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'Overly Attached Girlfriend' Uses Internet Fame to Crowdfund Charities

'Overly Attached Girlfriend' Uses Internet Fame to Crowdfund Charities

Laina Morris became an overnight celebrity after her covers of Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” went viral, forever casting her as the ‘Overly Attached Girlfriend.’

She amassed over 125,000 followers on Twitter and her YouTube channel picked up over a quarter million subscribers. Now, Morris is using her virtual gravitas to crowdfund for good.

Last week, Morris posted a video on her channel announcing an initiative called “Dare to Share.” Each month, she will be highlighting a small nonprofit and asking her followers to donate whatever sums they can afford, with $50,000 being the ultimate goal (the charities will keep whatever money they can raise).

In last week’s video, Morris also asked her followers to submit dares for her to attempt. They act as perks – as the campaign passes predetermined targets, Morris will act on the dares. As the money raised inches closer to the goal, the dares become more adventurous.

For the first campaign, Morris paired with the Texas-based Surf Camp, an organization that once a year takes children with Autism to spend time “surfing, learning, and networking with others.” The donations are being accepted through the cause-driven crowdfunding platform Rally, which lets users create and customize unique campaign pages.

“The internet is a unifying force that brings the whole world together,” Morris says in the inaugural Dare to Share video. “We are more connected now than we have ever been… Together, we can work to make [internet] the most powerful method for helping others.”

Morris has already raised nearly $12,000 over the first night of the Surf Camp campaign. As perks, she will be drinking a concoction of five mystery, blended foods (the $1000 dare), getting together with friends to flash mob an Apple store ($5000), and going on roller coasters after stuffing her stomach with copious amounts of food ($10,000). If the campaign reaches the $50,000 goal, Morris will be going skydiving – a supposed phobia of hers.

The YouTube video announcing the first campaign hit 100,000 views just hours after Morris posted it, and the donations began to flood in once the video reached the front page on social sharing site Reddit.

While Morris’ campaign is relatively novel, it’s not the first time we’ve seen a person with a dedicated internet following leverage their fame for good. Perhaps the most well-known practitioner of this has been Matthew Inman, creator of the popular ‘The Oatmeal’ digital comic, who crowdfunded money for animal- and cancer-related charities and recently helped raise money to build a museum for legendary inventor Nikola Tesla.

Back in 2003, New York University professor Clay Shirky wrote about online ‘fame vs. fortune’: in the digital age, mustering a big following became easier, but monetizing on that fame more difficult. Eschewing mandatory fees, Shirky wrote, the internet made collecting “voluntary subsidy” – donations – “much easier.”

Crowdfunding, it seems, is taking this one step further, making it possible for the internet-famous to quickly and efficiently raise a small fortune – with the caveat that the money raised goes to a selfless cause.

We’ll have to wait and see if Morris can keep the momentum gained over the first night on her campaign going – not just for this first Dare to Share, but for all subsequent ones. If she is successful, perhaps Morris will be known for more than just her rather unsettling (though positively hilarious) internet persona.

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