Lifestyle The Word 6 minute read

CROWDFUNDING: FUCKERY, CHARITY, OR A LITTLE OF BOTH

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If you get a call from me asking for money, you should give it to me because it means that I hit the proverbial rock bottom months ago. My ass is on the Plymouth Rock of bad times.

 

Call it pride. Call it stubbornness. Call it being raised by a strict Southern, Black woman, but I’ll walk 20 miles before I ask for a ride or hitchhike.

 

Crowdfunding, when someone or a group of people can ask the public for money, is the latest hot thing. Primarily via FaceBook, I receive approximately two GoFundMe requests per week.

 

They cause me stress.

AH12GY A woman with a headache. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.

I realize the beauty in crowdfunding when done for the right reasons, by the right people. and the right way. I have given repeatedly to friends and to strangers who have battled diseases and been faced with other unexpected life tragedies (house fires, tragic accidents, etc). They could not have survived without the help of monies raised by crowdfunding.

 

I have, of course been moved by the stories like that of Paul Peterson, who with the help of hundreds of people raised enough money to replace his prosthetic legs after they were stolen days before he was scheduled to race at the National Paralympic Championships. And the children who have raised money to help abused dogs and chimpanzees; the rock climber form whom people bought a new foot; the millions in earthquake relief that was sent to Haiti.

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I also recognize that many business and artistic ventures would have never seen the light of day without crowdfunding. For instance, the series Veronica Mars is now being made into a movie thanks to crowdfunding. Products such as the Pebble (a smart watch) were made possible because of crowdfunding.

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I get it, and in many instances I am touched by it.

 

But for every positive story, I believe that there are at least three negative ones. Do your research: the number of scams are countless. For every selfless cause; there are 100 selfish ones. I believe that there is a huge difference between requesting help when you are in need and asking for someone to fund a mere want.

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The Fundme.com site started with a selfish premise, in my opinion. In 2008, Brad Damphousse started it so people could help him raise money for a vacation he wanted to take. Travel is my passion and there is a long list of places that I would love to visit. I wouldn’t consider asking any of you to fund it, however.

 

In turn, I don’t want you asking me to fund your desires. And while I hate to sound cold, I also don’t want to fund your childrens’ desires. I have two kids; and I am unable to fund all of their dreams. I must say “no” sometimes. I believe that ultimately they will learn the power of hard work, patience and simply that you do not get everything that you want.

 

Recently, people became outraged that Amber Roof, the sister of Charleston murderer, Dylan Roof, started a GoFundMe campaign to pay off her wedding bills and to fund a dream honeymoon. One reader wrote, “I don’t feel one bit sorry for her. She’s trying to make money off of a murder. Although the timing was bad due to his actions, a person with any class would just deal with it. The victims and families lost a lot more than what she’s trying to gain by having a dream wedding/honeymoon.   Her actions are very self centered and selfish.”

 

I certainly felt that her request was made all the more gross in light of her brother’s terrorist activities, but I think that asking others to fund your dream honeymoon and to pay your wedding bills in downright tacky to start. What about having the wedding and honeymoon that you can actually afford? That’s what I did.

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Has the concept been lost that if you can’t afford it; you simply don’t get it or do it? Is this new model really what we should be teaching our children? It doesn’t matter that we can’t afford it; you deserve it and we are going to get it for you one way or another.

 

In addition to the reasons underlying these funding requests, I am also made uncomfortable by the people making the requests. The anonymity of the Internet emboldens people. People who wouldn’t feel comfortable asking me to borrow a cup of sugar, can now—with a simple click—ask me for money to help pay for a kid’s trip to Boy Scout Camp.

 

People who haven’t so much as “liked” one of my pictures on FaceBook want me to donate to restore their church or send the senior choir group to Kenya. Not only do they want me to give, they want me to share the cause on my page and ask my friends to give. I don’t know you. I worked with you 15 years ago. STOP!

 

Americans have a way of monitoring each other’s bank accounts. We think that we know how financially sound people are. Social media doesn’t help this phenomena: if people see that you just took a fabulous trip with your family, of course you can afford to donate $50 so I can take a similarly fabulous trip with mine. Right? But this is the real deal: most of us live to our means. Once we have taken our fabulous trip (that we worked our asses off to get the money to take) we have budgeted just enough money to live for the rest of the month. Your request is an unexpected expense. Most people’s budgets can go haywire from unexpected car trouble, a house repair, or an illness. And now —-you?

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And I always think about you—the requester. I ALWAYS feel guilty. No matter the relationship that I have with the person or the frivolousness of the cause, my first reaction is to give. Frankly, if I were independently wealthy—I probably would give something to everybody—–foolishly. I am a sucker, which is why I believe this crowdfunding phenomena troubles me so.

 

Lately, however, I’m wondering if the requester was as thoughtful in posting their campaign. Did they consider the stress—both financial and emotional-that they might be placing on some recipients? Do they care? Are they simply that selfish or that entitled?

 

Accordingly, I had to create my own personal policy in dealing with these requests.

  1. Generally, it must be a “need” (illness, life tragedy etc.) and not a “want.”
  2. And if it is indeed a “want,” I must be close enough to this person that they would also feel comfortably calling me to ask for the money.

 

Maybe this makes me unpopular, but then I’ve never liked crowds anyway.

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