Crowdfunding delicate balance

I’m still trying to understand this whole crowdfunding phenomenon. If you’re not familiar with this term, it means asking a bunch of people for money for something you want (or perhaps need), probably through the use of various Internet sites dedicated to this specific purpose.

Certainly there’s a long history of communities coming together to give material or financial support to individuals such as wedding gifts, baby showers or graduation presents. But I think the difference is that here, we are talking about a voluntary contribution, usually at some sort of life milestone.

This is why when bridal registries first came out, they were considered a breach of etiquette, because you were essentially giving people a shopping list and telling them what to buy for you. The same argument was used against asking for money; it was considered crass — the equivalent of standing on the roadside with a sign asking for handouts.

Nobody really likes being asked directly for money — think of the dreaded office collection. I once worked in a place that had an “advisory committee,” and you were expected to pay dues each month that would in turn go toward birthdays, welcome plants for new employees, retirement gifts, etc. It had gotten out of control, and eventually people just stopped paying.

On the flip side, I suppose in a broad sense, there’s no harm in asking and honestly stating your need, as long as you don’t badger people into contributing.

(I’m writing this as the local community radio station is having its fall fund drive. I haven’t pledged yet, despite being a regular listener, which I suppose makes me kind of a leech.)

Along with not guilting people into giving is demonstrating why something is of value. I don’t like panhandlers, but I do appreciate the street entertainers all over Bloomington.

From the farmer’s market to the Lotus music festival, you will see everything from bagpipes, magicians, juggling, belly dancers, fire spinners and people composing poetry on the spot. I appreciate their guts and can probably cough up a spare few dollars for their performances.

I also admire entrepreneurs with unique, and sometimes odd, ideas. I have a coworker who is planning to quit her job next year and travel around, living in a van by herself, making hula hoops and selling them at festivals. She is going to start a blog and a GoFundMe account.

I imagine I’ll find a way to contribute something so that I can live vicariously through her experiences.

(I’m totally not making this whole thing up. It’s this kind of stuff that causes me to say that I don’t write fiction because I don’t have to. Sometimes I think of myself as not a very interesting person because in Bloomington, I’m up against some pretty stiff competition.)

I have a friend whose high school-aged son has been selected into a program as a music ambassador and has the opportunity to travel to Europe. He is a dedicated and talented musician who has worked very hard at practicing his craft. I look forward to being able to contribute to the fund for him to be able to enjoy the honor he deserves.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website,