MN non-profit raises $30M in donations to bail out George Floyd protesters

The Minnesota Freedom Fund has seen its donations surge in the wake of the protests over George Floyd's death. Member of the Board of Directors on the Minnesota Freedom Fund Steve Boland joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to discuss.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: The markets might be ignoring all of the chaos in the streets, news about US and China, and essentially all of the protests, but everyone else hasn't been. So I want to turn to my next guest, Steve Boland. He's the member of the Board of the Directors on the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

Steve, thank you so much for joining us. The reason we want to have this conversation with you today is because I know that your organization has received a huge influx of cash as people around the country essentially send you donations to help those that might have been arrested over the last couple of days. So to start off here, how well have you guys been doing over the last couple of days? How well has the fund been doing?


STEVE BOLAND: Well, well enough in the first few days of the crisis that we have actually asked donors to maybe consider giving elsewhere-- in the last couple of days in the crisis, because people have been responding extremely generously, not only across the country, but across the world, seeing what happened with the murder of George Floyd, seeing the need to be part of a solution and wanting to be at least able to help bailout protesters that may be incarcerated without the ability to get out of jail.

So we're extremely pleased to say that, as of right now, we've been in receipt of over $30 million in contributions from at least 800,000 individuals, probably closer to 900,000, but we're trying to deduplicate that data now to really understand it. But it's been an amazing outpouring from people that really want to make a difference.

KRISTIN MYERS: Steve, I want to ask you really quickly on some news that's just coming across right now that the three other police officers that were at the scene are actually now being charged by AG Ellison with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. I just wanted some quick reactions from you there on that.

STEVE BOLAND: I had not heard that, so I'm extremely pleased that we continue to make progress on holding accountable the officers in question, in addition to the Minneapolis police force, and I think policing across the country, more broadly. As you may also be aware, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights has launched an investigation into the entire Minneapolis Police Department for systemic racism as a problem there, not just with these four officers. But clearly, some of the demands from the protesters in the streets have been to hold all four officers on the scene accountable, so very pleased to hear that there is some action in that now, and sure many other people will be pleased too.

KRISTIN MYERS: Right. And this is news, just for everyone at home watching, that's coming out from the "Star Tribune," so I want to make sure that we give them the proper attribution there. Now Steve, I know you were talking about the donations. I believe the number was something like $20 million. How does that compare to how well you guys were doing previously? How much of an uptick is this for you guys?

STEVE BOLAND: Well, it's a literally national and international groundswell of support that has-- we had not been part of before. The Freedom Fund was founded in 2016, so it's relatively recent, and had been working on a fairly small scale in just a few communities in Minnesota, trying to build more momentum, trying to build support. And unfortunately, this particular tragedy is what it took to get this issue in front of more people.

But last year, we did about $150,000 in donations, and as of now, over $30 million. We were at $20 million when some of this news broke, but absolutely dwarfing our resources and our capacity previous to what had happened here in Minneapolis last week.

KRISTIN MYERS: What is the ratio of small donors to big donors? Do you have a, you know, a sense of, like, the average donation size, even anecdotally?

STEVE BOLAND: We do, and we're getting better data about all that right now. But the average donor is about $30 because there are over 900,000 of them. So most of these folks are coming in with fairly small donations that is what means something to them to give to help free people who have been incarcerated.

So it's an amazing number of people to get us to that large number. There have been large donors in there as well, absolutely, and we're very grateful for their support. But more importantly to us, the number of people who have given to really signal that there's a lot of people around the world and across this country that don't want to stand for this kind of unfair incarceration.

KRISTIN MYERS: And you guys utilize ActBlue, correct, to receive some donations?

STEVE BOLAND: Well, others on behalf of the fund have used that tool. We actually have been receiving most of our donations through a PayPal link and a local combined giving source called GiveMN. So that's where most of our donations to date have come from. But there are other campaigns on our behalf that are using other tools to also act people-- ask people to contribute.

KRISTIN MYERS: Steve, I want to quickly ask you about some of the criticism, at least that I've seen floating around on not just your bail fund, but bail funds, in general, that people are donating to. So I kind of want some clarity here on exactly who you essentially bail out with the money that you are receiving. Some people have been fairly critical that you might be using some of these funds to bail out looters or people that destroyed property or businesses.

STEVE BOLAND: Right. It's a great question. We are excited to have a bigger conversation about-- because in the past, we have only been able to pay bail funds for fairly small offenses. We just didn't have the resources to consider anything larger. But many, many people had been unable to meet their pretrial bail and were being held pending their day of court, losing jobs, losing housing on over just a few hundred dollars.

So we were limited before. Our ability now is not the question of money, and that's a-- an amazing opportunity to start having that question of all right, who should be released on pretrial reconnaissance? And who's too dangerous to be released? And how do we decide that?

And it should not be a question of money. It should not be a question of, I have $20,000, so I get out. You don't have $20,000, so you don't get out. It should be a question of what's the public danger, what's the risk of something additional happening?

And if you are a danger to the public and others, then you shouldn't be released, regardless of your financial resources. And if you're not a danger, then you should be released, regardless of your financial ability to make some kind of artificial number happen. So we do think that there will be some people that are charged with offenses that others are like, boy, I'm concerned about that, that we may end up helping to release. But these folks have been charged with a crime. They haven't been convicted of it.

And if they've been offered bail, it means that the state believes that they're not an imminent risk and that they're people that will get their day in court. And until they're actually have their day in court, then it is a charge that in many cases in the past, especially with the Minneapolis Police Department, they have made excessive charges racially-based pumped up to try and force people to plead guilty to some minor offense because these charges weren't actually something that would stand up in court.

But those people didn't have a chance to get out to defend themselves. And now we can have that conversation about that. And you know, some of these people may be charged with a higher level of crime that they legitimately did not do, but that does not mean they should stay in incarceration just because they don't have the financial resources that other people do.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, so meaning that you'll be able to help people far beyond those that were arrested over the last couple of days. Steve Boland, Minnesota Freedom Fund. Thanks so much.

STEVE BOLAND: Thank you.