Crowdfunding: Boon or Boondoggle?
People respond to pollsters that their biggest fear is speaking in front of a group, but my experience has convinced me that asking for money is the most terrifying thing one can do. Whether I was selling advertising for the Santa Rosa Symphony’s beautiful program book or urging a donation to Bernie’s presidential campaign, the cause, however noble, did not make it easier to ask. Even sending an invoice for my freelance work causes me to rethink my rates, question my expertise, and bring up this reluctance to my therapist, for heaven’s sake!
Now comes my decision to help finance my audacious commitment to participate in a major ballroom dance competition through the contemporary phenomenon called crowdfunding. Even the word seems odd, letters all jammed together and arousing my spell-checker (spellchecker?). The Oxford English definition of crowdfunding is: “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.”
The Urban Dictionary and some social media comments are not as benign: “a way to scam idiots out of their hard earned cash by promising to develop a computer game or remake and old one.” Or, “no, get a job or get a bank loan like the rest of us have to when we want something, you slob.”
Thus it has taken me months to overcome psychological hurdles to create my Support Jennie’s Chance to Dance GoFundMe campaign and its many components: email message to friends and family, photos, video clips, catchy title and online pitch, budget, social media notices, analog flyers, plus editing and consulting on language with fellow writers.
The first and most stressful task was researching and deciding which crowdfunding site to use. The leaders of an Indigogo webinar for which I registered encouraged me to click on over to GoFundMe instead. Indigogo seems best suited for projects like making an album, producing a film, starting a cannabis tourist tasting bar, or launching products like “Lasso: socks that will never fall down.” GoFundMe is more personal, modest, down home and is more appropriate for assistance in tackling things like huge medical bills, a first-time-in-the-family college education, a cheerleading trip to the finals.
I have contributed to a few crowdfunding campaigns myself—two for organizations I knew, and one for a local youth theater group because I was moved by their promo. My donations were modest, true, but in considering my own ask, I thought, “if everyone who has commented favorably about one of my dance videos on Facebook, or said that I “redefined the golden years,” would just give $20….”
The beauty of GoFundMe is that I’m not required to reach a goal; all monies come to me (after the site deducts their 5% cut and 3% fee), and I’m thankful for the support and advice their help staff offers. The first few days of my crowdfunding effort has garnered nearly $800 (1/10 of my trip expenses/goal) and I look forward to the interactions I’ll have with my new community of supporters in the coming weeks through updates and by offering perks.
Most importantly, though, I’ve found asking for help a little easier. I feel more worthy of being sponsored, a little more the author of the inspirational story I want to be.
My favorite cartoonist Tom Tomorrow offers GoFundMe as a possible Republican solution to health care for millions in the USA. But there’s the catch. Who is deserving?
Many thanks, Jennie, for laying yourself bare on this subject. I also appreciated the info on crowdfunding. I’m about to do something similar, so I can complete a recording project I’ve been working on the last two years. I hope to be able to make a donation to your fund by the beginning of August. Onward and upward, pretty dancer!
Good luck with your recording project, Fran, and thanks for noticing the risk in this post. I think we would all benefit by helping one another with little bits of money that add up to a lot. How I cringe each time I pay Comcast so much a month, for what? I’d certainly rather help my friends feed their art. It is a lot of work though, interior and exterior. Marketing!