As a parent there are times when you will simply not have enough money to do everything you need to do. In this situation, you may be forced to do the one thing no self respecting adult wants to do. You know, the two dreaded words guaranteed to make you feel like a failure as a parent and a spouse: Borrow Money.
No one likes to borrow money. Borrowing money is an admission of your failure as an adult to be self sufficient and to provide for those in your care. Borrowing money, whether from friend or a family member, is an admission that someone is doing it better than you. It’s basically you saying “Hey, you’ve done a better job than me at life, in your infinite generosity would you take pity on me, and lend me a bit of your fortune?”
Once someone lends you money, you know and they know that you are now their bitch. They own you. You can’t criticize another thing that person says or refuse any favor they ask because they can just turn to you and say, “Remember that time I let you borrow some money?” It’s a form of power that a lender has over a borrower and don’t think for a second that they don’t know it.
In recent years, the internet has come up with an interesting new method for raising money: crowdfunding. You’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, arguably the most famous crowdfunding sight. Kickstarter works by someone posting their project (a movie, an album, etc.) and having any0ne who wants to support the project then donate money. Usually there will be rewards offered to entice you to donate a certain amount of money. For instance, if it’s a film the person who created the campaign might say, “Donate $500 and receive an executive producer credit at the end of the movie!” or “Donate $1000 and get a walk-on roll in the film!” These rewards are great as you don’t feel like you are asking people to just hand you money for nothing.
But what if you aren’t offering rewards?
Sites like GoFundMe.com have made crowdfunding a little bit more personal. I had a friend who used GoFundMe to raise enough money to fly home for Christmas. Some people start campaigns for a local little league, or to pay their medical bills, or even something as non-essential as a vacation. Instead of having to go to a friend with your head hung low, hat in hand and plead for a handout, you can ask all your friends and relatives (and anyone else for that matter) to throw you a couple of bucks to help you out of a tight situation. The pros of using something like GoFundMe to raise money is that you reach more people than you would ever feel comfortable visiting in person. Through the power of social media, friends of friends might see your plight and donate a little scratch. On the internet you can cast a wide net and since the payments are “donations” you don’t have to worry about paying a bunch of people back. It sounds great in theory, but then there is the shame…
I recently started a GoFundMe to see if I could raise enough money to get my wife’s car outfitted with snow tires. We live in New Hampshire and the driving is horrible in the winter. We had already had to borrow money for Christmas, and I dreaded doing so again, but she really needs the tires. So, I figured that I would give crowdfunding a shot. At the very least it would be an interesting social experiment. What did I have to lose?
Turns out, whatever was left of my dignity is what I had to lose.
Most of the feedback that I received was positive, however there were a couple of very vocal naysayers. Apparently what I was doing was no better than begging or virtual panhandling. Had I no self respect? Why didn’t I get a job so that I could buy my wife her snow tires? Staying home and taking care of my kid isn’t a “job.” Be a real man! However, the vocal minority was enough for me to shut down the whole campaign. My anxiety was already at red alert as it was and it took every ounce of strength I had to start the campaign in the first place. Yes I suffer from what is sometimes crippling social anxiety and depression, neither is relevant to the story except to illustrate how hard it was for me to decide to ask for money publicly, and why I caved so easily.
Who Decides What is OK to CrowdFund?
So the real question is: Is crowdfunding just e-Begging?
Should people be ashamed to ask for help? One person said to me on Facebook , “There’s nothing wrong with trying to help someone you love, but when I look at other GoFundMe pages its like Help this little girl who has cancer or help this family of a cop that was killed. It just seems like something you use when you have no other choice.”
While I understand that statement, I feel the need to explain that everything is relative to your own life and experiences. My wife may come home after a twelve hour day complaining of how tired she is, how exhaustive retail is. Now I could berate her by saying things like “Well EMT’s have to work 24 hours in a row!” or “Retail is nowhere near as exhausting as working in a coal mine!” but I don’t because: a) while those statements may be true they don’t make my wife’s feelings un-true, and b) having never worked as an EMT or coal miner, my wife has no basis of comparison for how exhausted she is in her profession versus the other two. In my wife’s experience, this particular job is the most exhausting one she has ever had.
Look, I don’t have cancer (thankfully) and don’t think that I don’t know how lucky that makes me. But as for my life, in my world, the winterizing of my wife’s car, our ONLY car, the vehicle that my three children travel in regularly, is my biggest hardship at the moment.
This is all to say nothing of the fact that anyone opposed to the idea of me reaching out to my virtual community for a little help has the option of not donating money, just scrolling right past my post on Facebook and never giving it another thought. But where’s the fun in that? We need to punish these filthy beggars that only want a handout right? Shame those on welfare or unemployment? THANKS OBAMA!
But I digress. I may be wrong. Maybe the naysayers were right and I was just panhandling instead of going out and providing for my family in true alpha male fashion. I would love to hear others thoughts on the idea of crowdfunding to get through a hardship. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.