Last fall, a new face appeared on the Beast Philanthropy YouTube channel, which has 8.6 million subscribers and chronicles the charitable work of the world’s highest-earning YouTube star, MrBeast.
In the video, “Helping Hurricane Survivors,” a bearded 53-year-old named Darren Margolias flies to New Orleans to help residents whose homes were decimated by Hurricane Ida.
He is awkward in front of the camera, trying to scream like MrBeast through a South African accent, sometimes staring off-screen with a desperate expression. But there are also moments of quiet resonance. At one point in the video, Margolias offers a woman $5,000 to help rebuild her home, her voice cracking with tears.
“I’ve never been someone who looked for the limelight, and I don’t think I’m good on camera,” Margolias told Insider, describing her face on screen as “the sad face at rest “. (MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, once sold charity merchandise covered in that face for $27.)
Off-camera, Margolias has served as executive director of Beast Philanthropy, Donaldson’s nonprofit, since its launch in October 2020. He wears many hats: managing people and overseeing finances, finding and executing worthwhile projects, and negotiating. with charities and donor partners.
The organization primarily focuses on distributing food from food banks, retailers and donors to underserved areas around Donaldson’s hometown of Greenville, North Carolina. According to Beast Philanthropy, he has distributed $7 million worth of food to date.
But he has ambitions far beyond Greenville, and the man responsible for those is Margolias, a man who didn’t even know who Donaldson was two years ago.
‘Is it just a stunt?’: How Margolias met MrBeast
Margolias leads an ascetic life. He lives in a modest apartment in Greenville with three cats, works 100 hours a week and donates his entire salary to the organization after taxes, he said.
“I couldn’t do this if I had a family or a girlfriend,” he said. “But it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
His career wasn’t always about giving back. Margolias worked in real estate development with her father, who had immigrated from Johannesburg to Atlanta in the 1980s. They had sales of more than $450 million, according to her former website.
But it was stressful — an expensive building in Florida was hit by a hurricane in 2005 — and unsatisfying, he told Insider. When the economy collapsed in 2008, Margolias liquidated his stock portfolio.
“There was no amount of money I could ever have that would make me as happy as real estate made me miserable,” he said.
After amassing a nest egg of “a few million dollars,” he went into semi-retirement in 2012 to focus on an animal shelter he co-founded in Atlanta called Furkids. (He did not respond to a request for proof of his real estate income.)
Then, six years ago, Margolias, who had taken up skydiving, met someone from Team Beast on a skydiving trip to Raleigh, a stone’s throw from MrBeast’s base.
Years later, the executive, whom Margolias declined to name, contacted him for a video titled “I adopted every dog from a dog shelter.” (Margolias said Donaldson prefers not to release employee names for fear of poaching by competitors.)
In July 2020, Margolias flew to Greenville to discuss filming. He was caught off guard when the YouTuber asked him to run his then fledgling charity the very night they met.
Margolias was familiar with animal rescue, but had no experience running a food bank. Still, Donaldson liked his story. He had been trying for years to find the right partner to launch his charity, Margolias said, and was looking for someone who could think outside the box.
“Like anyone, I was skeptical,” he said. “Is this just a stunt? Is he doing this for the wrong reasons? But through our conversations and the way he answered my questions, I realized that Jimmy was real.”
From Greenville to the world, Beast Philanthropy has big ambitions
In addition to supporting food insecurity in the Greenville area, Beast Philanthropy focuses on supporting other nonprofit organizations.
This month, for example, it awarded a $250,000 grant to Evan Ehlers, the founder of the Philadelphia organization Sharing Excess, which creates an app to “save” allegedly wasted food and distributes it to those who need it.
And there are also global ambitions. Recent videos on the Beast Philanthropy channel – which funnels all ad revenue to the nonprofit – chronicled the construction of wells in Cameroon and $3 million in aid given to Ukrainian refugees. For these projects, Beast Philanthropy partners with local organizations on the ground, including the Cameroonian association CDTVA and refugee centers in Eastern Europe, respectively.
“We spend a lot of time checking out and talking to other organizations and finding people who have the right motivations,” Margolias said.
Next, the organization is finalizing plans to rebuild an orphanage in South Africa, where it recently hired an employee.
While not every project is featured on Beast Philanthropy’s YouTube channel, Margolias believes Donaldson’s ability to make the charity go viral for his hundreds of millions of young fans is more impactful than any individual project.
He said the organization regularly receives emails about children bringing food to homeless people on weekends or donating their birthday checks to Beast Philanthropy.
So as long as viewers and Donaldson have him, he will continue to appear on camera – albeit reluctantly – to serve the larger mission.
“None of this concerns me,” Margolias said. “Jimmy could do this without me. I could never do this without Jimmy.”