About Crowdfunding, How It’s Jumped the Shark and Why I Can’t Promote Your Campaign

Six years ago, after I got laid off my full time job, I was invited to speak at a conference that was respected in the nonprofit industry. I needed $700 to get there, and at the encouragement of a friend, I got a ChipIn (now defunct) page up at 10pm. When I woke up at 8am, there was $1,100 sitting there waiting for me. Shocked was an understatement. I was so thankful to my community for coming together and standing behind me in such a big way.

Right in the Feels gif

I felt the power of social media and of having a base of people who might be strangers, care so much about your success that they’d put up their money for it. I didn’t take it lightly. I also felt so strange doing that fundraiser because it wasn’t common at the time. I was not an organization, so it was an experiment that was successful. Times have certainly changed, though.

Crowdfunding has now jumped the shark. With anything, the more people use it, the more people abuse it. There was a time when raising money publicly for your personal affairs was not the normal. I long for that because now, people create KickStarter and GoFundMe and IndieGogo pages for everything.

It’s unfortunate too because there are some important things that people are doing that are worth giving to. Those are now getting lost in the sauce because too many people are crowdfunding for the most frivolous things. Folks are using crowdfunding in a way that assumes that their every basic need or mundane wants are the responsibilities of everybody else.

There’s the guy who created a (very successful) campaign to make potato salad. There’s the folks who have created campaigns for their weekend trip to Vegas. I just saw a GoFundMe for a woman who wants people to give her money so she can get her forehead tattoo removed.

Forehead Tattoo GoFundMe 2

I saw that and wanted to bop her in that forehead. Why do we have to help her fix the ultimate bad decision? Who in the hell left the janky gates open for people to think that we’re their keepers when they fail with such flying colors?

Last year, I had to unfriend someone I know in real life for creating a GoFundMe page to raise money for a car part she wanted. Ma’am, can you not? Do people no longer have family and friends they can text for a quick loan? I believe in collectivism but there’s also certain things you shouldn’t completely lean on The World Village to get you.

I will/have/do donate to many campaigns. There are so many people who need financial help that could potentially change their lives for the better. It might be medical expenses. It might be that trip with a focused purpose (like study abroad). It might be for that friend who needs to recover the possessions they lost in a fire. It is okay to need this help. If I have some extra money, I’m down to give something. I have donated to more Kickstarter/GoFundMe/IndieGogo campaigns than I can count, and I mostly do it quietly.

What drives me to donate?

sheneneh think about it gif

When TWO or more of these things are true:

* I know and love the beneficiary. You are my family member, friend, acquaintance, or just someone I love and respect. I don’t have to have met you in real life for this to qualify. We just gotta go together in some way.

* Someone I know and love and trust has sent me the campaign and put their personal ask on it. Because if I love and trust them, their judgment is also trusted. If they reach out to me and it pulls on my heart strings and they’ve verified that it isn’t for someone’s botox injection dreams, I’m more likely to donate.

* The campaign is to get someone closer to their dream (school tuition, training program). It is to get you to that summer program you need that will help propel you forward to make your dreams come true. Or you need school fees. Or money for that study abroad program. Or you want to get certified for something you hold near and dear.

* The campaign benefits children. After-school programs, Reading Rainbow, etc. I am sucka for kids, and I pay closer attention to these types of campaigns.

* The campaign covers life, medical or burial costs. Life happens, and unfortunately, it is without warning. People’s houses have burned down. Emergency surgery that insurance doesn’t cover. Funeral costs because the person didn’t have life insurance. GoFundMe is not a replacement for life insurance, doe.

Anywho, if I am not wading in the broke water and some of these conditions are met, I am more likely to donate. Out of all of these, the one that is most important is my connection to the person. If I know the person, or someone I hold in high regard does, then cool. I might could be able to give.

Now. With that being said, do not send me your GoFundMe link if we have never exchanged any other words in real life or online. If you are someone I would see on the street and have NO MEMORY OF, please don’t send me your link. To me, my lack of connection to you means I probably won’t give, and our first point of contact should not be you asking me to open my wallet to you.

money wallet grab gif

It is electronic panhandling. I get emails from complete strangers EVERY DAY asking me to donate to their cause. It is like walking up to someone in public and saying “Hey. Can you give me $50? I wanna go on this trip.” They will look at you like you’ve lost your ever loving mind. SAME THING HERE.

But the emails I get that wow me the most are the ones from people who aren’t even asking me to donate to their GoFundMe. They want me to SHARE it and promote it on my platforms. Complete strangers send me messages every single day asking me to tell my hundreds of thousands of fans to give them money. BHET WHY?

It’s hella awkward. Some are for valuable things too, but I just can’t promote them.

If I said yes to one of those appeals, I’d need to say yes to all and it would turn my social platforms into the Begging for Money Capital of the Internet. NAH, SON. I can’t spend all my time on these interwebs Keith Sweat begging my followers to give money to your PayPal. They’d start tuning me out like the Charlie Brown teacher.

money please gif

There is one campaign that I have given AND promoted, and it was 6 or so years ago. A high school friend lost her mom and her aunt a week apart. She had to shoulder the giant financial burden of both unexpected deaths and it was just a lot. She started a fundraising campaign to get the money to bury them, and I couldn’t even imagine the pain she must have been going through. I gave and asked people to donate to her, and in less than a week, she raised $9,000.

There are exceptions to every rule but let me say here: you are probably not the exception. OOP.

The people who I would probably help promote their fundraisers are the people closest to me and they never ask me to. I thank them for that consideration.

So yeah, please don’t ask me to promote your GoFundMe/IndieGogo. And only ask me to donate if I know who you are on some level. Fair? Fair.

I don’t want us to stop donating to the things that really matter. Let’s keep that going. That helps keeps the world afloat. We need more GOOD. We can keep giving but people who want a new gold iPod and wanna ask the rest of us to help them get it should have a seat. There’s no hard line to determine what campaigns are frivolous and worthy but but you know it when you see it. They’re the ones that make you roll your eyes to the back of your head. I might donate to a creative who got their equipment stolen and now can’t do the work that feeds them. But will I give money to someone who just wants a new camera because they think it’s cute? Nah.

Nope Honey Bunches

The WHY behind the fundraising campaign is important. Professional development, making dreams come true, social justice, technology that rocks, funeral and medical expenses and giving back to children. These are the things that pique my interest. Everything else? Meh.

So yeah. I want folks to saddown for a second and stop throwing up a GoFundMe page for any old thing. And for those who are doing dope things, consider how you’re asking people with platforms to help you promote. Are you giving them context or just running into their mentions with your links? And for those who personally KNOW people with platforms, try to keep them from not resenting you if you haven’t spoken to them in years and your first time hitting them back up is to ask them to promote your fundraising campaign.

Better: we must do it.

Related: I wrote a book. I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do Better Manual is now available for pre-order.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Crystal Senter-Brown April 4, 2016, 10:49 am

    Love this! Also your link to your book is broken 🙁

  • Jubilance April 4, 2016, 11:02 am

    All of this! I can’t stand to see folks make GoFundMe campaigns for stuff that should be their own responsibility. Like the guy who made one to get an engagement ring for his GF – SIR, if you don’t go have a stadium of seats. It’s not our responsibility to fund your girl’s engagement ring, you could get engaged with a RingPop if you’re money is that tight. I also really hate to see interests in Greek orgs who post these campaigns to pay for their initiation fees – if you can’t hustle and do what you need to do to pay your fees, what kind of member are you going to be?

  • Mae April 4, 2016, 11:20 am

    Great post! I do hope more people make the small investment in themselves and their families to get term life insurance (at least) to provide liquidity at their death instead of relying on a crowdfunding campaign with uncertain results. However, not everyone can afford that.

    I also feel some kinda way about random folks doing campaigns for folks they don’t know and getting (often white) savior status. Nas’ campaign for that family is an exception since he has a huge platform through which to get support for a very extraordinary situation.

    • Nichole H April 10, 2016, 11:11 pm

      Also, many people just can’t get life insurance. Those with chronic diseases or conditions like depression or anxiety. It stinks 🙁

  • Dana April 4, 2016, 11:34 am

    Giiirrrrlllllll! This was everything. I too have grown weary of people making a GoFundMe for every frivolous thing. There are just some things that you have to work hard for such as buying a car. These types of fundraising overshadow the ones that are really important and the people who sincerely need the help. Shoo, if I had put my hand out for every little thing I needed help with, I would zero friends, LOL! Thanks for speaking on this!

  • S Emms April 4, 2016, 11:37 am

    The tater salad dude ended up on GMA and wrote a damn cookbook on potato salad….

    Oh to be clear and privileged! sighs….

    • notconvincedgranny April 4, 2016, 3:24 pm

      …to be CLEAR…

      Please start a GoFundMe page for my fune – I want to be buried with a copy of Luvvie’s book for my afterlife perusal.

  • Mary G April 4, 2016, 11:42 am

    Yeah, thanks to the asshole with his potato salad GoFundMe (and his ilk), my husband DIED because I couldn’t raise enough money for his transplant. We had our donor, but the hospitals wouldn’t do the procedure because we didn’t have enough money.

    After he died, I tried another GoFundMe in a futile attempt to pay off the $55,000 in medical bills accrued… I think one person sent a few hundred, but that was it.

    Now I’m a widow who’s lost her only source of income. I’m older (55) and can’t find a job (NO ONE wants to hire an upper-middle-aged woman who’s been a homemaker for 24 years, trust me)

    • nylse April 4, 2016, 12:02 pm

      Mary G;
      I am so sorry about this entire situation.

    • LaRita April 4, 2016, 6:59 pm

      Sending prayers to you Mary G. People always take advantage of a good thing.

    • Bob April 14, 2016, 4:18 pm

      Well, if you happen to be in central NY, I might be able to throw a job your way. I know some people and usually work with people getting out of the MH. Actually, homemaker skills are what is needed. However, the job isn’t… easy. Back breaking might be a closer description. Good health care, however. No promises.

  • Viky April 4, 2016, 12:05 pm

    I agree with you of course, but I still don’t understand why more people aren’t more pissed off that medical care in this country requires personal fundraising. Crowdsourcing is a symptom of a society that might be spending money in the wrong places …

    • stephanie April 4, 2016, 12:32 pm

      Very well said.

      Thank you!

      • Annette Vaillancourt April 6, 2016, 3:46 pm

        I completely agree with you, Viky. Medical costs are riduculous. Plus, insurance doesn’t pay for the things that would really help, like nutritional and lifestyle counseling, prevention, and complimentary forms of care.

  • Elle April 4, 2016, 1:10 pm

    A girl I know set up a gofundme so that she could buy floor seats at the Beyonce concert. Floor. Seats. I was like girl, if you don’t get your ass in the nosebleeds like the rest of us…

  • Lisa April 4, 2016, 1:29 pm

    As another example of crowdfunding NOPE, Tila Tequila (remember her?) recently got a bunch of people to give her money so she could buy new furniture or something.

    But, yeah…I haven’t taken a vacation anywhere further than two states over in YEARS, and someone’s asking me to pay for their trip to Bali? I’ll pay to have several seats delivered to them.

  • MBFrezon April 4, 2016, 1:58 pm

    You’ve hit all the important points and I agree. I’ve donated to some, promoted a few… One time I love the idea that the money was being raised for (kids, art-making) but there didn’t seem to be enough -something- behind it. I tried to find the enthusiasm, a bit of passion or the nuts and bolts. After some consideration I wrote them privately suggesting they might do better rewriting their pitch with more information and making it a little more upbeat to increase its appeal. I felt ok a week later not donating.

  • Milaxx April 4, 2016, 3:26 pm

    AMEN to all of this! I live on the poverty line. I’m not complaining it is what it is. However I am both fortunate (I inherited a mortgage free home) and thrifty. I coupon and live modestly to stay within my means. This means the things I am willing to donate to have to be worthy. I give my used clothes to Goodwill, and Dress for Success. I try to help local schools via Donor’s Choice.org. Every once and a while I respond to a Kickstarter/GoFundMe. You hit the nail on the head. People have abused these services to the point that it is cyber panhandling. My wallet is too thin to support that.

  • Lollister April 4, 2016, 4:24 pm

    You betta PREACH Dat Word, Luvvie!!! I am so here for this! We know one too many people who run to GoFundMe for e’rythang! Wrote a pamphlet filled with spelling mistakes and put up a crowdfunding joint for others to finance it. Uhmm, No Ma’am. But if you tryna go back to school to learn to spell, then count me in for $25. ijs

    Meanwhile, I needed a vacation badly. Saved up for TWO YEARS so I could take the bomb azz vaca Awl By Myself! I came back and a girl I know saw my pictures and said she wanted to take a vacation, too.
    [pause exactly TWELVE MINUTES!]
    Why this chick put up a GoFundMe saying she “deserves” a vacation and had never taken one before and folks actually donated! :o\ She went on her Cyber-Homeless-Beggar money trip a month later (to reiterate, I saved for Two Years for mine! *in my feels*). I’m thru. So thru. #NoMoreBeggingInTheInterwebStreets

    • Cynthia G April 4, 2016, 10:51 pm

      Hold up- she saw the evidence of your vacation and felt she deserved one as well and her first move wasn’t to Expedia and her bank teller line to figure out her savings plan? Instead she immediately stuck her hand out. I’m mad you clocked the time, btw. I can’t even take a shower in 12 minutes. I can’t iron one set of clothes in 12 minutes. I can’t whip up a quick meal in 12 minutes. But your girl can get up a GoFuckYourself (typo that applies to her, and it stays) page that quickly. What she deserved was to sit her ass home.

      I am by no means wealthy, and that’s the point of crowdfunding. I have donated many times using the same standards mentioned by others (medical costs, funerals, to build a wheelchair accessible bathroom, etc) and I will continue to. But no, I’m not putting rims on someone’s car or sending someone to Belize when all I can afford is to run through the sprinklers in the backyard.

  • eric oyen April 5, 2016, 11:07 pm

    well, that probably explains why I can’t seem to get ANYONE at all to help fund my dream of being a blind athlete. my website is included in the link section below if you want to take a look at it.

    Now, mine is definitely in the worthy cause section. Also, the page is a USABA sponsored athlete developnent account fundraising site. That pretty much means that any funds that go there cannot be used for anything other than the purposes expressed by USABA. Unlike Go Fund Me or kickstarter, there is a lot less chance for abuse. Still, getting anyone to even think about proper donations is difficult. And yes, I have also seen many of those sites where someone wanted money for a car part (or even absconded with the funds after crying about a funeral).. so, its things like that which make life so much harder.

    btw, I am totally blind, a cyclist and I am for real. how many can claim that with a straight face?

  • S.B. Thecarhandler April 7, 2016, 2:22 pm

    After much deliberation, your post regarding crowd sourcing kept bothering me. And while I think it was tastefully written, I still think it’s dangerous all the same. And, of course, it’s hard to speak up on a popular bloggers page when you are not saying what’s popular status quo thinking, but I must. With all due respect, NO ma’am. I disagree, and worse I think you are doing those in true need a grave disservice by even writing this blog post. As someone who just recently had to turn to crowd sourcing to survive after living 4 years in a car, I have to speak up and do so from experience. It’s a problem when a blogger uses their platform to shame poor people, particularly a Black blogger, and that is exactly what you are doing. It’s a mythic White American ideal that people always have inside inner circle people, such as bio family, or a close inner circle family of choice, or friendships to turn to in a time of deep need. Everyone of course wants to pretend they do, of course, but what if you don’t? What if you don’t have family, cousins, uncles, other extended family, or friends, and we all know friends can be worn loosely, particularly in hard times, then what? It’s cute to assume well adults “adult” however no man is an island unto themselves, and the belief that if you don’t have that, those “inner family ties” to help you then too bad you must have done something wrong–people always go there but that is not often the truth. Many I know right now who are staying afloat in these tough economic times, where rents in some parts of the country are unfathomable and jobs less available, are doing so because they have help, and that source of help is family or an inside source, so they never have to appear in need, vulnerable, needy, not on their game, or not doing okay within their social circles. It all stays private. And for them, that is a blessing, but not everyone has that, and when you don’t you are left with having to outright outreach to the public for your mere survival, which isn’t easy but it is brave. What I think is we don’t really ever want to know truth about hardship, because then we would have to address it. The notion that “I cannot help others on my platform” because some have abused a platform is not right thinking. People abuse everything. Those asking for frivolous things are not in the majority, and furthermore crowd sourcing was not founded on the premise that the ask had to be an emergency. In fact, it was more the belief that people could do things they wanted by collective giving and receiving, so the notion behind all of the judgements about what people ask for is really sad, but worse really harms those who are asking out of genuine desperate need. I feel strongly that when people write blogs and hence share disparaging opinions about people seeking help is really making a statement, and it’s basically, however subtle, encouraging people (your fan base) to follow along, and I do not understand why any thinking person would want to do that, particularly when those who are often the so called “cyber panhandlers” are poor, disenfranchised people, often women of color sans the so called fakers. There is more real need out there than liars. You absolutely could share fundraisers, crowd source requests, and you could make a difference in doing so. You could promote an important awareness on suffering but choose not to, and that’s a choice. I’m sorry, but I just had to say something. I’m sure my opinion may not be a popular one, but I don’t care. Often saying truths is not popular nor easy. It’s your blog, which means at the end of the day, you say and do whatever you want, but I personally don’t think your article was all that correct, smart, nor kind, and I was a fan.

  • Caratime2 April 8, 2016, 11:01 am

    “It’s a problem when a blogger uses their platform to shame poor people, particularly a Black blogger, and that is exactly what you are doing.”

    I disagree. I don’t believe for an instant that Luvvie is shaming poor people, but rather calling out the lazy and entitled people who’ve found a new way to mooch off of others. People who don’t have the money for some of the things they want (note: I said *want*, not *need*) – e.g. floor tickets to a Beyonce concert or a vacation that’s not within their immediate financial means as mentioned above – but neither want to accept what they *can* afford (“I deserve….!”) nor put in the time to actually scrimp and save like so many other people. Yes, by which I also mean so many people of color with a plan, some self-discipline, and self-respect.

    Many of us would have no problem supporting people like the one lady whose husband was in dire need of a transplant. But in the meantime the airwaves and our timelines are full of people who want the cyber-collective to carry the costs of their luxuries. Or help them to pay to erase the results of their own poor life decisions. Or some straight-up foolishness.

    I know it’s become unpopular to seem to judge anyone’s behavior in today’s world – no matter how unethical, misguided or downright stupid, but I’m old, so I’m going to go there: It’s precisely those lazy, entitled folks that are ruining the situation for those among us who are truly in need of support from their community, not Luvvie.

    Luvvie chooses not to wade through and judge the worthiness of the waves of requests that hit her inbox. I choose to keep a tight hold on my own meager ducets now in most cases, too.

  • Howlingbanshee April 10, 2016, 4:02 pm

    I am sad that this article even needed to be written.

    It’s hard for me to break down and ask for help from people who know and love me — how do people just get the gumption to ask for help from someone who neither knows nor loves them, and then on top of that, be like, “Yeeeaaaah, if you could just go ahead and leverage some of your hard earned influence for my benefit, that would be greeaat.”

  • Canis Pitbullis April 12, 2016, 6:22 am

    I am also tired of people and their families putting up appeals for money after they do stupid or illegal things that get them hurt or killed, or as a legal defense fund after they commit a heinous crime. No way.

  • Jenzi April 14, 2016, 4:09 pm

    Nailed it as usual, Luvvie. AMEN. One of those GoFundMe pages to pay for a person’s trip to Vegas was actually started by an acquaintance of mine. She wanted to see a favorite musician there and actually had the nerve to think that we, her friends, would buy the ticket! I DON’T THINK SO. I lost a lotta respect for this person because she did that, frankly. All the more because I got way too many friends with cancer or other serious health issues themselves, and not enough $$ because either minimal insurance, or they can’t work for awhile because their condition. These are some of the peeps who need GoFundMe pages, and the irony is most of them haven’t wanted to ask others for the help! (Don’t worry, I’m not gonna ask you to donate or promote — there’s enough help to go around and I agree, you can’t possibly donate to every cause under the sun.) Anyway. Loved this post!

  • Leslie Brown August 13, 2016, 1:52 pm

    Please if possible help spread this campaign for this family. They been through a lot and their story is heartbreaking just please pass this link to anyone you know and help them. Anything is better than nothing.
    Anthony Brooks was said to have died from natural causes but actually was murdered in prison. He was in prison for driving tickets that builded up over a long course of time. This goes to show that the law enforcement once again failed to protect even though they are required to protect those in prison.