If you haven’t already heard about GoFundMe.com—although I’m sure if you have a Facebook or Twitter account, you undoubtedly have—it’s a website that touts the slogan “crowdfunding for the rest of us.” The site, at its core, is an outlet for people to solicit money from friends and strangers for personal causes. According to the website, “Most people use GoFundMe to raise money for themselves, a friend, or a loved one during life’s important moments. This includes things like medical expenses, education costs, volunteer programs, youth sports, funerals & memorials—even animals and pets.”
On the surface, this platform seems like a great way for friends, family, and even perfect strangers to donate small amounts (or large amounts if they so choose) to causes that they want to help fund. Some of the most successful campaigns on the site have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for families displaced because of a fire; cancer patients needing help with medical bills; funding needed to replace a child’s hearing aids or school supplies; and funeral costs for unexpected deaths. I believe that this site is a great outlet for such causes; with the rise of social media and everyone we know just a text or Facebook message away, this seems like the easiest route to gain funding for an important issue—and fast.
As a 23 year-old, labeled as a dreaded “millennial” by the generations who came before me, I often read articles or hear comments calling my generation “entitled,” “spoiled,” and one which “asks for hand-outs.” I know I’m not the first to say that it seems misguided to label an entire generation, especially when I know that I personally do not represent these traits—nor do most people that I know. What has come to my attention lately is the fact that some people are not doing our generation any favors by playing in to exactly the stereotype that is believed of us.
I have personally seen at least five GoFundMe campaigns from people I know—either from high school, college, or my home town—who have used this website to gain frivolous funding. At first, I tried to pass it off as “not my problem,” or something embarrassing that I personally would never do. However, the contradiction in these campaigns has started to upset me greatly, and here is why:
I have seen an ex-boyfriend of a friend post various campaigns to the site, all of which are asking for funds to be donated towards his dogs’ medical bills. Seems reasonable enough, right? Except when he also posts on social media about the “three new pairs of Jordans” he recently bought, or when you find out he is (somehow) funding expensive trips to various EDM concerts, most of which are out of state. So, why should we donate to a cause that doesn’t seem to even need it? Because, it seems, that people feel obligated to help a cause if they are able to (and who wants to turn their back on a sick animal? No one.)
- Another recent post showed a campaign for the amount of $4,000 in order to fund a trip to Europe. The poster’s reason? They had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, had gone through a bad break-up, and had student loans. Again, it sounds reasonable enough—until I took a second to look at my own life: drowning in student loan debt, diagnosed with the same two mental illnesses since the age of 12, and also never having been outside of the U.S. due to a lack of excess funds. Did it ever cross my mind to ask my friends, family, and perfect strangers for money to fund my vacation? No. Why? Because, put bluntly, I can and should be able to save up for a trip by myself, as an adult.
- Still another post by an acquaintance asked for the absurd amount of $10,000—for her and her fiancé’s honeymoon trip. Their reason? Not because of a death, illness, or natural disaster. No, the reason was stated as “having so many student loans and bills.” Again, I ask the question, who does not have student loans and bills and things to pay for? No one I know comes to mind.
On one hand, I commend these posters of campaigns for their sheer lack of embarrassment or pride. I mean, in college when I found myself broke and without toilet paper, I called my mom—but I didn’t feel the need to fund $1,000 from strangers because I couldn’t budget my money.
These types of frivolous crowd funding campaigns truly take away from the site’s intended purpose. I personally know a friend who recently beat her battle with a brain tumor. She was in college when she found out about her illness, and held a dinner fundraiser in order to help with medical bills and expenses. Not even she created a GoFundMe campaign.
When used correctly, these types of crowdfunding sites are a great way to raise money—quickly—for causes beyond an individual’s (or a family’s) control. They truly show the compassion perfect strangers can have for others, and the ability for these campaigns to raise the funds needed (and often times, more funds than were asked for) so that the individual can achieve their intended goal.
My advice to my fellow millennials and others looking to make a quick buck for doing nothing? Stop making GoFundMe or other similar campaigns. Ask yourself, “Do I honestly not have enough funds to keep me living, in my home, or able to get to work? Could I do without certain things to pay for my pet’s medical bills? Am I truly at the end of my rope, with my only option being to ask others to give me their hard-earned money?” If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, then I advise you to take a hard look at yourself and your spending habits—and also your integrity.
Keep the crowd funding sites for people who need them the most. Keep your lack of a vacation fund to yourself. Open a savings account. Open your eyes. Please, do not ask for help (from strangers) unless you need it. You are only further perpetuating our generation’s “spoiled” reputation.