to the page online Sunday.
Kolfage refuted the idea that GoFundMe was refunding donors’ money in an email to The Denver Post, despite writing on the fundraiser’s website on Jan. 11 that “we will promptly refund your donation unless you tell us you approve our new plan for action.”
“That’s a lie,” he wrote Sunday. “They are not refunding everyone’s money. Stop reporting the fake news.”
The new iteration of the GoFundMe no longer lists the Castle Rock address for mail donations and instead states checks should be sent to a post office box in Houston.