If You Ask People To Pay For Your Vacations, You Deserve To Be Hated

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As often happens now with money-related news that makes you want to throw your laptop out the window, a few people sent me this story over the weekend. Apparently, there is a rising trend of using crowdsourcing sites and general friend-and-family nagging to get people to pay for things like vacations, honeymoons, bachelorette parties, recreational classes, and any number of things that your Facebook community should not be paying for. From the article,

“There’s a stigma against asking people for money,” Ms. Chan says, explaining that she is normally a shy person and really broke out of her shell when she turned to the crowdfunding website GoFundMe.com. She hopes to study to be an acrobat.

Now, Ms. Chan is already right about a lot of things here, not the least of which her assertion that “there is a stigma against asking people for money.” Yes, that’s true. There is a stigma against going around to people, usually in your immediate community, and asking them for their hard-earned money (which they could use to fund any number of their own projects) to supplement yours. There is a stigma against that because, as we can all understand, people value their money. People have things they’d like to spend it on, and when it comes to the end of the month, most of us only have a limited amount of discretionary funds for things like vacations, bachelorette parties, or acrobat classes. Those funds, generally, we’d like to use for ourselves.

So the stigma is there for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that crowdfunding isn’t, in many circumstances, an important and useful thing. As someone who is currently a patron of several creative projects I’m a fan of, I’m happy to give those couple of dollars a month here and there to help my favorite podcasts, or educational material, or whatever else it may be. And that’s my choice. But I also know that part of the reason I am happy to give money to these people and projects is because they have always simply made the option to donate available, and have never harassed or guilted their audience into doing it. And it’s also because they have put an enormous amount of their own work forward to create something, and are asking for money as a way to sustain it (and themselves). In these cases, this project is all or part of their livelihood, and they’ve accomplished quite a lot before ever asking for help.

I believe, when it comes to projects and professional things, there is nothing wrong with asking for some help in the way you might ask for an actual investment. Obviously I’m not being offered equity for donating to a podcast, but I do get things in return (such as bonus episodes), and I know that I am contributing to the livelihood of two people in exchange for the work they do, and I enjoy. I am not being promised a swaggy Facebook album of Jenny’s Bachelorette Bonanza in Palm Springs in exchange for having given them 20 dollars to make it the Best Day Ever for Jenny. These two situations are incomparable, and one is profoundly insulting.

Because we’re not talking about people making a living, we’re talking about them doing something fun, such as acrobat classes or a trip to Portugal. These are things all of us want to do, and have limited means to accomplish, so we must pick and choose in our own lives. We’re also not getting anything in return, such as an artistic project or new invention. We’re just getting the satisfaction, I guess, of knowing that that guy on your Facebook is going to take his new bride to Thailand for an all-inclusive resort vacation.

And this is bullshit. It’s bullshit because it’s disrespectful, it’s bullshit because it’s an abuse of the crowdfunding system, and it’s bullshit because it guilts people into contributing to something for you that they might not even spend on for themselves. Honestly, if someone on my social media was asking people to chip in for their honeymoon, I’d probably immediately wish them both food poisoning on a beach somewhere. It’s just so incredibly gauche, and considering that these people are not running a popular creative project that they’d like sponsored, they’re not speaking to an audience. All of this gauche-ness is happening within their community of friends, family, ex-coworkers, acquaintances, people you met at a party, and everything else that makes up your Facebook feed. You are shaking a can at people you know to do something fun, not tapping into the audience you’ve worked hard to build (or asking the internet community at-large to take interest in your idea).

No one gives a shit if your bachelorette party is sOoOo amazing. No one gives a shit if you enjoy your vacation to walk the Inca Trail. No one gives a shit if you want to take up the clarinet. People want to work hard for their money, and save their discretionary income for things that will actually make them happy. And some of that might come in the form of crowdfunding, but that probably entails things they already want to enjoy and see more of. It’s not at all the same as what you’re asking for with a crowdfunded vacation, and to conflate the two is to chip away at the already-abused crowdfunding system.

I can guarantee that, if you’ve had the audacity to post one of these requests for Fun Money, a lot of people secretly hate you. They think you are gauche and greedy and disrespectful of their hard-earned money. And they are right to feel that way. Because the only people who wouldn’t be offended by the idea of you begging for money for a fucking bachelorette party (lol) are people you should be asking individually, by phone or email. These people are called your family, and people who are actually participating in the event. Most of us have been to bachelorette parties, and they’re already a form of crowdfunding in themselves, in the sense that you’re contributing a bunch of money for the collective greater good of a dozen-plus screaming women you barely know. The idea of doing the same and not being able to at least get drunk out of it is nothing short of an insult.

So if you’re thinking of pressing “publish” on your request for a bunch of people to chip in so that you can go learn the art of masquerade in New Orleans, or create a giant glass sculpture of Jeff Bridges at Burning Man, reconsider. No amount of money you might gather from the month-plus of digital begging is going to be worth the shame and ill will you will accrue from your social circles. Leave your Facebook friends alone, and respect their money. And if you want that badly to go on a trip to Hawaii, pay for that shit yourself. And once you start saving in earnest, I guarantee you’ll realize how much it would piss you off to have to contribute 20 bucks to someone else’s dream vacation.

Image via Pexels

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  • Taylor

    The link to the story in the first paragraph is broken

  • Roselyne

    Word.

    With the caveat that I’ll support friends crowdfunding for emergencies. Recently, for example, a friend’s spouse was diagnosed with a chronic illness that has left them functionally disabled and requiring many months of physical therapy to be able to re-learn how to do things like walk and speak. My friend did a ‘oh shit, we need to move into an accessible apartment and buy a wheelchair on suddenly-one-income we are so screwed help pls’ fundraiser, and that, I’m totally willing to support.

    • Rosabella Alvarez-Calderon

      In Peru, an old crowdfunding system already exists which for decades has helped people to raise money for medical emergencies, a new roof, and many different things: the “pollada”, or chicken party. How does it work? You buy the supplies wholesale (especially beer!), people volunteer their time, and throw a party to sell the chicken and beer. So you get at least a delicious dish of chicken and salad “with all the sauces”, and sometimes even a good party in exchange for yoour monetary contribution.

  • Totally agree with this Chelsea. The entitlement is sickening, and what’s even more pathetic is that people claim to not know how rude and tacky this is!

  • chadias

    I had seen this kind of crowdfunding but in very specific situations… before anything like that happened on the internet. A few about-to-marry couples doing it because instead of conventional presents because they married after living together for many years, so the usual presents (at least in Brazil) that are geared towards newlyweds building a home from scratch made no sense. So they received anonymous contributions in money from the guests to pay for their honeymoon directly in the travel agency.
    Other times, a rich aunt or grandma chooses to give the whole honeymoon as the present.
    So when I opened this article, I was kind of thinking “isn’t this too harsh?”…
    But I get the point perfectly now!
    I just can’t believe this even exists or works, it’s so out of my reality, why would anyone give money like that? I get it as a birthday present or something, but this does not make sense at all to me.

  • Summer

    This has been an ever-increasing pet peeve of mine. A few months ago, a then-coworker was on the verge of accepting a marketing and operations position with a small resort in Fiji. She’d had an internship in Fiji over the summer of 2014 and hadn’t shut up about it since, so everyone was sure she’d accept. It paid very little (less than 20k/yr, if memory serves), but lodging and meals would be included, and they’d pay for visa and flight expenses if she stayed longer than 6 months. She was concerned about the low wages, which is fair, but when she started talking about launching a crowdfunding campaign, I had to protest. I told her to think about it from the perspective of everyone else: What would we get out of this? She wasn’t asking for money to launch a new product or service, nor could she pitch it from the perspective of traveling somewhere to do charitable work or whatever other angle people try to come up with for this type of thing. Nope, she was voluntarily moving to a beautiful destination for a paying job. No incentive whatsoever for anyone to give her money for that. I told her straight-up it was dumb. Luckily, she shelved the idea and ultimately turned down the job.

    It blows my mind that some people have the audacity to launch these self-indulgent campaigns in the first place. Yeah, sure, it’ll be a real honor for me to give you money so you can go on vacation while I sit at home looking at my sad bank account. Ugh.

    • That’s so weird. I actually would not have had a problem with that campaign if it were for help with moving costs and rent etc. Money is often a deterrent for people trying to move up the job ladder (especially for women) and I wouldn’t have had a problem contributing to that. But if her essentials were being provided, what exactly was she asking for…?

      • Summer

        Hmm, I can sort of agree with you when looking at it from that perspective (which I hadn’t been). But my friend was looking for spending money, essentially, which is why I had such a problem with it. This was not a move up the ladder for her, rather an almost 50% pay cut from the job she was already working (also in marketing, so this wasn’t even a way for her to “break into the field” or anything). Her primary motivation for considering the job was because she also wanted to become a certified scuba instructor and could have done that in her spare time. Except that, too, would have been funded by the resort if she’d asked, and even if they had left it as her own expense, that sort of thing would fall under the category of personal hobby or educational pursuit as Chelsea discussed in her article, IMO. Ie; why should I help pay for your dive instructor lessons when maybe I’m interested in hiring a German language tutor for myself?

        Had it been a real, viable, promising opportunity for her, with the funds indeed going towards moving expenses and giving her an honest leg up, then fine. But it was an “omg you guys I’m going to live in Fiji and go to Australia and New Zealand all the time” sort of thing. I couldn’t advocate for her soliciting money to island hop.

  • MissLilly

    well it’s one of those arguments that it’s not so black and white. yes I totally agree with you that it’s a disrespect towards real needs (like someone trying to start a proper business). But if people are doing that it means that there’s someone else actually funding it, which I find even more surprising! I would be willing to fund a friend if for whatever reason he/ she really wanted to do a certain trip but couldn’t save enough money to do it. But I wouldn’t finance a stranger to use my money to just have fun, I would rather do it myself, thank you.

  • Mel

    This reminds me of a friend who started a GoFundMe for her brother and his “dream” to move to NYC. It was laughable (and, frankly, offensive), considering if he couldn’t rightly afford to move to NYC, there was not a chance in hell he could afford to actually live there.

  • Charlotte Dow

    Yes. Thank you. I especially hate people who do this who could very easily save the money themselves. I’m happy to help with “life-funding” in certain situations. For example, a friend of mine needed a little help moving to Chicago to start her comedy career. I’ve seen her work and she’s super-talented, so I’m happy to help her take it to the next level. There weren’t perks in the campaign, but I just legitimately wanted to help her out.

    I’ve seen so many worthy crowdfunding campaigns (mostly in theatre) fail due to lack of incentives. If you want people to help you out, at least throw them a signed program or a comp ticket. I’ve even contributed to charity campaigns with big names behind them that had no incentives (when they could have given away some cool shit!) and ultimately failed to reach their goals.

  • I couldn’t agree more! This kind of request is plain rude and disrespectful. As a person who loves to travel and makes significant sacrifices to do that a few times per year, I’m a little bit peeved that something like this is going on in the world. Oh well, some people have a lot of nerve!

  • See, my thinking is slightly different. I agree that asking people to fund your adventures is gauche and incredibly crass. But that’s also why I never contribute to those kinds of things. I don’t think it’s immoral to ask for money for a trip to Bora Bora, so I’m not going to stop you, but I am going to roll my eyes and keep scrolling. I think that if your friends and family wish to help you by contributing, then there must be something of value that they think they’re getting out of the experience and that’s not for me to judge. But I do know that I am not going to get value out of it, and so you won’t get any of my money. What other people do with theirs is up to them.

    Basically, I’m judging you, but it’s your business and you don’t have to care what I think.

    • Nom

      I was going to come on here to comment the same thing. Crowdfunding for Honeymoons is an exception, so long as this is in leiu of (or in additional to a small) wedding gift.

  • smoocha

    good point, awfully written. find a new career path.

  • Winterlight

    I am happy to donate to a friend who’s having an emergency, but I’m not going to pay for you to go to acrobat school. Save your own money.

  • Rose

    I agree with this, and am curious if you think sites like Honeyfund and HatchMyHouse are gauche too? Slightly different thing, since it’s a wedding gift rather than an unsolicited ask, but when I got married last year I considered them and was told a lot of people think they’re tacky. At the same time, I knew people were going to want to give us gifts, and we strongly preferred cash to stuff (already have too much stuff!). We ended up skipping the registry thing entirely and hoping people would get the hint that we preferred cash, and it worked pretty well.

    • Jean

      I do think Honeyfund and HatchMyHouse are gauche. I find your experience with skipping a registry because you have enough stuff and would prefer cash, pretty standard. There are many people and cultures that are fine with giving money as a wedding gift. These people are going to pick up either via word of mouth or lack of registry that you want cash. The people who don’t pick up on those cues generally are people who are not OK with giving money as a gift because they think it’s rude (many, many Southerners) and they are not going to give you cash even if you have a Honeyfund or HatchMyHouse. They are going to buy you something off registry that you really don’t want or need. Plus, if I want to give someone money I want them to get all of it, not 97% so someone can take a cut of it.

  • Lauren

    I completely agree. But I also think that the line can get really blurry sometimes. I go to writers conferences and they’re expensive as hell. I would never ask for money on a crowdfunding campaign. I would, however, say to my grandmothers directly by phone or email or in person, “Hanukkah is coming up. Could you pitch in and help me with this?” I did donate to a campaign from an acquaintance friend who did teach for America and needed school supplies and another who needed help paying her college tuition. Crowdfunding is abused, 100%. But I often find the line confusing with what’s ok and what’s not.

  • Lauren

    What irks me a lot more than the thing being asked for is the level of aggression. I can respect artists who say, “I’d really appreciate your contribution. It’s a big help. But please don’t feel like you have to. I don’t want anyone going into debt because of me.” I like those. What makes my furious are the aggressive ones. Those web series that have no other source of income. The ones that guilt the fans so much because they depend on donations completely.