3 Reasons why Crowdfunding only works in theory
The idea behind crowdfunding, or crowdsourcing, is a good one. There’s something you need. You want to save kittens or maybe you finally want to get that weird fungus checked out by a doctor. But you’re strapped for cash and that rash is starting to spread to your genitals now. So you decide to try crowdsourcing. Which is what I did…minus the fungal crotch rash.
Like hundreds of thousands of Americans, my family is trying to recover from a recent financial loss. A few years ago, my family took a chance and moved to where a job, that meant my husband could use his newly minted degree, was offered. It turned out to be a stupid risk because the job fell through six months after we uprooted everything from Florida and moved to Kentucky.
We have since been able to move back, and he has a better job now. But in the move we ended up losing our primary vehicle to transmission problems. Even making monthly payments on the repairs, we haven’t made a dent in the actual bill and are only paying the storage fees right now. The shop is, understandably, not happy with the current arrangement and is getting a little anxious to get our vehicle out of there.
Not yet willing to exchange sexual favors for car parts, I decided to try crowdfunding as a way to get a little more paid on the repairs. After all, we hear about how people ended up duping thousands of dollars out of people through this kind of thing. So why shouldn’t it work for a relatively small, and legitimate issue, like mine?
Your cause doesn’t matter
We get fooled, by accounts of people who somehow manage to raise thousands for a single person or cause, into thinking our cause has a chance. If there are people out there who are willing to donate what is essentially the cost of a small house to a woman who is just a fiction writer, surely someone out there would be willing to pitch in for you to get that new Xbox right? After all, there are millions of people using social media. If everyone you know can pass around a picture of a potato to see if it can get more likes than Justin Bieber, it stands to reason that someone out there would be willing to help you. Right?
Your cause just isn’t good enough. It doesn’t matter. No matter how many unemployed, disabled, orphan, drug addicted, puppy-dolphin-kitten-nun hybrids you are trying to save, it doesn’t matter to the general public at large.
Pull up the front page of a site like http://www.gofundme.com/and you can see the most popular causes. Now look closely at what you are seeing. One or two causes may be earning over $13,000 but the rest are just over, or way below, reaching even half that. Looking at the number of people contributing and almost all of them are under 100 donors.
In addition, to have your cause listed in the “popular” category and show up on the front page, the cause had to be getting lots of passing around. Like more often passed around than that one girl you knew in high school. And if it’s not popular, no one is going to support it, because no one is going to know about it.
You could pay to have the cause promoted, but if you could do that I’m willing to bet that you also wouldn’t need crowdfunding.
So even if your cause reaches thousands of people, only a few are going to be willing to donate anything to you. The amount of passing around your cause has to do to get noticed by thousands of people is staggering. And that’s just not a realistic thing for most of us.
You don’t know enough people
My little cause is for a relatively small amount. $4000 to cover the repairs, additional storage and financing charges, the bus ticket up there, and the gas to get back.
My various social networks give me a network of a measly 1000 people. (The aforementioned potato has more followers) This includes two Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages, and a mediocre blog where I whine about various things. The math says that if everyone I know dropped in $5 each, I’d reach my goal in no time.
In fact, I set my funding goal with this exact thing in mind.
$5 is really nothing. You can’t do anything with $5 anymore. If a friend asked me for $5 I’d let it go with all the remorse of dropping a penny on the ground. And that’s with me being in a Ramen-for-every-meal budgetary situation.
But it turns out that no one else I have contact with thinks this way. I have friends who are struggling to make ends meet, just like I am, and friends who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. None can be bothered to part with less than the cost of a McDonald’s value meal without issue. Which brings me to…
Your friends are dicks (or at least will be)
The number one bit of advice on every crowdfunding site is tell your friends. One of the first things some of the most popular sites, like gofundme, and others, always say is to share your cause with your social network.
In theory, this sounds great. It’s workable and really reasonable. Your friends and family are polite and understanding people who would certainly be willing to help you achieve a small goal without much hassle right? Hell, a few of them have even managed to get donations for their own causes. I have a cousin who got vet bills for a puppy mostly paid for, and friends who have gotten money for all sorts of other bills and causes as well. Surely they wouldn’t mind helping me get something?
Hang on, I have to catch my breath. I’m laughing too hard to type.
Sending your friends your crowdfunding link goes over about as well as a loud, wet, fart in public. And you’re friends are going to react to your crowdfunding play as if it is.
If you’re lucky, most people will just ignore the request completely…and subsequently you as well. If you’re lucky.
For me, they reacted like I had asked if they would mind spreading around this case of herpes I had recently contracted.
I specifically asked a couple of people I know on Facebook for help getting the word out. I didn’t ask them for donations, just to share my link. These were people, with bigger networks than I have, who had previously either helped other people raise money or otherwise get help for another cause or person.
As if by magic, they suddenly disappeared. Facebook’s message tattler told me they had seen my questions, but none were replying. In one case, a conversation that had lasted for weeks suddenly ended completely. It’s a lot easier to pretend you didn’t see it than it is to say no.
But I was grateful for those reactions in comparison to the more vocally insulting ones.
And let me tell you, nothing helps your cause like someone who is known, by your network, to be a close friend commenting negatively to your post. They went to great lengths to explain, in staggering detail, exactly how worthless and lazy I am for asking for anything. This even opened a floodgate to allow their friends, people not in my network, people I don’t even know, to further elaborate on my extreme oxygen-wasting capabilities.
Asking for anything always comes with a certain amount of shame to begin with. I know, I used to panhandle for a living. But eventually we all get desperate enough to do something as demeaning and degrading as begging. And you will be surprised by how many of your family and friends are helpful enough to respond to this time of need with a rousing pep-talk that graphically illustrates all of your flaws and shortcomings to the general public.
Because you know, that’s always so helpful when you’ve been reduced to begging for money.
The bottom line is that crowdfunding does actually work. For some. There are some much more worthy causes than my transmission out there that should be, and are being, funded.
But for most of us it is the equivalent of trying to bum a dollar off of that one rich tightwad uncle that doesn’t like you anyway because you may or may not have kicked his dog when you were five.
So I hope that if I write this I’ll get a few strangers that might be willing to let go of a measly $5 to help me not continue sucking at life. (The link is to the left)