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MrBeast, YouTube’s viral philanthropist, explains where all that money comes from

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It’s a combination of brand deals and viral videos

Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson made a name for himself on YouTube by giving away more than a million dollars to strangers and friends in bouts of random donations. Now, a new video on his channel is answering the question he receives most often from fans: where does all the money come from?

The majority of Donaldson’s $1 million donations came from brand deals, which many fans may have guessed, but he also relies on going viral to boost his own personal revenue. The more viral he becomes, the more brands want to work with him, and the bigger his own AdSense earnings get. He can then entice viewers with even bigger giveaway videos. It’s a never ending cycle.

It started with incrementally sponsored deals from companies like Quid, working with Donaldson on $10,000 videos. Donaldson gave just about everything away: to homeless people, to attractive Twitch streamers, to his parents, his friends, and even his followers. He rolled up 30 million pennies, toyed with major Twitch streamers like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, and walked around his city donating $1,000 to as many homeless people he could find.

Donaldson explains in his video that after giving away $10,000 to a homeless man for his first major sponsored act of philanthropy, he realized he liked helping people, so he continued doing it. But Donaldson also realized something else: the bigger his giveaways became, and the more extravagant his method of delivering donations seemed, the faster his channel grew. Donaldson went from having a relatively small channel to amassing more than 5 million subscribers. His videos regularly boast more than 10 million views after just a few weeks. The result, as Donaldson says at the end of this video, is a sizable paycheck.

“If you want the special secret, if you want to know where it all came from — my parents aren’t that rich, I’m only 20 years old, every dollar I’ve ever made came from YouTube, and YouTube just pays better than you think,” Donaldson said.

Giving away money earned Donaldson the title as “YouTube’s biggest philanthropist,” but every giveaway video comes with an equally impressive return on investment. It’s something that Donaldson has acknowledged in previous videos. One video in particular, titled “Giving my mom $100,000,” includes a back-and-forth conversation with his mother about the donation. While she refuses the gift at first, he explains that he needs to give the money away — a combination of sponsorship cash and his own personal earnings — to keep his channel going.

“If I don’t give it to you, I don’t have a viral video,” Donaldson confesses.

“So, you’re using me for views?” his mother responds.

“Yes, but you get money too, so we’re both happy,” Donaldson says.

YouTube creators rely on brand deals — from companies like Quid and Honey — and AdSense for their revenue. Donaldson explains at length about his relationships with the aforementioned companies, but doesn’t really get into AdSense revenue. It’s difficult to estimate just how much Donaldson is making from AdSense because the average CPM (cost per mille) for YouTube creators, which refers to how much they make per 1,000 views on a video, differs.

However, considering Donaldson regularly amasses more than 10 million views on his videos, and doesn’t usually publish content that YouTube would have to demonetize to appease advertisers’ concerns, it’s safe to assume that Donaldson is making relatively good money from AdSense alone.

Everything comes full circle. Donaldson relies on viral giveaway campaigns to generate more interest from brands and create viral videos. His channel is consistently growing, and he’s considered one of the top creators working today. He’s given away more than $1 million in less than two years, and shows no signs of slowing down. His revenue model is unique — he’s the only “top philanthropist” on the platform — but his method of working with brands to boost his own AdSense revenue is something that others have attempted to copy as demonetization woes continue.

It’s unclear what’s next for Donaldson, but he does hint in the video that he’s working with brands on even bigger concepts for giveaway videos for early 2019.