I’m fully prepared for what you might be about to call me: selfish, unkind, a bad person. I’m ready for backlash in the comments section and a reprimand from my mom about how I should “stop being so mean on the Internet.” But I feel unequivocal about this: I am tired of being asked to crowdfund people’s dreams.
I get emails, texts, tweets, and personalized Facebook messages from friends and acquaintances asking for money at least once a week. Here are a few things that people have attempted to crowdfund, according to an informal poll of my friends and colleagues: a passion project that involved buying a farm and livestock; an extravagant vacation (this came up more than once); the production of a noise punk band’s latest EP (donors were promised a cassette tape); and an over-the-top destination wedding. The list goes on.
Say what you want about me — that I’m a crappy friend because I didn’t contribute to your music video or give “just $10” to some guy from college so he can buy the yurt he always wanted — but your dream is not my problem.
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I truly believe we make one another better by helping each other, and that we owe this to our fellow humans. To be clear, the problem isn’t with people asking for help. The problem is the expectation that we should give money to help others meet their goals — and that anyone who doesn’t is cheap and uncaring.
Can we all agree not to look down on people when they decline a fundraising invite? Can we just be friends and not amateur investors? Can we decide for ourselves how to spend our money?
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When I make a contribution, it aligns with my values. I’m happy to donate funds to help people in crisis or to make the world better through a nonprofit venture. Are you raising money for gender-affirming surgery because your state doesn’t require health insurance to cover this necessary medical treatment? Take my money. Starting a camp to teach girls how to play guitar and cultivate self-esteem? Name your price. Running a 5k to benefit a local dog rescue? Yeah, sure, I’ll pitch in. But your backpacking trip and personal consulting business are your responsibility. I won’t buy your plane ticket or your business cards.
Instead of coming to me, someone who is not particularly flush with cash or interested in entrepreneurship, why don’t you try tapping an actual investor? There are plenty of investment pros who are actively looking to invest in businesses — go talk to them. If your idea is viable, they might throw money at you. That’s a much better predictor of success than guilting your Facebook friends into donating.
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I am happy to support my friends in non-monetary ways. I’ll read your manuscript, go to your shows, and test recipes for your new hummus stand. I’ll talk you up to everyone I know, give you my shoulder to cry on when you’re sad, or help you plan your backpacking excursion. I’ll even help you figure out how to apply for an SBA loan. I believe this is the kind of support we should expect from friends. Because that’s what we are: friends, not backers.
Let’s go get coffee and talk. I’ll cover the snacks if you promise not to pitch me.