Ukraine’s crowdfunding aims to keep donors’ interest in war

May 16, 2022, 6:55 PM | Updated: May 17, 2022, 12:47 pm

This photo provided by Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, shows Mykhailo Fedorov, vice ...

This photo provided by Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, shows Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine and minister of digital transformation. The Ukrainian government is marrying some digital marketing tools with crowdfunding and other incentives for giving to keep global attention trained on its war efforts against the Russian invasion. “There is a wave and there is this kind of euphoria, but then it abates," Fedorov, told The Associated Press, Wednesday, May 11, 2022 during an interview. (Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine via AP)

(Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine via AP)

The Ukrainian government is marrying some digital marketing tools with crowdfunding and other incentives for giving to keep global attention trained on its war efforts against the Russian invasion.

“There is a wave and there is this kind of euphoria, but then it abates,” Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine and minister of digital transformation, told The Associated Press. “We want to keep up this positive energy, the positive vibes.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tasked Fedorov, 31, the youngest member of the nation’s cabinet, with setting up a new fundraising campaign and website to encourage donations for the country’s defense, humanitarian aid and reconstruction.

That resulted in the United24 website and campaign that lets donors send funds via PayPal, cryptocurrency, credit card or direct bank transfer to the state’s accounts.

“It’s very important that people helping Ukraine are not paying money directly all the time, but that they have some fun,” said Yaroslava Gres, who runs a public relations company and is one of the coordinators of the project.

In the future, people looking to help Ukraine might buy a T-shirt with an image of Zelenskyy printed on it or attend a soccer match played by the national team with ticket or merch sales benefiting the country, Gres suggested.

“I cross my fingers,” she said of the Zelenskyy T-shirt.

Gres has asked international companies and banks to invest in repairing Ukraine’s damaged infrastructure. She envisions a menu of projects that a donor can choose to support.

They want, “to see these two pictures: as it was, as it is,” she said of the before and after comparison that shows precisely where funds were spent.

Donations from individuals over a recent seven day period totaled around $27 million, a drop in the ocean compared to the support other governments have sent to Ukraine. The U.S. alone will send over $50 billion if the U.S. Senate approves a new aid package, which it is expected to do.

On May 10, a single entity donated almost $22 million directly to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense through the United24 site, representing the bulk of the donations that came in between May 5-11. The National Bank of Ukraine does not share the name of donors, a spokesperson said.

Ukraine pledges to release weekly reports detailing funds raised and dispersed. The project will be reviewed by the international accounting firm Deloitte pro bono, Sergey Kulyk, managing partner of Deloitte Ukraine, said. The company is still finalizing the scope of work with United24, he said.

Most individual donations come from Ukraine’s political allies: the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada and Germany, though Ukrainians have also been giving, Gres said. She considers their donations a mark of trust.

In late February, Ukraine started soliciting donations in cryptocurrencies that raised some $67 million in about a month.

Ukrainians have crowdsourced funds for national defense since at least 2014, when private campaigns raised money online for volunteers fighting Russian-allied forces in the country’s eastern region. The government also set up a way to collect donations through text messages to support the army, though that was less popular.

Garrett Wood, an economics professor at Virginia Wesleyan University, studied what motivated Ukrainians to donate to their defense at that time and found donors could chose at a very granular level to fund things like winter clothing, body armor or drones.

One group, the People’s Project, had the accounting firm Ernst & Young audit their finances, which further bolstered its credibility. In comparison at the time, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and its largest contractor were seen as corrupt and ineffective.

“You were dealing with an army that’s poorly equipped,” Wood said. “Rotted out from the inside from corruption, and it’s got low morale.”

In the years since, reforms have improved government accountability. Andrii Borovyk, who directs Transparency International Ukraine, pointed to online court records and procurement systems as examples of greater transparency.

“I would say that Ukraine is moving really in the right direction if you’re talking about fighting corruption. But is it fast enough? No,” he said speaking from Kyiv.

This current crowdfunding also differs from previous examples, because civilians from other countries are now donating to Ukraine’s defense rather than Ukrainians donating to volunteer fighters. Does giving to a conflict produce desirable outcomes, Wood asked?

“One obvious answer is that anything that allows for more funding of conflict is going to produce more conflict,” he said.

It is, of course, entirely up to donors large or small to decide where to give. Derek Ray-Hill, director of international strategy at Charities Aid Foundation, said for those interested in supporting charitable causes, experienced humanitarian organizations are still working even through the apparent chaos of the current fighting.

“I would always advise to look either at international NGOs that are delivering work locally and are very experienced at dealing with this kind of situation, or finding local organizations that are genuinely charitable in purpose,” he said.

Donating without the help of expert advice also raises the risk of breaking laws or regulations.

“To get a charitable donation from here, from anywhere, to people affected by the war in Ukraine is a phenomenally complex task,” he said, acknowledging that for many people following the war online it may feel less dynamic to give through traditional channels.

U.S. residents can donate through a nonprofit set up by the Ukrainian embassy, which allows for a tax deduction. Those gifts are also counted as donations to United24.

Fedorov said the project aims to reduce friction for donors and sets a high bar for transparency while also offering Ukraine maximum flexibility.

“We’ve all seen that in order to win in this very unequal fight with us, Ukraine being smaller than our adversary … we have to be nimble and agile and United24 offers that because it actually cuts out all bureaucracy,” Fedorov said. “That is why maybe in the current circumstances, this channel of donation is the preferred one.”


Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Candles are lit on a memorial wall during an anniversary memorial service at the Holy Trinit...

Associated Press

Pain and terror felt by passengers before Boeing Max crashed can be considered, judge rules

Families of passengers who died in the crash of a Boeing 737 Max in Ethiopia can seek damages for the pain and terror suffered by victims in the minutes before the plane flew nose-down into the ground, a federal judge has ruled.

19 hours ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI speaks at University College ...

Associated Press

Artificial intelligence threatens extinction, experts say in new warning

Scientists and tech industry leaders issued a new warning Tuesday about the perils that artificial intelligence poses to humankind.

19 hours ago

FILE - Employees walk through a lobby at Amazon's headquarters on Nov. 13, 2018, in Seattle. A grou...

Associated Press

Hundreds of Amazon workers protest company’s climate impact, return-to-office mandate

SEATTLE (AP) — Telling executives to “strive harder,” hundreds of corporate Amazon workers protested what they decried as the company’s lack of progress on climate goals and an inequitable return-to-office mandate during a lunchtime demonstration at its Seattle headquarters Wednesday. The protest came a week after Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting and a month after a […]

2 days ago


Associated Press

Body of avalanche victim in Washington state recovered after being spotted by volunteer

Search crews have recovered the body of a climber who was one of three killed in an avalanche on Washington's Colchuck Peak in February.

2 days ago

Eugene and Linda Lamie, of Homerville, Ga., sit by the grave of their son U.S. Army Sgt. Gene Lamie...

Associated Press

Biden on Memorial Day lauds generations of fallen US troops who ‘dared all and gave all’

President Joe Biden lauded the sacrifice of generations of U.S. troops who died fighting for their country as he marked Memorial Day with the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

3 days ago

OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman, the founder of ChatGPT and creator of OpenAI gestures while speaking at Un...

Associated Press

ChatGPT maker downplays fears they could leave Europe over AI rules

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on Friday downplayed worries that the ChatGPT maker could exit the European Union

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Ukraine’s crowdfunding aims to keep donors’ interest in war