MURPHY: Go away, Gofundme!


Ryan Murphy , Columnist

Weddings and trips abroad– they both come at a high price. It takes time to work and save for something like that. But if working and saving are unappealing, there’s a social media solution: Gofundme. Like other crowdfunding websites, Gofundme gives people a platform to ask for money online – much more efficient than that door-to-door nonsense that the scouts do.

On Gofundme’s homepage, there are a plethora of campaigns, and many of them feature people who seem genuinely in need. Theirs are stories of the expenses that surround an untimely death, or the massive medical bills that follow a life-changing diagnosis or accident.  

Who can blame someone in such a situation for turning to the generosity of strangers? Where else are they supposed to go? If this website has been able to help people make ends meet after a family tragedy, or help a sick child get her medicine, I’m all for it. There’s something beautiful about people coming together to support a fellow human being.  

I have a bone to pick with the less urgent pleas, however.  Let’s start with weddings.  They don’t have to be expensive. If you wanted to be extremely frugal, you could have the whole thing over with at the courthouse for about $200. If you do want to go through with the big ceremony and reception, you should either wait until you can afford it or plan something less extravagant. It’s probably a bad omen, anyway, to begin a marriage begging.  

And then there are the honeymoons. If you don’t have the money to travel right now, here’s a novel idea: don’t travel right now! It’s really almost comical how deserving some of these people pretend to be.

That’s part of the irony of this website. There are cases of extreme need – a poor family didn’t have life insurance for their young daughter, and after she passed tragically and unexpectedly, they were faced with the cost of burial. Next to them are people who want to visit Paris.  

Some of the appeals that raise my eyebrows are for study abroad trips. It might be very clear in the description that the donations will only be used for the airplane ticket or the cost of tuition, but it can’t be ignored that most of these trips are to countries with fantastic tourist attractions and a lower drinking age.  

I don’t begrudge anyone a good time – I just don’t want to pay for it.  There’s nothing wrong in putting off travelling until one has salary to afford it – it’s the responsible thing to do. Besides, there’s something tacky about an adult asking friends and relatives for cash.  It might have worked as a kid, but now there aren’t labor laws preventing you from earning a wage, and you aren’t cute anymore.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that anyone is using the money for what they say.  Sure, Gofundme will certify some charitable organizations, but they can’t check the receipts for the thousands upon thousands of individual users. That’s why they recommend only donating to those you “personally know and trust.”

Gofundme is only a tool, and people can use tools for good or bad, or they can just use them stupidly. Ronald Reagan famously said, “The best social program is a job.” If the users of Gofundme who just want to travel have taught me anything, it’s that the best crowdfunding program is a job.