Crowdfunding as privatized, casino-style public assistance


Crowdfunding started as a way of raising capital for entrepreneurial projects, and then it also became a fundraising tool for non-profit initiatives. Now, fueled by a growing wealth divide and the lingering effects of the Great Recession, crowdfunding is turning into a popular medium for individuals to launch pleas for money to meet unexpected and sometimes dire personal expenses. Some campaigns are started by people who are trying to help friends and family members in need.

Many such requests are posted to Facebook. Using sites such as GoFundMe, they request individual donations to cover medical bills, rent, burial costs, educational expenses, and the like. The funding goals usually are in the four and five figures. I’ve seen a few for six-figure amounts. Because the crowdfunding campaign is almost always posted by an individual, donations are rarely tax-deductible as charitable gifts.

I have no idea what percentage of crowdfunding appeals for individual expenses are successful, but my guess is that there are many more misses than hits. Many, if not most of them, carry a voice of desperation. Those launching these campaigns feel like they have run out of options, and so they are asking others for support to keep them afloat.

Welcome to today’s privatized, casino-style form of “public” assistance. As the bottom continues to fall out of America’s middle class, and our safety net increasingly shows its holes, we’re going to see more and more crowdfunding campaigns on behalf of those who are trying to make ends meet. 

The successful appeals will be compelling in voice and substance and supported by a network of friends. The unsuccessful appeals will be unpersuasive, sound questionable, or naively assume that lots of strangers are waiting for reasons to give away their money. In other words, something of a twisted “meritocracy” will develop between those who are successful and unsuccessful at pitching for money to help them survive.

Perhaps this is a logical, unsurprising result of a society that has bought into the notion that the “free market” is a panacea and the solution to all of our problems. A reality TV show pitting those in need against each other cannot be far off.

Related posts

“Should I support that Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign?” (2015)

2 responses

  1. Your continuing efforts to educate are always appreciated. Something I have noticed happening more and more is companies sending emails to me asking me to do a survey of an interaction that I have had with one of their employees. I consider this to be trolling for compliments or complaints. I think some people who receive these may feel compelled to answer because they did have fine interaction with that employee and the company may punish workers if they do not get good feedback or any feedback. I recently told Wells Fargo to stop doing this with me, as if I have any problem I will tell them and otherwise I am completely satisfied.

    If you are looking for a topic this might be it. I consider it to be a waste of my precious time and while others may feel that too they don’t want to hurt the worker who just helped them. I will occasionally answer these if I feel I actually have a real relationship with the employee and have received great help over a period of time.

  2. I often am concerned about the truth behind crowdfunding and if “some” (not all) projects are worthy and legit. We constantly seem to be in a world that does not honor the truth seekers or those who want to make the world a better place. Perhaps one day, I will do crowdfunding as rarely is research or publishing rewarded in $$. But, then again, some things just need to be published.

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