Charitable crowd-fundraising platform HopeMob has relaunched, switching from raising money for one need or cause at a time to opening up to allow anyone to post needs. The organization says it is partnering with Paypal and Dwolla to accept donations and will cover the processing fees out of its own budget so that 100 percent of the money given will go directly to the causes.

The charity first launched in April after a successful Kickstarter earlier this year and it quickly grew into a community of more than 500,000 “generous strangers”. The concept behind it is to take the social energy of flash mobs and apply it to individuals’ needs. The overwhelming response to the service proved to be too much for the original one story at a time model and the organization has now opened up to host many stories at once.

“We designed HopeMob originally with people in need in mind. Our goal was to just tell one story at a time, help one person at a time,”  HopeMob founder Shaun King told The Next Web in an interview. “That idea was really compassionate and it worked, but it created a logjam that we just didn’t foresee. Within a few months, we had thousands of stories in our queue waiting to be told. It was a real bottleneck,”

King added that the organization then decided to take a risk and innovate a new platform that would allow it to help more people.

As noted by the organization on Twitter, major changes in the re-launch include:

  1. We won’t charge a dime for any story and will even cover the processing fees. This is a HUGE advancement for online fundraising for causes
  2. We will be the only fundraising platform accepting multiple forms of payment to include Dwolla, Paypal, and debit/credit card, more.
  3. We will be the only platform that offers optional support for people in need to help write & publish their stories in the best way.
  4. We will be the only platform to offer an optional verification feature to fully verify the authenticity of each story told on our platform
  5. Starting tonight, all people/charities/businesses will be able to write and immediately post stories of need @ HopeMob.org

The new site has arrived in beta mode with just a few stories, and updates will arrive daily. The fully-featured platform will be complete in January and will also include support for petitions and stories that don’t have financial needs.

Verifications will involve the same five-step process that HopeMob had been using, but they will now be optional. Since it is subsidizing payment providers’ fees, HopeMob says it will raise money for the processing costs through an optional donation at checkout, as well as through foundations and corporate partners.

King also highlighted several aspects of the new HopeMob he believes differentiates it from others in the online charitable crowdfunding community. First, it is organized as a charity, unlike some other platforms which are run as for-profit businesses.

“This is one of the rare instances where [being a non-profit] helps us be more innovative instead of less innovative,” King said.

That innovation is evident in HopeMob’s bold new no-fee system. According to King, it’s a first for online giving toward causes. Also notable is the fact that it works with multiple payment systems.

“PayPal and Dwolla have worked with us to get the fees as little as humanly possible and we’ll just eat that cost ourselves,” he said.

HopeMob is offering an additional service for users submitting stories that will help them with writing about their cause or need free of charge. King claims the platform’s verification system is another first for the sector.

“It’s optional, but if you check a box, your story can be verified by our team and your story will get a verified badge to verify the authenticity of the story,” he said, adding that the HopeMob team will also help with the implementation of the cause’s goals.

Finally, King highlighted the fact that the revamped version of the site will allow anyone to submit stories. That way, individuals, businesses and non-profits can all participate in meeting needs that they encounter.

King and co-founder Chad Kellough have been working together to raise money for charities for about five years, raising millions of dollars for causes in Atlanta, as well as the Haiti earthquake relief effort. The two also put together TwitChange, another charitable giving platform that leverages celebrity influence on Twitter to raise funds and awareness for causes. All the other members of the four person team also have a background in non-profit work. HopeMob operates a network of volunteers that numbers in the thousands.

With over 500,000 followers on Twitter, HopeMob is counting on its social media strength to help it make a difference. King also says the organization has a “great community” on Facebook.

King said the idea for HopeMob came out of requests that he gets from people looking to help that don’t know where to give.

“I would connect people with means with people with needs and I did that a few dozen times, the idea for HopeMob came out of just helping people with that grassroots effort,” he said, adding that his goal is to bring them together at the same table.

Since HopeMob is itself just the underlying platform, its strength is going to be in the quality of the stories and causes that it can attract. Based on how things are going so far, we’re hopeful that the team will make a difference.

Image via Flickr / csullens