• The Jacob Wolf Report
  • Posts
  • Softgiving Collected $1.65 Million in Charity Donations in 2022, New Tax Records Show

Softgiving Collected $1.65 Million in Charity Donations in 2022, New Tax Records Show

Newly released tax records from the IRS indicate the for-profit company took roughly 46 percent of charitable donations raised by major Twitch stars and YouTubers like Hasan Piker, Asmongold and CallMeCarson.

Background via Freepik / Logo via Softgiving

Welcome to The Jacob Wolf Report! I'm Jacob Wolf, an award-winning independent investigative journalist with a background at ESPN, The Daily Dot, and Dot Esports. Throughout my career, I've delved into stories such as the multi-million dollar fraud led by teenager Joshua Mullins, the Madden shooting at Jacksonville Landing, and most recently, the for-profit company Softgiving, which is the focus of this follow-up story.

If you'd like to support my work, you can subscribe on Patreon!

Softgiving, the intermediary for-profit organization reported to have collected a substantial portion of charity donations raised by influential Twitch and YouTube creators in 2020 and 2021, has once again recorded a significant amount in 2022, according to newly released IRS tax documents.

During 2022, Softgiving raised more than $3.56 million in donations, according to tax records filed by the Givinga Foundation, the passthrough non-profit that Softgiving partners with. Around $1.92 million of that ultimately went to the intended charities. Nearly $1.65 million—roughly 46 percent—of that money went to Softgiving in fundraising expenses, the tax records show.

The recently filed tax records by Givinga highlight another year of what experts describe as an unconventional business model between Givinga and Softgiving. “An undisclosed kickback model could be problematic for charities,” Zach Wigal, the CEO of charity Gamers Outreach, told The Jacob Wolf Report in December.

Our earlier reporting found that Softgiving had not been consistently forthcoming about its expenses and how it compensated itself.

Softgiving, which renamed itself Brandfluence last year, declined to provide executives for interviews before our investigation was published in December. Instead, it filed a lawsuit prior to the publication of our reporting, alleging that we engaged in a conspiracy to defame the company.

We deny these allegations. We believe in investigative journalism and our First Amendment right to freedom of the press.

Thanks for reading The Jacob Wolf Report! If you want to support the work we do, you can subscribe to us on Patreon for more bonus content from both myself and my partner, former Washington Post games journalist Mikhail Klimentov.

Now back to the article…

Givinga’s latest tax records cover 2022, a year in which Softgiving created campaigns spearheaded by some of the most-watched influencers on Twitch and YouTube, including Hasan Piker, Asmongold and Carson “CallMeCarson” King.

That year, Softgiving and partnering influencers raised money for the likes of Games for Love, a Washington state-based charity focused on video game distraction therapy for terminally ill children, in addition to CARE, the American Cancer Society, Children of War, Healthy Gamer Foundation, Save the Chimps, Habitat for Humanity, Indigenous Women Rising, National Abortion Federation and the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project.

It is not clear how much Softgiving and the influencers raised for these charities, nor whether the influencers were aware of how Softgiving compensated them or itself. But, according to video-on-demand recordings on Twitch and YouTube, tweets from influencers and archived donation pages, public donations to those campaigns topped $3 million before expenses.

In a statement to The Jacob Wolf Report on Friday, Jan. 12, Softgiving CEO Matt Pfaltzgraf said that Givinga’s records are not demonstrative of his organization's efforts in 2022—nor 2020 or 2021, as previously reported by The Jacob Wolf Report.

“You have shown a lack of understanding of how fundraising for charities works,” Pfaltzgraf said. “In 2020 and 2021, we raised over $11.2 million for charities and in 2022 we raised almost $15 million. Givinga's numbers only show a part of the picture and representing it in isolation creates a false report.”

Pfaltzgraf did not respond to a follow-up request for documentation showing money raised and expenses for those other fundraising activities.

Piker’s manager, David Huntzinger of Night Media, previously told The Jacob Wolf Report he had confirmed that 100 percent of donations, minus industry-standard payment processing fees, was delivered to CARE following a fundraiser Piker ran in February 2023 with Softgiving.

Asmongold, for his part, has said publicly that he will not comment on his relationship with Softgiving prior to the end of a pending lawsuit.

Prior to the beginning of a previous investigation by The Jacob Wolf Report—which started in May 2021—Softgiving did not prominently disclose to donors that it collected any amount of funds during charitable fundraisers, according to web archives of its donation pages in 2020 and early-to-mid 2021.

Since The Jacob Wolf Report published that report on Dec. 21, multiple influencers, including Ludwig Ahgren and Félix “xQc” Lengyel, have publicly stated that they were unaware of how Softgiving compensated itself or them. “Any sponsored charity or anything charity wise, I stopped responding after [working with Softgiving],” Lengyel said on Dec. 21. “That literally scarred me.”

Beginning around July 2021, Softgiving added a disclosure to all of its donation pages that informed donors it may be compensated based on agreements between it and the charity. The statement also said Softgiving may compensate influencers, too.

The disclosure, however, did not specify how much. When asked by The Jacob Wolf Report, Softgiving has continually ignored questions about how donations are split.

Publicly, following controversy around the Piker campaign in February 2023, Softgiving tweeted a number of statements about its business practices between February 2022 and February 2023. It said that just two percent of charities worked with the company on commission-based fundraising activities.

Among those statements, the company illustrated two anonymized instances of working with charities—one on commission, the other on an upfront fee.

On the one commission example, Softgiving raised just shy of $150,000 in that one-year period, according to a graphic the company posted at the time: 14 percent towards costs of giveaways, 10 percent to Softgiving as gross profit and 58 percent sent to the charity. In the instance where the charity paid Softgiving an upfront fee, nine percent of donation costs went to giveaways, eight percent toward influencer compensation, six percent to Softgiving as gross profit and 77 percent to charities.

In a request for comment on Friday, The Jacob Wolf Report asked Pfaltzgraf which two charities that published graphic referred to. He did not respond to that question and instead, sent the statement quoted above.

The public’s demand for transparency in influencers’ charitable fundraising has intensified following our previous report and an exposé of Jirard “The Completionist” Khalil’s family foundation. Over the past four years, influencers have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for charities, yet questions linger about who gets compensated and the distribution of donations behind the scenes.

Thanks for reading The Jacob Wolf Report! If you want to support the work we do, you can subscribe to us on Patreon for more bonus content from both myself and my partner, former Washington Post games journalist Mikhail Klimentov.