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YouTuber MrBeast’s Philanthropy: Charity In The Social Media Era

Photo Courtesy MrBeast

MrBeast made headlines once again with another act of philanthropy. Last year, he set up 100 clean drinking water wells in Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. 

Jimmy Donaldson, better known as MrBeast, is a prominent YouTuber and philanthropist. His main channel has 261 million subscribers and hundreds of videos posted. He also has four other channels with tens of millions of subscribers and has amassed a fortune by cracking the YouTube algorithm. 

He began making videos in 2012 at age 13, but his internet fame didn’t skyrocket until 2018 when he gave a homeless man $10,000.

He started as a video game streamer before he did YouTube full-time, dropping out of college against his mother’s wishes to pursue his YouTube career. 

Today, Donaldson is worth more than $500 million and earns about $40,000 per video. Thanks to his loyal following, Donaldson is the richest YouTuber as of 2023. He has built a legitimate business empire worth more than $1 billion. 

Donaldson’s most-viewed video is his brand of Squid Games called MrBeast Games. A $456,000 cash prize was up for grabs as contestants competed in Korean kids’ games. The video was riding the success of the popular Netflix show “Squid Games. The show, made by Korean director Hwang Dong-hyuk, garnered massive praise in 2021 for its thrilling plotline and social commentary.  

However, it’s Donaldson’s philanthropy that has caught the attention of the mainstream media. In January 2023, he paid for 1,000 blind people’s cataract surgeries, mainly for those who could not afford the procedure. 

The move garnered a mixed reaction online. Some people viewed MrBeast as doing it strictly for online engagement, while others noted how he didn’t have to help 1,000 people with his own money, but he did. He has also given away millions of dollars of clothing to homeless shelters, adopted an orphanage to give them better living conditions, paid for amputees’ prosthetics, and now ensured more than 100,000 villagers would have access to clean freshwater.

Video Courtesy MrBeast

Donaldson also donated $300,000 to local water aid organizations in Africa. He supplied schools in these villages with new furniture, soccer balls, computers, whiteboards, and projectors.

He built a safety bridge for people to cross a river in Zimbabwe. Several people couldn’t reach the school or the local hospital without the bridge. He also donated bikes for increased mobility. 

Much like his cataract removal video sparked online debate, this one did, too. However, the reaction was generally positive, commending Donaldson and suggesting he inadvertently exposed failures of water aid to non-governmental organizations and African governments. 

CNN spoke with Saran Kaba Jones, a leader of Massachusetts-based FACE Africa, who expressed frustration at how Donaldson was able to do what she has been working toward for more than 15 years in 8 months. She commended Donaldson for highlighting the need for a clean water supply, but she also questioned the sustainability of the wells. 

Some African journalists who were critical of governmental actions were less wary of Donaldson. They pointed out how he acted with haste and even less bureaucratic hoop-jumping — at least from the video’s perspective. 

Photo Courtesy MrBeast 

Donaldson said he is used to his charity videos garnering negative reactions. He posted on X (formerly Twitter), “I already know I’m gonna get canceled because I uploaded a video helping people, and to be 100% clear, I don’t care. I’m always going to use my channel to help people and try to inspire my audience to do the same.” The post got more than 345,000 likes and over 14,000 replies, much of which expressed support for Donaldson and his endeavors (albeit in a meme-inspired manner.) 

Donaldson’s popularity revolves around his authenticity and demeanor, Axios’s Sara Fischer told CNN. He is a regular guy wearing regular clothes while making videos with his friends. That type of content resonates with people disillusioned by corporate charity misgivings.

There is certainly a line between being charitable for the sake of being a good person and attracting online engagement for money. For many, Donaldson has found a happy medium. In an era where YouTubers are doing unhinged things for content, some see it as a good thing to see someone use their platform for a better purpose. Donaldson will likely continue to divide the internet with his grandiose charity, but he is helping people, which is hard to ignore.  


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