Kickstarter on Tuesday launched a week-long crowdfunding campaign for the donation of funds to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The benefit corporation based in the United States has already achieved its target of US$1,225,000 (AU$1,684,000) for 5,000 Syrian refugees, and it is now aiming to raise US$1,837,000 (AU$2,525,000) for 7,500 refugees.

As of Friday, their crowdfunding project had already crossed 20,000 backers and accumulated US$1,298,908 (AU$ 1,785,318). The campaign is raising funds to provide Syrian refugees with sleeping bags, fresh water, food, clothes and education.

The idea of crowdfunding for a social cause like the refugee crisis in Europe is quite different from the projects usually undertaken by the Kickstarter. Founded in 2009, the company has a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity like film, music, art, theater, games, comics, design and photography, but this is the first time that it has worked towards helping refugees.

Kickstarter said that contributors can donate as many times as they wish before the lapse of the funding period, which is on Oct. 13, Tuesday. “This campaign doesn’t have a funding goal. The funds contributed will go directly to USA for UNHCR (minus a small credit card processing fee),” the company announced on its official page. The company is also forgoing its usual fee of five percent to aid these efforts. Its payment partner, Stripe, is also not charging its usual fee.

Kickstarter started the campaign after receiving encouragement from the White House for its efforts. Joshua Miller, an official in the Obama administration’s Office of Digital Strategy, compared Kickstarter’s campaign to help UNHCR raise funds for the distressed Syrian refugees with the crowdfunding campaign that erected the Statue of Liberty in the 18th century.

"In the summer of 1885, hundreds of thousands of Americans — from street cleaners and politicians, to young children and businessmen — united to donate small sums of money to a common cause. Collectively, they raised US$2.5 million (in today's dollars) to build a base for the Statue of Liberty, which had arrived in New York in pieces," Miller wrote on his blog post on the White House website. "Just like we banded together in 1885, we can join together to provide shelter, food, and medical assistance to these people in need. It’s the American thing to do."

Miller also thanked a number of companies including Twitter, Instacart, Starbucks and Airbnb for responding to President Barack Obama’s call to raise funds to help refugees.

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