Meet the 31-year-old Twitter philanthropist giving away money to strangers online
People often use Twitter to share news and political opinions. Bill Pulte is using it to give away money.
The 31-year-old from Oakland County, Michigan, is no stranger to wealth: His family founded the PulteGroup in 1950, a home-building giant now worth just shy of $10 billion.
For the past several months, Pulte has been using his wealth for good — giving away thousands at a time to those in need, even catching the attention of President Donald Trump.
“THANK YOU BILL!” the president tweeted in July, responding to Pulte vowing to give away $30,000 to a U.S. Veteran if President Trump retweeted him.
But Pulte says his goodwill isn’t all for recognition. Instead, it’s about a deeper urge to connect.
“It's about time we use social media for good," he told FOX Business.
Vitriol seems to be much louder on the Internet than positivity, Pulte explained but said he desperately wanted to change that.
“I'm a wealthy individual who understands technology better than somebody in an older generation, and I thought, ‘Why aren't we bringing philanthropy online?’”
His original goal was to give away $100,000 by the end of the year. He later raised that bar to $1 million. “If we use Twitter, we can instantly take care of whoever is suffering the most anywhere in the United States,” Pulte said.
We're helping people in most immediate need.
And though he comes from a wealthy family, Pulte isn’t using his inheritance to give away. He’s using his own money, and he’s using the internet to crowdsource from others, too.
“Most people don’t know this, and it’s not necessarily worth me convincing them, but I actually became wealthy independent of my grandfather and independent of my family,” Pulte told The Detroit Free Press. He owns a private-equity firm that buys and runs building companies. “The great majority of my wealth is money that I earned on my own.”
Still, the philanthropist said it's going to take a lot of people to allow the movement to be sustainable.
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"Not just one, two or 10 people. One person, like me … can't make a big impact. But if I can inspire others to be giving, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of people, that's when we can really start to move the needle.”
To decide where to donate, Pulte said, he has “an army of volunteers” who help him do the vetting. They scour the web to find those in need, using popular funding websites like GoFundMe to discover and contribute to already-existing campaigns.
“We try to do as much homework as we can,” he said. “But you also try to rely on the good faith of people. And sometimes that means that we're going to be a victim [of scams].” But “even if 90 percent of [the people we help] are real, at least we're helping 90 percent.”
When the team finds a new recipient, the transfer of funds is almost instant. That’s because, much like their approach to using Twitter to scout recipients, their approach to actually giving away the money is digital, using mobile services like Cash App.
So far, Pulte and his team have raised money for the family of a young girl killed in a car accident, for a life-saving $2 million drug that helped save an infant’s life, to save a 106-year-old woman from eviction “and we've helped a number of veterans.”
The response, Pulte said, has been great.
“AND THIS RIGHT HERE FOLKS IS WHY I JOINED THIS AMAZING TEAM & MOVEMENT,” one Twitter user said. “I HAD NO IDEA WHERE MY LIFE WAS HEADED JUST A FEW SHORT MONTHS AGO!!! THANKS FOR ALL THE FAITH, HOPE & LOVE TO ME & MY 3 CHILDREN!”
“There is absolutely no doubt that @pulte's actions are the reality that will change our world," another user from East Africa said. “May God Bless him and his team. Much love and respect from Uganda, East Africa.”
And another user who received $500 said, “Oh my gosh!!!!!!! I'm literally shaking right now that I cant type this!!! This couldn't have came at a better time thank you so much @pulte and #twitterphilanthropy this group has done wonders for me, I have made new friends & restored my faith in humanity love you all.”
To date, Pulte has given away more than $100,000 of his own money — and he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.
“I think giving to other people is a lifelong mission,” he said. “I'm very excited to see how this whole thing is going to unfold over the coming years. We’ve got a lot of momentum.”
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