Can Crowdfunding a Trip To BEA Work?

Discussion Post Stars

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?

Possible Deterrents

Societal Expectations

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).

Bitter Jealousy

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?

Different Expectations

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.


19 thoughts on “Can Crowdfunding a Trip To BEA Work?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I like your post, but I’m wary of bringing up ‘etiquette’ as a con. You get into some dicey territory, like how much has claims of etiquette been used to silence and oppress marginalized people over the years? How much has the proscription against asking for things been used to shame struggling people and prevent them from asking for help? Lots (not all, but lots) of silencing things have gone under the name of etiquette and ‘good manners.’ (See: tone policing.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Fair question. I was just pointing out that society in general still relies on questions of etiquette, so if people feel that asking for money “isn’t quite the thing to do,” they have a whole tradition backing them. You can certainly argue the tradition is wrong.


  2. rantandraveaboutbooks says:

    This is an interesting post. I can’t believe someone would have the nerve to ask for money for BEA. Unless it’s for medical or legal research, children welfare, or a charity I’m passionate about I don’t donate money for things that are considered luxuries. That’s like asking for money for a vacation, and in my opinion, that’s bad manners. My parents would be mortified if I did something like that. As far as donating money to strangers on the Internet, I have a hard time wrapping my head around that one, especially if it’s not a donation made to a legitimate organization. I like to know that my money will help someone who truly needs it.


    • Briana says:

      That was definitely the gut reaction for a lot of people. I think nearly everyone can think of a situation in their life where they were secretly appalled someone was asking for something they read as “greedy,” like a kid demanding an X-box for Christmas, or a couple putting a $1500 chair on their wedding registry, or whatever, and this situation seems to tie right into that.

      The real problem is that people started tweeting about it, and it escalated. If we’re going to be all worried about manners here, then telling someone you think THEY have terrible manners and are greedy isn’t quite the right response. I think anyone who thinks it’s not really in good taste is better off shaking their heads and moving on. If other people disagree and want to put their money toward it, that’s their choice.

      I’m honestly surprised this has been so controversial, in that sense.

      You do raise a good point about not being able to know quite who you’re donating to on the Internet, too. I imagine this is definitely the blogger and she’s definitely going to BEA, but there have been circumstances of people using GoFundMe pages for scams.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rantandraveaboutbooks says:

        I’m surprised enough people cared to make an issue of it. I would be the person who shook their head and scrolled right past it. I’ve heard the same thing about reporting those types of scams to the FBI. It’s a shame that it’s come to not being able to trust that people are who they say they are.


        • Briana says:

          The irony, of course, is that since everyone made a big fuss about how terrible it was, everyone heard about it, and the blogger probably got more donations than ever. The complaints are free publicity.

          I definitely only donate to actual organizations. I’m happier with more oversight with what’s being done with my money.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. jubilare says:

    My thoughts are perfectly encapsulated in your last paragraph! I have contributed to Kickstarter (Reading Rainbow! In schools!). And I helped a friend through a GoFundMe account to cover funeral expenses for the sudden death of a relative.

    The existence of crowd funding is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows people to ask for help without the awkwardness (for both parties) of asking someone, in person, for money. On the other hand, it eliminated the awkwardness of asking someone, in person, for money… Which means that it can be used both when people really need to use it, and when people really shouldn’t.

    And that is where the voting by dollars comes in. ^_^


    • Briana says:

      I agree. The conversation on Twitter got weird with people saying things like “We don’t know if the blogger needs to be at BEA” and “What you think is necessary in life isn’t what other people thing is necessary.” But I don’t think there’s really such a thing as “relative necessity.” No one needs to be at BEA. The other route was to pitch it as “It’s a professional conference where she can promote her business.” I haven’t been to BEA, but from what I can tell, bloggers go to meet up with each other, eat dinner, and get ARCs. Also, more book blogs are not really “businesses.” It’s nice if she can go. It’s fine it people wanted to donate. But I do understand the gut reaction a lot of people had–including myself–which is that our society still finds it a little rude when people ask for things they do not need.

      I tried to be fairly neutral in my post because 1) the blogger felt attacked online apparently, and she’s a teen who doesn’t deserve that and 2) clearly a lot of people donated and didn’t think this was out of line at all. I think that’s worth acknowledging. But I definitely would never consider starting such an crowdfunding campaign myself because I’d feel really uncomfortable and embarrassed asking people to fund my entertainment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jubilare says:

        Agreed. I would say that it is rather tasteless and selfish, but that’s why I wouldn’t crowdfund it. And that other people did, is not really something for me to judge.
        The problem comes up when, as you point out, those who would feel uncomfortable asking for money for such a thing would not get to go. It is a little like being punished for being considerate.
        Then again, that’s pretty much always the way when considerate and inconsiderate people are in competition.😛


        • Briana says:

          I think that’s where the frustration kicked in and people started publicly complaining about it. If you’re in the camp who thinks this kind of thing it’s tasteless, it’s very easy to sit back and think, “Wait, so all I have to do is be rude, and I’ll get the things I want?!” Seems unfair. But attacking someone else for their lack of manners also seems ill-mannered.😉 I would just not donate and be bitter in private.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. klyse3 says:

    You know how some blogs have a “buy me a coffee” button? Or have Patreon subscribers who donate? I’d see this BEA thing (which I didn’t previously know about), as just an extension of that. The people who donated were probably people who appreciate that blogger’s content and wanted to give back. While I probably wouldn’t donate money to some kid’s spring break trip, if I followed a blogger and read their free content every week (or multiple times a week), I’d feel like they deserved some money for all the free entertainment/education I’ve gotten out of their hard work.

    Will some people be offended? Of course. But I don’t think it’s wrong.


    • Krysta says:

      And it’s your choice if you want to support them! I haven’t been following the kerfuffle, but I find the concept of getting angry over people asking for/giving money bizarre. If people want to give money to a cause someone else thinks isn’t great…well, it’s their money. Maybe they see something worthwhile in the cause.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Briana says:

        That’s the thing. A lot of people thought it was ridiculous. (Maybe it IS ridiculous.) But what’s not is that she actually got the money. So who’s laughing now? ;p


  5. Katie Wilkins (@DoingDewey) says:

    Personally, this isn’t something I’d donate to because A) if I were going to pay for someone to go to BEA, it would be me and B) I do prefer to support crowdfunding requests for essentials. However, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a blogger asking for help making this trip and I do think people giving them a hard time instead of just moving on are being rude. If you don’t believe in crowdfunding luxuries, speak with your money and maybe even stop following the blogger if you feel it necessary, but no need to call them out for their decision.


    • Briana says:

      Yeah, I’m not going partially for financial reasons, so donating to other people isn’t really going to work for me either. :p But I agree that just not donating is more reasonable than harassing the poor person on Twitter.


  6. Allison @ The Book Wheel says:

    I missed all of this but it seems more legit than the crowdfunding effort I saw for the girl whose books were ruined and wanted everyone to send her her old ARC’s so she could fill her shelves up (it didn’t appear she was planning to read any them).


    • Briana says:

      …I hadn’t heard of that. I definitely would be devastated if I lost all my books, but I would just try to build my library back up in some other way.


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