Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Over the past year I’ve felt increasingly overwhelmed by the number of crowdsourcing requests I receive. Obviously this is mostly because crowdsourcing is fairly new. Secondly, as a member of “the Burning Man Community,” I know hundreds of people doing amazing things, all of which cost money. Even outside the burner world, everyone I know is doing something interesting. Something worth supporting. But at what point does it become too much?

Today I’ve come across the following folks in search of a “donation”:

“Head Above Water” is a cute couple who both lost their jobs over the past year. Their car broke down. They’re currently at $3,990 of their $3,500 goal. Hmm. For $5 the woman will give me a shout-out on her blog. For $25 she’ll send me a handmade thank-you card. She mentions feeling “guilty” about asking for money. You, too, can help them pay their rent by donating money to their Indiegogo campaign. Cause, ya know, everyone loves a shout out. I don’t know these people.

The link to Mr. & Ms. Head Above Water was provided by a friend who recently quit her job as a sex worker to write full time. I’ll admit to meeting her online (through this blog, actually) and offering her advice about becoming a sex worker. She’s a great writer and was recently laid off from one of her (low-paying) writing jobs, as was Ms. Head Above Water. Imagine my surprise when, moments after losing my temper over the cute Santa Clara couple with the rusted out car, I saw her post “I’m reluctant to do this” and offer a link to her page. This site is different from the usual fundraising crowdsourcing sites in that it asks you to essentially become a patron of the arts. Or, er, blogging. Since she’s a writer, we are asked to pledge a certain amount for each blog post. Her ideal goal is to create her own online publication. Her and about a gagillion other bloggers.

[I could easily fall into the dark abyss of why it is that writers need to beg like this, but that would be a digression. Writers are no longer able to earn a living, a fact that I am INCREDIBLY and PAINFULLY aware of! Time to find a new career, folks!]

While I don’t want to ridicule her, I do find it amusing that she notes in her bio  “I fell into the sex industry…in 2011, and have been writing about it ever since.” Ever since? Ever since THREE FUCKING YEARS AGO? Again, forgive me. Sorry, sorry. I really should try harder to keep my temper in check…

[I could also slide into the depths of depression writing about what it’s like looking for work when you’re over 50. The aforementioned talented writer is barely 30. I might also mention that I watched a far-from-uplifting documentary today on PBS called Over 50 and Out of Work. So you can see why perhaps today wasn’t the best day for people to come to me with their hands out. Especially people who weren’t even born when I graduated from college.]

The third “charity case” that scrolled by my feed today was a “hurry and donate now” plea. A very talented guy is trying to launch his own design company.  It’s an expensive venture and he lays out exactly what the costs will be. One friend who backed the Kickstarter campaign posted “This man is a creative visionary who risked it all to follow his vision.” Risked it all? He lost his job. What has he risked? If he hits his goal, he’ll be set up to start his own business on the backs of all his friends. He hasn’t risked anything at all. Reaching his $25,000 goal doesn’t look good; he has about 24 hours left to close a $15,000 gap. If he’d asked for $10,000 — still an impressive sum — he’d have his cash. Or if he’d gone with Indiegogo instead, he’d get whatever amount people could afford to give. As it is, he may receive nothing, since Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” funding platform.

Over the past year I’ve donated money to people’s charity bike rides, helped fund playa-bound art projects, supported live-work spaces and attended fundraising parties for numerous Burning Man camps. However, I’ve passed over hundreds of crowdsourcing campaigns asking me to fund everything from pet care to funeral costs.  I find it all appalling.

I get it. The economy is crap. One percent of the population controls 98% of the wealth. Or whatever. The bottom line is: people are broke. I’m broke! So how is it that anyone has the money to support these people? I’ve joked that if everyone just took a $20 out of their pockets and passed it to the person next to them, we could all feel as though we’d successfully participated in crowdsourcing money for each other.

One of the most irksome fundraising campaigns I’ve ever been invited to “donate” to was for an established commercial business. They’ve had a successful brick-and-mortar store for over 20 years and often vend at festivals. In this instance they were looking to construct, decorate, accessorize and stock a “photo booth” for an event, much like those old-timey sepia photos where you dress up like a cowboy or a saloon girl. So I was supposed to give them money so they could charge me $35 to get my photo taken in the booth I had helped them create? And then spend another $300 for one of their garments? Galling!

I guess what it really boils down to is this: I would love to have people pay me for every blog post I make. Believe me, I’d be blogging every day! I’d also love 1000 of my closest friends to kick in $25 each so I could spend the next year creating a business instead of stressing out about money 24 hours a fucking day. I’d love to start my own online publication. Open my own store. Or a bar! I’d love everyone I know to support me in realizing my dreams. But there is no way I would ever ask. It is my responsibility to take care of myself. To realize — and fund — my own dreams. And I kinda can’t believe other people don’t feel the same way.

So. Am I just a cranky old cunt? No. Wait. We’ve already established that I am, indeed, a cranky old cunt. But am I also a dream crusher? Am I raining on these peoples’ parades? Pooh-poohing their dreams and aspirations? Is it a question of “It doesn’t hurt to ask”? I don’t know. Seriously. Am I the only person who finds this stuff offensive?

21 responses to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

  1. Honey, I feel the same way. I’ve had people ask me to donate to their kickstarter to fund their security deposits on new apartments. I can’t blame them for asking, but I can and will say no, unless I find whatever it is to be particularly inspirational. *grumble-grumble-grumble*

  2. NO u are not, I am younger and I look at these people like are you fucking kidding me, seriously, what ivory tower of delusion did u come down from? do you also need ur ass wiped and to be told what the definition of “hard work” is? I never take anything from anyone and I am an “extremely” giving person but there is a difference from someone who has a hand out and someone who REALLY needs help or as my brother just said “they are wankers” lol

  3. The Boy Scouts of America have this one figured out. Have parents pay for their child to join and then use them to beg people to buy popcorn outside every store in town for the next 12 months. Whoever sells the most gets a plastic toy from China. People are ridiculous and technology has made it easier for people to beg. They don’t have to sit out in the freezing rain or snow like the children.

    How about that couple you mention save all their beer cans and turn them in for recycling for cash…..just a thought.

  4. Sheryl Shoshana

    This post Abby really hit home as I have a close friend who I’ve know for over 20 years who wants to raise first 300,000 on Kickstarter for a documentary he wants to create. After he didn’t meet that goal, he then switched to Indiegogo for a 25,000 goal. Here’s the thing: I flew to his wedding, stayed in the boutique hotel he requested I stay in, gave a nice gift and not even an email thank you has arrived (3 years later). Am I holding a grudge? Not really. I mean…if you want others to help fund your ‘dreams’, then stop being so damn selfish. We all have dreams and many of them cost money. Go get a loan or something.

  5. Sheryl Shoshana

    Follow-up to last comment I made: “Said friend” is touting how much time he is sacrificing to make this film…um…yeah, shit takes work. Ugh, I am a curmudgeon huh?

  6. Five years ago I held an art auction to earn money for one of my Burning Man projects, and in June 2013 I did a bike ride where I asked people to pledge money to CancerCare. I feel that my requests are not offensive, yet being constantly asked for money from others is a problem for me. Why is that? The line deciding what is a legit fundraiser and what is not has to be drawn somewhere. My line is that the money I requested benefitted others as well as myself. When people ask for money for a business venture, vacation or to pay bills it is incredibly annoying. I completely agree with you that this is out of hand.

    • I’ve supported peoples’ art projects and charity bike rides for the same reasons: they’re for the “greater good.” I don’t recall you or Carl asking people to help set up your business; you did it on your own! Which is an press ice achievement! I was even a little irked about helping with the “live-work space.” Why should I donate and then be charged admission? But I gave because I believe in the need for underground venues — again, the greater good. Three more requests came through yesterday, all to help pay strangers’ rents. Totally irritating.

  7. THANK YOU, Abby! No, you are not the only one.

  8. I was going to mention that we started a business without funding it by crowdsourcing but I didn’t want to sound holier than thou. So, thanks for mentioning it for me. I think it is wrong to ask for money for a for profit business even if it is a venue for performances and artistic whatnot. The greater good in that case is secondary to paying the rent on someone’s home or finishing thier bathroom for them. At the end of the day they are still pocketing the cash.

  9. why does (do) the solicitations for money surprise you or anyone else commenting here? isn’t this a byproduct of social networking or just being….out there? abby, you have at least 3 sources for commentary–twitter, gasm, and your blog; you’re all over the internet. it should hardly be a revelation–or a source of irritation–that people, for whatever reason, come a calling with hat in hand.

  10. so in other words, you’re blogging about what is essentially…..spam?
    watch out Nigerians!, abby’s gunnin’ for you!

  11. i knew that, based on what you wrote and the other commenteers. you’re griping about requests from people you, for whatever reason, have allowed into your circle, in other words, “friends.” what does this say about you or the nature of your friends? and if they’re your friends, why complain about them?

  12. i’m not the one complaining about my friends.

  13. OH… lordy! I have just tried to leave a comment on the latest post where some ‘lovely’ reader called you the female dog word… why.. why are some women so fucking mean! Huh.. well, we all have our own life to live and it certainly helps if we have a ‘little’ help along the way in the way of aiding abd abetting.. and YOU dear woman, you certainly aid and abet my life by making me laugh.. and as for friends, well, my clever mother taught me the old adage.. never a borrower or lender be ( she was talking about money ).
    Stay well.. my Blog writing ‘friend’.

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