More than 600 YouTubers are teaming up to take on one of the biggest fundraising challenges the platform has ever seen: raising $20 million by the end of the year to plant 20 million trees.
The fundraising effort is being organized by YouTube’s favorite stunt philanthropist, Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, who’s known for giving away huge sums of money. Major YouTubers — including Mark Rober (8.7M subscribers), Rhett & Link (4.5M), Marshmello (40.2M), iJustine (6.1M), Marques Brownlee (9.5M), The Slow Mo Guys (13M), Ninja (22.4M), Simone Giertz (1.9M), Jacksepticeye (22.9M), Smarter Every Day (7.3M), and more — are all lending their channels to the cause. Donaldson has invited any other YouTuber who’s interested to join in, too. He described the effort as the “largest youtube collaboration of all time.”
The plan is simple: YouTubers will begin posting videos this afternoon using the initiative’s hashtag — #TeamTrees — and asking viewers to donate to the cause. YouTube will cover all transaction fees for donations made on the platform, the company confirmed. The goal is to flood YouTube with fundraising videos, gaming the algorithm to try to place as many videos about the subject of climate change on the platform’s Trending page as possible and even dominate people’s homepages and recommendations.
The initiative started in May 2019 when Donaldson’s fans on YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter suggested he plant 20 million trees to celebrate reaching 20 million subscribers. It’s the type of challenge that Donaldson has built his YouTube career on, often partaking in grand-scale challenges and charitable acts that result in tens of millions of people watching his videos. Donaldson says he and some friends tried to see how many trees they could plant on their own, and they only managed to plant 300 in one day.
“We want to show that YouTube isn’t just a drama fest,” Donaldson said in a private video for YouTubers, seen by The Verge. “We actually have real influence and can make real change.”
Donaldson teamed up with the Arbor Day Foundation, one of the largest nonprofit conservation organizations dedicated to planting and nurturing trees, to launch the #TeamTrees challenge. The Arbor Day Foundation is already in the middle of its own tree-planting challenge, with the goal of planting 100 million trees by 2022.
“We know that 20 million trees isn’t going to cure climate change,” Mark Rober, a former NASA engineer and current YouTuber involved in the event, said in a private planning video. “But the point here is to end the decade on a super strong note. It’s a constructive way to send a message to the politicians that it’s freaking time to do something about climate change.”
Trees will start to be planted in January 2020, according to an FAQ for the project. The goal is to have all 20 million trees planted “no later than December 2022.” The FAQ also states that the Arbor Day Foundation “always emphasizes planting native species where local conditions and forest plans allow.” This means many of the trees will be planted in National Parks around the United States, though the foundation also plants internationally.