music news

BTS Stans Are the New Crowdfunding Giants

They raised $1 million for Black Lives Matter in one day, but K-pop fans have been mobilizing the BTS Army for a variety of other causes, too.
10 June 2020, 4:39am
bts kpop boy band
Photo by Getty Images via Wireimage

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

On Thursday, K-pop group BTS ended five days of Twitter silence by signing into their account to issue a rare political statement. "We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together," they wrote, punctuating those four sentences with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.

The group and its record label, Big Hit Entertainment, followed up by making a $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter. "Black people all over the world are in pain at this moment from the trauma of centuries of oppression," Kailee Scales, a managing director for Black Lives Matter told Variety. "We are moved by the generosity of BTS and allies all over the world who stand in solidarity in the fight for Black lives."

Even before news of BTS' seven-figure contribution was made public, its stans who call themselves the ARMY—an acronym for Adorable Representative MC for Youth—had already started coordinating online under the #MatchAMillion hashtag in an attempt to raise another million for the Black Lives Matter movement. Within four hours, the fandom had already collected $130,000, and they met their one million goal in just over 24 hours, after receiving contributions from more than 34,400 individual donors. (Some quick iPhone math says that's a generous average of about $29 per person.)

"We’ve run big projects before, but the amount of support for this project is overwhelming,” One in an ARMY (OIAA) the collective that coordinates and tracks ARMY-driven charity support, said in a statement. "We truly didn’t know whether the goal would be reached. We’re so proud that ARMY have once again channeled their power for good and are making a real impact in the fight against anti-Black racism.” The donations will be distributed among more than a dozen different organizations, including the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Black Visions Collective, Color of Change, NAACP, the National Police Accountability Project, and National Bail Out.

"Do you realize how insane it is, at this time yesterday we hadn’t planned this at all and here we are less than 24 hours later with a million dollars," one enthusiastic Jungkook stan tweeted.

Even "impressive" sounds like an understatement for crowdfunding a million-dollar donation that quickly. But it also isn't surprising, at least not to members of the ARMY. Over the past five years, various ARMYs have come together to support more than 630 charity projects worldwide. And because their skills are truly all over the place, there's even a @ResearchBTS account that has compiled those contributions into an interactive map. (The dots in the oceans represent the beluga, humpback, and false killer whales—and one sea turtle—that have been adopted in honor of BTS.)

Two years ago, a group of BTS stans came together on Twitter to discuss their shared interest in supporting charitable causes and they created what became One In An ARMY. The organization is made of volunteers from 10 different countries who select, vet, and connect with a different nonprofit every month to "make micro-donations in the name of BTS ARMY."

Those small contributions add up: according to the OIAA website, in its first 14 months, the group raised more than $46,000, which was used to purchase medication and supplies for health clinics in Syria, to buy BioSand water filters for Thirst Relief, and to provide resettlement assistance to LGBT refugees in Turkey, among other causes.

With more than 120,000 Twitter followers, OIAA might be the fandom's largest charity-focused collective, but smaller ARMYs identify and support their own causes too. (As of this writing, and counting this week's $1 million, OIAA has tracked just over $2 million in charitable contributions from the wider BTS fanbase since 2016.)

In the month of May alone, an allegiance of Jungkook fan accounts donated $1,000 to the pandemic relief efforts of Medical Teams International; BTS's Singapore fanbase contributed to Project Love, which gives financial assistance to vulnerable Singaporean families; "a global coalition of fanbases" for BTS singer V donated to a choir for hearing-impared children; the Texas BTS Army raised $315 for the North Texas Food Bank; and the Indian fangroup Bangtan India made its fourth monthly contribution to the Sahodari Foundation, which supports the country's transgender, intersex and gender nonbinary community.

Perhaps seeing the group itself and the worldwide ARMY support for Black Lives Matter will continue to make Black ARMYs feel more welcome within the fandom. In 2018, more than a dozen Black BTS fans told Buzzfeed that they had received racist messages through the Curious Cat social network. That prompted two teenage fans to start the #BlackARMYBeauty and #BlackARMYSequalty hashtags in order to support and empower the Black members of the community.

OIAA says that it does not plan to end its contributions to the Black Lives Matter movement, and it will continue to track ARMY donations through its website. “Black Lives Matter' isn’t something that has a time limit. It’s a belief everyone needs to carry in their everyday lives,” an OIAA spokesperson said. "We stand in solidarity with Black ARMY. They’re an important part of our family. And we stand with Black people everywhere. Your voices deserve to be heard."