GoFundMe gone crazy: Opinion


By Dale Peacock

At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, I think that GoFundMe campaigns have gotten way out of control. Consequently, even worthy requests are starting to be annoying.  And that’s a shame: I believe in helping out where real need is evident. I’m not asking to see anyone’s tax filing to determine need but I do think that it should be pretty obvious in the pitch.

I was somewhat oblivious of the GoFundMe phenomenon until in the course of one month I received a baker’s dozen appeals for assistance.  One was a request to fund a wedding. Nobody was dying, the bride and groom have jobs, and as far as I can tell by the glorious vacation photos, mom and dad aren’t hurting either. Oh…and it did not include an invitation to the fancy-schmancy nuptials. While I was not even tempted to contribute, 30 others had ponied up $1,500 in twelve hours.

Another query acknowledged that the couple could afford a wedding but they really wanted a DREAM wedding. I’m sure they do but somebody needs to tell them that we don’t always get what we want in life and that some poor souls don’t even get what they need. Now that bit of advice might make the perfect wedding gift for the super self-absorbed.

A friend recounted a request involving a young woman who’d lost a lot of weight and needed body sculpting…whatever that is. Good for her for getting healthier but my friend wasn’t interested in paying for a mere acquaintance’s work. As she said, “If I had the chutzpah of half these people I’d kind of like to ask for a boob job myself!”  Her boobs are just fine but I can see how the success of bold requests might motivate others to jump aboard the gravy train whether they need it or not.

I Googled sociology + GoFundMe to see what experts in human nature might say about the phenomenon. Instead I got 118,000 hits from students of the discipline wanting to go on various trips that are marginally educational.  One example was ‘Jamie’ who shares, “I am at the point in my Ph.D. work where I can begin diving into my research. I believe that, in order to tell a complete story of the games I’m studying, I need to talk to the creators (rather than just playing, or just talking to players). That’s where you come in! I plan on attending the Game Developers’ Conference …” I could be wrong but I think she’s a nervy nerd that wants to play this century’s version of Dungeons and Dragons on my dime.

Another was a plea to fund an exotic trip of a lifetime.  It was sold as an adventure where we could follow along while the adventurer climbed and hiked and rappelled all over the place. Fundraising went through the roof  mostly because this person is pretty and popular. And well off. Which is where the problem arose.

I can hear readers saying, “Ignore it if you don’t like it. Nobody’s forcing you to donate.” I know that we can just ignore requests if we don’t like them but the fact is that this entitled behaviour isn’t being ignored and it is taking scant resources away from those who could actually use a hand.

Crowd-sourcing funds can be a popularity contest. One well-known person’s house was flooded and thousands of dollars flowed in on the receding tide despite the fact that this person has good insurance and is a good two-income family man. Another guy’s house burned down, but he had neither insurance nor media-savvy friends so this person in real need raised squat.

Some experts say that the purpose of crowd-funding is as much about getting attention as it is about getting money. Really? Isn’t that the role that Facebook fulfills? If that is true I feel badly that you need to go to those lengths for attention but I still won’t help send your kid to ballet unless he is the next Baryshnikov and you have to choose between your boy genius’s dreams and paying the rent this month.

So what can well-meaning people do to ensure that their generosity goes to someone who really needs it? I think it’s pretty simple….read the application carefully and assess the need for yourself. Donating without thought to projects and people who have a want rather than a need is the lazy person’s way of feeling good about doing good.

Dale Peacock

Dale Peacock

Following a career in the hospitality sector and the acquisition of a law and justice degree in her 50s, Dale embarked on a writing career armed with the fanciful idea that a living could be made as a freelancer.  To her own great surprise she was right.  The proof lies in hundreds of published works on almost any topic but favourites include travel, humour & satire, feature writing, environment, politics and entrepreneurship. Having re-invented herself half a dozen times, Dale doesn’t rule anything out.  Her time is divided equally between Muskoka and Tampa Bay with Jim, her husband of 7 years and partner of 32 years.  Two grown ‘kids’ and their spouses receive double doses of love and attention when she’s at home. 

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  1. Dale you so hit the nail on the head but the other side of the coin is that Go Fund Me is a business that takes 6% of the total amount – I get that but I would rather see the money going directly to the person in need.

    I love your writing and so happy to have you on Doppler.

  2. I agree with you on this one Dale. The Go Fund Me phenomenon has come from people’s passion to do everything online. It’s an easy way to satisfy our need to be helpful. I urge folks to really look at the need vs the want.
    BTW, I need a new deck and I need some new perennials. Any funders out there?

  3. Sharon Burgess on

    So agree with you Dale. I was taught, there are wants, and needs. I want it all, but I need to pay the hydro, mortgage, taxes etc. There are a lot of people out there who need money to feed their children. They work hard every day to make ends meet. Greedy people should not be allowed to ask for money on Go Fund Me. But Gary and I NEED to ride our bikes to North Carolina this summer, if you would like to fund us. LOL Miss you.

  4. Paige Meunier on

    I don’t really know how I feel about this article. I agree that in my research I have found some rather silly campaigns. And I believe that some people are just fishing for money. But I believe this is a fantastic way to draw money, and attention to worthy causes, causes in which are no ones job to declare unworthy.

    It is about attention, because spreading awareness and details online is a fantastic way to spread the word. In this new age flyers on telephone polls don’t cut it anymore. There is nothing to underestimate about the value of someone believing in you or your cause so much so that they donate their hard earned money to it. And especially being part of a community like Huntsville and Muskoka, I know several people with current and past go fund me’s and they are turning to the community they are so grateful for, to raise them higher in their endeavours.

    Dying of a disease or not being able to pay your bills, is not the only cause to donate money to someone or something. So I encourage the people of Huntsville to really read the pitches of these campaigns, and decide for yourselves who is worthy. But depriving someone of support, be it monetary or however else, just because other people have abused something like this, isn’t right. Donate to give back to and support people in your community, or to someone with a similar need as you once had. And do it with happiness and thankfulness that you have the means to give.

    Regardless of what some people are asking for or not, I am very saddened by the generalist tone of this article. “Even worthy requests are starting to sound annoying”, support the people in your community, a worthy cause is worth donation and support. Whether you know the person or not.

  5. Nice to see you on Doppler Dale!
    One of the things the Internet has done is remove all kinds of gate keepers. Anyone with an idea and ambition has a platform to voice their idea to the masses. This creates a lot of noise for the average person to sift through. Platforms like GoFundMe can and do promote worthy projects, but with the good comes the frivolous and shallow. I think as the age of the Internet progresses we will see gate keepers take their posts again. Already we see things like community focus and word of mouth helping to separate the wheat from the chaff. Taste makers, style gurus and trend setters will arise to give the “average joe and joline” a way to quickly discover what’s worthy of our attention.

  6. Karen Cassian on

    I am glad that Dale wrote this article. Gofundme.com has been irritating me for sometime. I donate money to them all the time quite happily. When it comes to death, fire and even a young person that you know and like who has always had a dream I am quite happy to donate. When it comes to people asking for large sums of money for weddings or education I have a problem especially when I watch my children paying off debts for those same things. Supporting your community is one thing but there are certain debts that I think are the responsibility of individuals by taking out personal loans.

  7. Karen Wehrstein on

    These people want you to fund their wedding? Without even *inviting* you?

    Suggestion: donate. A dime. If a whole bunch of people do that, maybe they’ll get the message 🙂

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