Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

March 9, 2014

Marta Hepler Drahos: Crowdfunding reaches height of absurdity

It takes a village to raise a child — and, apparently, money for your wedding, your prom dress and even your next vacation.

Or so it would seem from some of the more self-serving fundraising campaigns popping up on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe.

If you’re not familiar with these campaigns, it’s the equivalent of dropping a few dollars in a jar for someone’s medical expenses or buying a candy bar to send a neighbor’s kid to band camp — only without getting the candy bar.

It’s like those letters you used to receive from your cousin’s daughter asking for money to help send her on her church mission trips. Only these days, instead of sending a letter, she’d send you an email or Facebook notice with a link to her online crowdfunding campaign.

You can donate as much or as little as you like, with far less fuss than it used to take to write and mail a check. And you can do your part anonymously or send your contribution with a pithy comment like, “Be sure not to drink the water!”

Best of all, your cousin’s daughter can spread the burden among strangers instead of hitting solely on friends and relatives to subsidize her mission trip.

If she’s lucky, her local newspaper will publish a story about her efforts, virtually guaranteeing that readers will support her cause.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of crowdfunding, which makes many small donations — the kind you always figured were too small to do any good — add up to one meaningful sum.

According to Fundable, which helps entrepreneurs launch new businesses by reaching their funding goals, the average successful crowdfunding campaign is around $7,000.

Many raise more, like the February campaign started by a Danvers, Mass., woman to pay for life-saving surgery on a dog abandoned at the local doggie daycare facility. Nearly 375 donors contributed a whopping $17,790 in 15 days. I know, because I was one of them.

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