Crowdfunding is one of the latest installments to the social media norm. Many are using websites like GoFundMe, Indiegogo and Kickstarter to raise money for their causes. They share their “campaigns” via social media in the hopes that friends, family and even strangers will donate.
A number of people have used crowdfunding to raise money for unexpected funeral costs, to pay for surgeries, to fund video games or films, or, more recently, to pay for a ride.
Crowdfunding has become the new street corner for those looking to raise a little money, albeit without a lot of the usual elements. Crowdfunding can be done from the comfort of home, yet it still has a stigma similar to that attached to those who ask for money in the old-fashioned way.
Even Troy has plenty of people looking for financial aid.
Adrian Smith, a senior music education major from Montgomery, recently created his own GoFundMe page to assist him in paying for classes. He withdrew from Troy University in 2009 and still owes about $3,000 on his account.
“Recently, I lost my job, which has given me space and time to put my life into some sort of perspective,” Smith said. “School had become the elephant in the room. I knew that with no current income that I’d have to reach out for help.
“I felt that crowdfunding would be a great way to get the help I need,” Smith said. “With over 1,700 Facebook friends, why wouldn’t this be a good way to tell my story and show how passionate I am about my education?”
Smith decided to reach out to his family and Facebook friends, using them as a springboard for his campaign. Within a week of opening the campaign, he has raised $170 of his $3,663 goal.
“I know that it will continue,” Smith said of the donations. “As the goal is closer to being met, people are more compelled to give. Friends and family want to see you do well.”
However, not all people have supported Smith in his quest to go back to school. Smith said that he has met opposition and negativity regarding his choice to crowdfund.
“People make assumptions,” Smith said. “They assume I’m lazy and don’t work. They assume I just want a handout.”
He said he struggled at first with his own decision. For some, crowdsourcing is used in emergencies to raise money for funerals or medical costs. Smith described his need to finish college as his personal fight to survive.
“They feel that if I’m not sick or dying that it isn’t important,” he said. “I believe that me getting my education is just as important as someone’s fight to survive. This is my fight to survive.”
As for advice to students, Smith encouraged those who are considering crowdfunding to not give in to public opinion.
“Don’t let anyone talk you out of it,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to share it and encourage others to share. The more you put yourself out there, the better your results will be.”
GoFundMe does not charge to use its services and does not penalize if goals are not met. The website does charge a 5 percent fee on each donation collected, and a campaign may run as long as the person wants to allow it.
Crowdfunding can be a great resource for people who are truly in need. I believe in funding worthy causes, but I draw the line at things that I consider silly like raising money for someone to buy a new car.
There are legitimate reasons to share a campaign, and I think that when considering a crowdfund you should ask yourself whether you would donate to your own cause. Without a good cause, crowdfunding can seem to be a childish way of sticking one’s hand out for money.
Anyone can visit Adrian Smith’s GoFundMe at http://www.gofundme.com/adriansos.