Saturday, February 24, 2018
Opinion

Crowdfunding takes a selfish turn

The Statue of Liberty stands as a symbol of what's best about our country and the freedom it has offered so many. But it was only when I visited Lady Liberty for the first time recently that I discovered something else she represents: an early example of crowdfunding. A display in the museum on Liberty Island describes how, in 1885, Joseph Pulitzer ran an appeal to readers of his newspaper the New York World for funds to build the statue's pedestal. Some 125,000 Americans answered the call, with most of them contributing $1 or less, and the statue got its base.

That is exactly the kind of endeavor crowdfunding should finance: a project for the benefit of a larger community that wouldn't be possible without a group effort. But today, some crowdfunding is taking a narcissistic turn.

Some crowdfunding websites have strict rules for what kinds of projects are eligible. Kickstarter, for example, allows only "creative projects," and "does not allow charity, cause or 'fund my life' projects." But other sites have fewer restrictions. GoFundMe encourages its users "to raise money for themselves, a friend or loved one during life's important moments." And in November, Bucquistador was launched for individuals to fundraise for their "bucket lists." As the website puts it: "Say you'd like to take a trip to Africa, and you think it's going to cost $3,000. You can create a campaign for that goal."

That sounds appealing on the surface. But it neglects some of the most basic tenets that have defined crowdfunding up to now.

Throughout history there have been important endeavors that needed support. The arts, for example, have often relied on patronage. Sometimes, the support has come from individual benefactors, such as the Medicis, who helped spur the Italian Renaissance with their support for artists, including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. And sometimes it comes from collections of people or organized nonprofit groups. Modern organizations such as Kickstarter, Crowdrise and Fundable have broadened the availability of patronage for aspiring artists, for charities or for business start-ups.

The problem with some sites, though, is that they are used, in effect, to create gift registries even when there's no special occasion for the gift.

There is great variation in the ways crowdfunding companies reap their profits. While most take a percentage of the funds raised (often in the range of 4 percent to 5 percent), some sites won't collect on pledges unless the fundraising target is met, which means the sites — and those hoping to raise money - get nothing unless the goal is met. Others disperse any funds raised to the fundraiser, whether or not the goal is reached, which means the company gets its 4% no matter what — and that donors are on the hook whether or not enough funds are raised to complete a project.

A website's potential for financial gain may provide it with an incentive to allow a broad range of fundraising. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to buy in.

I say, let's continue to crowdfund. But instead of giving that $25 to someone who wants to go bungee jumping, donate instead to the young woman who is working on a documentary about autism, or the couple hoping to bring a locally sourced food truck to their city.

Lady Liberty, I'm betting, would agree.

Lara Krupicka is a journalist and the author of the ebook Family Bucket Lists. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

Comments
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18