By Shannon Wayte, Chief Advancement Officer
I had just ascended from a beautiful Saturday morning wreck dive. I grabbed my phone from the dry box on the boat and noticed a missed text message from my colleague.
“Good morning. Sorry to bother you on a Saturday, but are we expecting a bunch of online donations this weekend? Like, more than 50 donations?”
“No? I don’t think so. Who are they from?” I replied. I quickly took a mental inventory of our recent fundraising appeals, but couldn’t immediately think of an obvious connection.
The response: none of the names were familiar. Most were from out of state and contributed $100, though some gave $500 or $1,000. My growing excitement immediately dissipated, and I became wary about this sudden flood of identical transactions. It must be a system glitch.
We monitored the donations all weekend and realized they were clearing the bank. By Monday morning, HomeSafe had received nearly $12,500 in unrestricted donations from over 100 individuals. I emailed a few donors to express our gratitude and subtly inquire about how they became aware of us.
A man named Luke immediately responded and explained that they were members of #FinTwit, or Finance Twitter, a global community of finance enthusiasts who share information and discuss markets and economics on Twitter. “Let me put you in touch with the ‘ring leader,’ Andy. He’ll give you the backstory.”
This is how I came to (virtually) meet Andy Knorr, better known as @fed_speak on Twitter. Andy explained that Russell Bissett had directed the donations to HomeSafe. Russell was an active #FinTwit participant and the husband of Kristen Bissett, a member of our Classic Rock & Roll Party Event Committee. Over the next few days, the full story emerged.
When the quarantine began, as a way to de-stress and remain connected, a few #FinTwit members began convening for evening online play money poker tournaments with Zoom video calls on the side for socializing. #FinTwitPokerNight soon grew in popularity, and Andy floated the idea of hosting a charity poker tournament – #FinTwitPokerCares – and opening up participation to the larger #FinTwit community. To ensure legality, members agreed not to exchange money. Rather, participants agreed to contribute at least $100 (on the honor system) to the tournament winner’s “charity of choice.”
More than 100 #FinTwit members participated, including several well-known Wall Street investors, economists, and Bloomberg journalists. In the end, Russell Bissett emerged as the tournament champion! As promised, participants made individual donations to HomeSafe. Many chose to give more than $100. In total, the Inaugural #FinTwitPokerCares charity tournament yielded more than $14,000 in unrestricted (unexpected!) contributions to HomeSafe with more donations still coming in.
We reached out to Russell and Kristen to offer our sincere appreciation. This gesture was particularly meaningful now, during such a difficult time. The finance industry has been meaningfully impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and, yet, this group of thoughtful individuals came together to give back to the community.
“I chose HomeSafe because I have seen all the great work they do in South Florida,” Russell said. “I couldn’t be happier to know the money will be put to use helping victims of child abuse and domestic violence. I’d like to thank Andy (@fed_speak) for organizing [this effort] and all of the #FinTwitPokerNight participants for making this possible.”