Is It Okay To Crowd-fund My Entire Life?

It’s a slippery slope from crowdfunding charitable ventures to crowdfunding dream adventures. If it’s okay to ask our virtual village to help us out in our time of need or with seed money in our time of entrepreneurship, who not ask for donations towards a less altruistic dream? At this point in my adult life I have pitched in for countless honey-funds, group baby shower gifts, virtual bachelorette parties, IRL graduation gifts, post surgery gift baskets… the list goes on.  I don’t mind contributing to these things—in fact I have been the organizer behind many an effort—but I can’t help bristling up at some of the requests that come my way.  If it’s okay for that person to ask for money for THAT, why can’t you ask everyone you know to help pay for your dream vacation? Are there ways to make these calls for generosity without looking tactless and out of touch or, worse yet, greedy?

Let’s start with something we have touched on before: alternative wedding registries and how to use them.  Everyone has their own feelings about this and what might seem tacky to one person might be expected by another. Different cultures have different gift traditions and a multicultural celebration might involve some juggling between customs. A dear friend has asked me multiple times to discuss the tradition of a wishing well, which is basically a cutesy way of disguising a box for money as a well. In the words of my mother “that must be a yankee thing because I have never heard of it.” Sounds like a great idea right?  Everyone likes a good play on words. And it is a great idea, but not if you have also set up a traditional registry and/or a variety of other contribution formats.

I’ll be honest here, a honeymoon fund (or down payment fund) is just a way to try and make yourself more comfortable asking for cash. Is it tacky? Not initially, but if you aren’t thoughtful about the ask it can start to seem that way.  Even if you set up your fund so your invited guests can pay for part of an expenditure, only having big ticket items (plane tickets, hotel rooms, couples massages) can seem a little out of touch. Try to make sure their are a variety of contribution levels.   And whatever you do, don’t broadcast your fund beyond the confines of your guest list.  

Marriage doesn’t have to come before baby, so what about baby gift related funds?   For those of us who live in tiny metropolitan apartments, physical gifts can be an inconvenience. The bassinet that is practical for your first cousins 3 bed 2 bath ranch house in the suburbs might not work in your 1.5 bedroom in a converted row-house. And if you live continents away from your extended family mailing a Jolly Jumper overseas is expensive and impractical. If you best pals or siblings want to throw you a shower but actually can’t because you are spread across continents and time zones is it in poor taste to create virtual space for people to contribute and send well wishes?  Not at all. Before you go setting this up for your ex-pat bestie, be thoughtful about who you extend the invitation/request to. It might require some light social network stalking and may be a challenge if you are setting up the fund as a surprise, but don’t go sending out a blanket request to everyone on someone’s Facebook list. We keep people in our networks for a variety of reasons, but if your contact since that last party in college has been limited to only the very occasional Facebook like you probably don’t want to go asking for a contribution.

So, what about the rest of life? I’m not getting married or having children anytime soon… can I crowdfund a vacation? What about my own down payment on a house I am buying as a badass single lady?  What about my student loans? (Just an FYI: if everyone I’m internet friends with gave my five dollars I could do some serious damage on my student loans). I mean, sure, you can crowd fund whatever you want, but you can’t control the way people are going to react to it. They might applaud your initiative or they might think you are completely ridiculous.  And you are free to feel this way about anyone you know who might come knocking on your inbox for tithes to the church of their life.

At the end of the day no one is forcing you to pry open your wallet and hand over a dollar or more. If you feel like you are being hit up for cash gifts from the most distant of acquaintance you are free to ignore it, roll your eyes and decide to yourself that that person has no class.  When your life events find you in the position of trying to say “cash gifts only” go forth without feeling like a Greedy McMoneygrubber. Keep it simple, thoughtful, and most importantly, optional.