Long Story Short
For those who do not hang out on Twitter, the short version of today’s drama is that one blogger set up a GoFundMe account to fund admission to BEA, as well as food and transportation. Other bloggers thought this was a bad idea. The differences of opinion got ugly.
Personally, I don’t follow and had not heard of the blogger in question until today; I have no opinion on them. However, I think this debate raises interesting questions about the blogosphere and how book bloggers expect this all to work. Can crowdfunding for BEA or any blog-related expense be a viable option for bloggers, or is this a huge faux pas?
The bloggers who think asking for money for a luxury trip is tacky have tradition on their side. (I know some will argue that attending BEA can count as business, but I’ll go out on a limb and say most of us are running amateur hobby blogs, and even if we’re super-serious about it, we don’t need to be at BEA. It’s a luxury.) Our society generally frowns on people asking money for things that seem unnecessary. For instance, professional etiquette experts are still torn on whether couples who have been co-habitating for five years and therefore own all essential household goods can in good conscience ask wedding guests to buy them luxury items like ski equipment in lieu of a toaster. Our society balks at things that can come across as greed (whether or not greed is actually involved).
The other problem is that many bloggers are, possibly, jealous. However, that’s not necessarily a wrong or bad emotional reaction. How one channels the emotion is more important. For bloggers who have made the decision not to attend BEA because they cannot afford it, or who have gone out of their way to get a second job and save up so they could attend, watching someone else get the money with apparently “no effort” can be frustrating. It’s tempting to ask why that person “deserves” to go more than you. Were they blogging longer? Do they have more followers? Are they more influential in the blogosphere? Are they a better blogger than you? If you think the answers to these questions are no, the sense of unfairness can add up fast.
However, it’s worth recognizing that we don’t know how most people fund their BEA trips. Did they work three jobs? Win the lottery? Get a check from a rich uncle? The rabbit hole of speculation and judging who got to BEA “legitimately” is unhelpful. So there are two options here: continue saving up and getting to BEA the way you feel most comfortable, or trying out this newfangled crowdfunding thing, too.
Why Might Crowdfunding actually work?
It turns out that societal expectations are changing. People set up GoFundMe accounts for all kinds of things: college tuition, European vacations, spring break trips. The person asking to go to BEA didn’t invent asking for funds; this blogger is joining a growing trend that indicates some people think this isn’t tacky at all. The fact that a reasonable number of people have chosen to donate shows that a significant number of people think GoFundMe accounts are actually great idea.
And why not?
People have been advocating for “random acts of kindness” for a while now. However, consider this: you can make your RAK buying someone coffee at Starbucks in the morning, a nice but transitory act, or you can spot them $10 and maybe get them to a a life-changing trip to Paris. You may think it’s uncomfortable that the person is asking to be sent to Paris, while the person at Starbucks wasn’t expecting you to pay for their coffee, but it doesn’t mean they won’t have a great time in France once they get there.
Ways to Make Crowdfunding Work for You
The bottom line is that crowdfunding can work. This blogger is getting to BEA. Somewhere out there some college kid is spending Spring Break in Mexico. It’s possible you can make it work for you, too, if you decide to go this route.
Make Your Appeal Personal
If you want people to donate to you, tell them why their donation would make a difference. Tell them why they should donate to you over anyone else who wants exactly what you do, and make sure you outline the direct benefits that you will get when you achieve your goal. Saying, “I want to go to Italy for the summer for the cultural experience” is generic. Everyone wants to go to Italy for the cultural experience. So why should it be you? Do you have close family ties there? Will going to Italy allow you to get firsthand experience to write a novel you’re working on? What’s the payoff beyond “I’m going to have fun there?”
Exhibit Your GRATITUDE
Secondly, remember that people are being kind to you. No one has to contribute to your crowdfunding page. Make sure you acknowledge this in your request for donations; be humble. And when people begin donating, be grateful. Show them they’ve invested their money in a good place, that you’re going to use it well and get a great experience out of what they’ve paid for.
But What If I Still Think Crowdfunding Blog Expenses Is Dumb?
You’re not alone. You will probably never be alone in this opinion. I admit I have never personally donated to a GoFundMe, Kickstarter, etc. However, I just don’t donate and then move on. In these cases, money often speaks louder than works. If people think the cause is worthwhile, they will donate. If they don’t, the person who started the account should look at the large $0 sign on their page and take the hint.