GoFundMe needs to have a reality check

Photo credit: Joshua Kim

One of the greatest advantages of technology is the ability to bring communities together, regardless of how spatially separated the individuals may be. This allows cyber communities to share in each other’s lives, both the good and bad parts, and contribute to one another when needed.

GoFundMe is an online platform that is perfect for this. The site touts itself as being the No. 1 resource for online fundraising and crowdfunding. Just about anyone with a Facebook account has seen how a GoFundMe campaign can help those online rally around a member of a community who needs support, especially when the campaign is promoted via social media. These online fundraising campaigns have been started to support people experiencing things like medical emergencies, loss of a home and unexpected funeral expenses. GoFundMe, and similar sites, have become a hub for aiding members of communities who really need it.

There is, however, a downside to online crowdfunding. Most fundraising sites don’t have a system set up to monitor what the campaigns are raising money for. Sometimes, people create campaigns for really stupid things, and sometimes others actually donate to them.

A quick Google search turns up too many ridiculous GoFundMe campaigns, including a woman asking for people to help pay for a $362 Uber ride and a silly, albeit humorous, 2015 campaign to help rapper Meek Mills pay for a diss track against fellow musician Drake.

The open nature of GoFundMe allows for campaigns that are funny and can make a bold statement, but they aren’t necessarily responsible things to encourage people to spend money on. Rather than spending money on people with very real needs, GoFundMe users can get distracted with humor and frivolous ways to waste money.

On a more personal scale, Facebook feeds are ripe with requests to help people pay for new smartphones, laptops, trips and other things that can be purchased with careful financial planning. These are also things that people don’t necessarily need. GoFundMe has created a way for people to take the easy way out and ask others for money rather than doing the hard thing and saving up or going without.

The top three uses of GoFundMe are medical, educational and volunteerism, according to the organization’s website. This shows that the site is a great tool for meeting people’s needs and has the capacity to bring people together. Just last month, 185 people contributed to GoFundMe to help an olympian’s single mother and disabled brother afford plane tickets to watch her run in the Rio Olympics. They understood the power of a community to support individuals with real needs.

Although GoFundMe is an open platform for people to raise money for whatever they want, users should really think about whether they’re just adding clutter to the already full news feeds of their peers. The site is a useful tool for raising money for good purposes, but there’s a fine line between being in need and being lazy.