Lucy Mangan

“When did crowdfunding get so selfish?” Lucy Mangan on why she dislikes online fundraising

Posted by
Lucy Mangan
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

If she had spent hours honing it with the single, laser-focused intention of pushing all my buttons, she couldn’t have done better. The email from my (not close, and about to become very much uncloser) friend asked for crowdfunding contributions towards her start-up homeopathy business.

Some thoughts. One – I am not giving you money to sell water. Not now, not ever.

Two – why is this not even the most unreasonable request for my money I’ve had this week? I could also elect (not) to fund a personalised pencil case business (to be launched by someone keen to “make a living from home so I don’t have to commute for 90 minutes a day”), someone who wants to make a short film “about life” and another who wants to “upgrade her flooring”.

Crowdfunding is the new scourge of our age. As my (sort of) friend’s email came through, I was watching a couple of “off-grid” parents on morning TV explain that they were asking people to donate the capital (£100,000 please!) that would allow them to start the self-sustainable life in Costa Rica they’ve always dreamed about (current donations: £145).

Should I choose not to gift them or a variety of other cheeky bastards on any of my disposable income, I could instead disperse it via a wide range of others on Kickstarter, GoFundMe or IndieGoGo. There you can find people asking for money towards new cars, honeymoons, breast implants, and just about any other absurdity in between.

Online fundraising for projects is now worth billions a year. But what began as a way of raising money for good works or commercial ventures that couldn’t command the attention of big backers, and which promised involvement, early access, the gentle thrill of a mini-gamble and other perks for investors has now become subject to the kind of mission creep that suggests most solicitors of funds should be hived off to a new site, With an ever-increasing percentage of requests there’s no pretence that it’s for the greater good of anyone but the shiny-car-deprived, recently affianced or flat-chested panhandler in question. It is just begging. And it’s ridiculous, and it’s got to stop.

I would like to crowdfund an investigation into where people get the nerve to ask others to fund their chosen fantasy lifestyles from. I’ll need £10,000 from the public for a team of university researchers – or £1.50 from the back of the sofa for a bag of chips, and I’ll do it myself after lunch.

OK, I’m back, and the chips were lovely, thanks (I live my dreams – they are cheap and self-financed).

Once again, I suspect that the anonymity offered by the internet has allowed people to set their inner dickhead free, this time to run around holding its hat out asking for money. Which is, admittedly, an improvement over the times the liberated inner dickhead just runs around the internet with its dick out, but still not great.

So before you log your batshit request, ask yourself what you should always ask yourself before you put something on the internet; would I do/say/ask this face to face? Imagine the face – my face – if you said, “Give me money to upgrade my flooring” to it in real life. Imagine the follow-up questions to “I think sticking felt letters on a pencil case is a viable business plan because I don’t like the bus.” And then crowdfund yourself a modicum of shame.