From selling nudes and customized Lego figures to making patriotic NFTs in exchange for crypto donations, Ukraine’s fundraising techniques to fight against Russian aggression are getting more creative as war fatigue sets in and donations dwindle.
Organizations are also raising money for Ukraine's military by selling messages on artillery shells that get launched at Russian troops. Three different Ukrainian organizations have already raised over $113,000 for the country's armed forces.
Some messages are simple: “Fuck Russians! Burn in hell.” Others are more personal: “For my furry friend Mr. Kotowski”; or creative: “Hey Ruskie! I hope you like Ukrainian heavy metal.”
The price for "branded" artillery shells ranges from $10 to $500, depending on the design. Some volunteers take orders right on the front line, writing messages on shells with a permanent marker. Others take a more professional approach, painting the shells in advance and delivering the already branded ammunition to soldiers.
These organizations don’t just do it for the money, but to bring people the “emotional satisfaction” that comes with sending a message directly to Russia’s army, they told the Kyiv Independent.
“With messages on missiles, people can express their pain, anger, or confidence in Ukraine’s victory,” according to Lyubov Galan, co-founder of the BoomBoard project. Galan said that her project helps to turn hatred of Russians into action with attacks that could potentially destroy Russian warehouses or equipment.
Galan and her friends from the Frontline Care non-profit – founded during the war to source and purchase military equipment – launched BoomBoard in late July and have since raised about $50,000 in donations.
Their goal is to collect around $200,000 for the purchase of four combat drones developed by the Ukrainian company UA Dynamics. Dubbed Punisher, these drones are a cross between the fully militarized Turkish Bayraktar and the consumer UAVs Ukraine has been using in large numbers to monitor the front line and attack Russian troops.
Frontline Care and UA Dynamics collect donations in exchange for personal "greetings" for Russian soldiers. A painted message on a shell costs about $25, a sticker – $100, a meme – $160. For nearly $19,000, BoomBoard will turn a Punisher drone into a fully branded billboard.
People are leaving all kinds of messages for the Russians, according to Galan. Some wish them dead, others take revenge for occupied cities or killed relatives.
The idea of putting text on shells is not new, said one of BoomBoard’s co-founders Hlib Rodchenkov. What Frontline Care and its partners have managed to do is turn it into a service: people donate money and select a message, while designers create a sketch for UA Dynamics engineers who put it on the shell.
As soon as BoomBoard collects enough funds for its first drone, all the shells will go to the Ukrainian army on the front line. Each donor will receive a picture of the branded shell before it is fired.
The team of 15 people has already accepted about 3,000 orders. The initiative has also been recognized by Ukrainian celebrities, including musician and former politician Svyatoslav Vakarchuk and lead singer from the Ukrainian band Boombox Andriy Khlyvnyuk.
BoomBoard is not the only project that raises donations by painting messages onto shells. Another project – RevengeFor – is aimed at foreigners who want to support Ukraine.
Its founder, Nazar Gulyk, is CEO at the Ukrainian startup studio Empat. As most of its clients were in Ukraine, the business has suffered a lot as a result of the war, prompting the team to switch gears and help Ukraine with what it's best at — launching digital projects.
Gulyk’s fundraising campaign RevengeFor offers to paint messages on munitions that will be fired at Russians for a minimum donation of $500. To date, he has collected about $35,500, including from the U.S., Canada, Germany, the U.K., Norway, and Poland.
The biggest donation – $1,500 – came from Norway with a message: “Revenge for Masya and all animals’ sleepless night in Ukraine,” Gulyk told The Kyiv Independent.
His team passes these messages to Ukraine’s Armed Forces and they write them on shells with a permanent marker. All raised funds are transferred to ComeBackAlive, the biggest charity foundation in Ukraine. It uses the money to purchase drones, helmets, laptops and cars.
Ukrainians need to show some creativity to collect donations for the army, according to Gulyk. “People have already donated their spare cash, so we have to give them something in return to keep raising funds,” he said.
And the Ukrainian military doesn’t mind leaving messages on shells in exchange for donations. “Technically it is not difficult. If you have shells all you need to do is grab a marker and write,” said Ukrainian volunteer Yevheniia Sobolieva, who helped launch a donation campaign for her friend in the military.
She collected almost $700 in a week. Most donors find the project through Instagram, but Sobolieva wants to use a more reliable platform as the social network blocks her posts due to violations of content moderation rules.
Many activists who write about the war in Ukraine face this problem. Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation said that it is constantly communicating with Meta, Facebook's parent company and owner of Instagram, to unblock dozens of accounts and posts.
So far, Sobolieva collected enough donations to buy diesel fuel, ammunition, and clothes, but says she will continue to raise further. Many of her male friends have joined the military since the start of the war. “We know what we are fighting for, so we are ready to work for as long as it takes,” she told the Kyiv Independent.