The Danger of 'Convenient' Generosity

A few things to consider in the era of crowdfunded giving.

BY SARAHYBETHY GLOBAL / CURRENT January 19, 2016

A few years ago, I discovered crowdfunding websites, and I’ll admit, I thought they were pretty genius. I can lay in bed, scroll through Facebook, donate $5 to a family, a cause, an emergency or whatever else. And afterward, I feel pretty darn good about how generous I am. Plus, people in need of funds can have their various needs met. It’s a win-win!

After all, being generous is a good thing, right?

Well, of course generosity is great, but is convenient giving really what we’re called to? I’m not entirely convinced.

By way of example: According to The official GoFundMe website, $1 billion has been raised just in the last year, with the average giving peaking at about $4 million per day. The top five areas of campaigns on GoFundMe are 1) Medical 2) Educational 3) Volunteerism 4) Personal Emergencies and 5) Sports & Teams.

GoFundMe charges 5 percent per donation made. Therefore, GoFundMe has made $5 million over the last year from people donating to causes.

Those are some big numbers—numbers I don’t want to be critical of, because, as I said before, generosity is good. And on top of that, sites like GoFundMe have enabled some pretty amazing things.

We should continue to be generous with our money, time and other resources, but we should also be intentional about extending our generosity past conveniently throwing a few dollars at a cause. Here are a few things to think through as we continue to pursue the opportunities crowdfunding provides for giving: .

“Campaigns” Can Force Us to Compare Stories to Determine Who Is Most Deserving of Help

I’ve always wondered why some crowdfunding campaigns raise so much money while other, comparable campaigns struggle to gain ground.

I think a lot of this has to do with marketing, of sorts. The idea of “shopping around” for the right personal tragedy is uncomfortable. I’ve read campaign stories that were incredibly compelling. And then I’ve seen other campaigns with a similar need, yet not as emotionally stimulating read.

Does that mean one cause is more deserving than the other? Of course not. It does, however, play into our humanistic need to be entertained. The more engaging the story, the more we want to be part of it. So we give to the story that draws us in, even though the “need” may be the same.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times we are called to give to specific causes. But it’s always good to examine our hearts and motives to make sure we’re truly called, and not just compelled.

One way I’ve tried to avoid picking and choosing is by giving to nonprofit organizations that support the causes I’m passionate about. Most organizations have actual criteria that they go by to determine need. Donating to an organization might mean your money being used toward the needs of many, and not just the needs of one.

Crowdfunding Can Be a Poor Replacement for True Community

I am no stranger to fundraising. As a youth director in a small struggling church, I often brainstorm how to meet our group’s needs. The most encouraging moments are moments of unsolicited generosity to our group. There are times where people in our church community come around us and tell us they believe in what we’re doing by supporting us in different ways. One way that is communicated is monetarily, but money isn’t the only thing we need. We need to know people care about us.

It’s understandable that money talks, and sometimes what people need is cold hard cash to make their medical bills, rent, car repair, youth conference, etc.

But what people really need is a Savior who loves them—and who uses others to provide for them in practical ways. Giving a few bucks to a campaign may help in the short-term, but a local community of people spurred on by truly loving others has an eternal impact.

We have to be aware as both givers and receivers that funding, while sometimes necessary, is no substitute for people who are willing to be the hands and feet of a good God who loves them.

Passive giving, while convenient, robs givers of the beauty of sacrificial giving—and the receiver of real relationships.

Crowdfunding Can Get Too Political, and Politics Are Divisive

I remember reading the story of “Memories Pizza”—a pizzeria that raised almost $840,000 to recoup lost business because they refused to cater a homosexual wedding due to religious beliefs.

I, and many of my fellow Christian friends, were in disbelief. No matter what side of the homosexual debate you fall on, we all know that $840,000 is a life-changing amount of money. Personally, I felt that money could have been donated to more urgent needs. For instance, according to TheWaterProject.org, It costs roughly $30,000 to build a large well in Africa that changes the lives of 3,000 people by giving them access to clean water. $840,000 could change the lives of 84,000 people.

Furthermore, that outpouring of financial support didn’t accurately represent the views of all Christians. I had to answer some tough questions from one of my unbelieving friends as to why Christians are more inclined to give to a political cause than to the impoverished. I honestly wondered the same thing.

Money does talk, and as we all know, our tongues often need taming. Our areas of giving communicate our passions, and that’s a good thing. However, I believe antidotal giving—giving to make up for a perceived injustice, is dangerous. By the time a story reaches us, it has generally been grossly sensationalized. It’s easy to let our emotions get the best of us. I’ve learned the hard way that actions made out of an emotional response are not usually the best ones.

I’m not saying not to donate to crowdfunding campaigns. I am saying that God loves a cheerful giver, and everywhere we look, there are needs—not just financial needs, but a whole world of people broken by an imperfect world who need to know they’re loved.

We were each created with different passions and purpose. One of the best ways we live out that purpose is by remembering that everything we have is out of the overflow of a God who cares for us. Let’s not cheapen the gifts we’ve been given by only giving back when it’s easy or emotionally driven. Generosity is so much more than that. Let’s give with thought, prayer and intention, even when it’s not convenient.

SARAHYBETHY

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