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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.