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‘Twitter philanthropy’ reveals chasms in social safety net – Star Tribune


Single father Billy Price was already struggling to make ends meet before someone broke into his Michigan storage unit, stole his identity and ruined his credit.

Price filed a police report, and then tweeted about it to Bill Pulte, a multimillionaire who he’d heard uses Twitter to give money to those in need.

“They took nearly everything, including everything that my grandpa gave me before he passed,” Price tweeted last month, only to be met with silence. “On top of that we’re about to be homeless, it’s like the weight of the world. Please help us.”

Price, 35, recently moved from Illinois to Michigan to maintain joint custody of his 5-year-old son Maddox. Price is living at an extended stay Kalamazoo hotel while he searches for a place to live, but he’s worried that between his bad credit, his dwindling savings and his lack of employment he won’t qualify for anywhere that isn’t a “slum.”

“I really don’t want that for my son,” said Price, who lost his landscaping job during the pandemic and has relied on odd construction jobs and day-trading cryptocurrency to make money over the past year.

Practically every minute of every hour, someone sends a tweet to Pulte, a 33-year-old private-equity investor and heir to the mammoth PulteGroup homebuilding company.

A grieving mother needs $800 to retrieve her young daughter’s ashes. A Texas man needs help paying off more than $60,000 in credit card debt. A family of four is about to lose its house.

People send photos of their eviction notices, tearful videos of their empty refrigerators, screenshots of the paltry sums they have in their bank accounts.

And, nearly every day, Pulte responds. He gave $500 to a man who sent a video of his missing teeth. He gave $125 for a woman to pay for gas so she could make the long drive to her brother’s funeral.

It’s all part of what Pulte calls “Twitter philanthropy” – a concept of direct giving in which Pulte and others offer immediate financial support to a tiny percentage of the thousands who reach out every day over social media.

“I call them hand-ups, not handouts,” said Pulte, who has grand visions of disrupting the traditional philanthropy model by using social media to help form an online army of donors to help people in crisis.

For Timi Gerson, vice president and chief content officer at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Pulte’s generosity is laudable, but she said it’s turned into a “grotesque Hunger Games” in which …….


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