Working Hard Or Hardly Working? Crowd Funding And Other Ethical Milieus

I am very fortunate to currently enjoy a “seasonal” profession, meaning my schedule goes something like this:  Bust-ass-for 4 1/2-months, retreat for 1, bust-ass-for-another 4 1/2-months, retreat for 2 months–not a bad gig schedule wise.  The retreat periods give me time to do things I normally cannot get to during my “bust- ass” periods.
Therefore, this week I was able to accomplish a task I have not completed in quite some time -go through various stacks of messy paperwork on my desk.  As I perused through a plethora of old statements, papers, bills, etc., I was surprised to find a bank statement from 2011 from my credit union with a balance of $13,000—from an unknown account I did not know about, or at the very least did not remember. I immediately called the credit union and they explained I opened this retirement account in 1993 with proceeds earned from my college job of soils and geological testing.
Surprise, surprise. Nice. A little karma and a poor memory can be a good thing.
And how did I earn that money? The story goes something like this: I would get up at 5am, drive to construction sites all over Southern California, place my nose in the dirt and my ass in the air while I checked the maximum density of the soil, all the while being careful not to get plowed over by tractors, for 8-12 hours a day, while attending graduate school at night, all the while rushing home, smelling like sweat and dirt, to play with my small children. It is safe to suggest I definitely earned that money.
Perhaps it’s just me but I can be old fashioned that way. How do I make money? I believe in making money the Smith Barney way, “I uuurn it.” (google that one children).
Both Rene’ and I share a very dedicated and stringent work ethic. I would dare say Rene’s work ethic trumps my own as I have never met a person who works as hard, diligently and with such excellence as she does. She does not have a lazy bone in her body.
Therefore, for those of us who do have a hard work ethic and pay our taxes (I started working when I was 18 and have never gone a day without a job since), you can imagine our attitudes toward those who do not share this work ethic and are constantly looking for freebies and handouts—not big fans. This understanding sets the backdrop, mental context and reveals my narrow mindedness for my blog topic of choice for this week: Crowd funding.
For those who are not aware of the relatively new phenomena of crowd funding, or crowd sourcing, it is a means to generate revenue through internet websites such as fundanything.com and indiegogo.com, based off the donations of viewers.  One can crowd source for just about anything, from helping fulfill the dreams of a sick child with cancer to funding films and various projects. A quick look at fundanything.com currently advertises requests of funds for a sick dog’s surgery, a legal defense against litigious patent trolls, and funding for a new cure for crying babies (you can’t make this stuff up).
When I first heard of such sites, my conservative work ethic suggested that something was awry. If you want money—for anything—go out and earn it, I silently thought.  I felt this was the internet’s version of electronic homeless panhandling. Yet, alas, as one who loves to bathe in the tub of cognitive dissonance and consider all sides, all the while quite aware of my mindset that thinks in analogical terms, I thought further about this very digital activity. In addition, and to add an emotional cog in the wheels of my now dissonant point of view, my son—whom I love dearly—now has a current campaign on indiegogo.com in attempts to fund a trip to Nepal to undergo research and complete a short documentary on Singing Bowls.
I have so many questions. And perhaps some of you have some answers.
Good idea? Bad idea? Ethical? Unethical? Does it promote a lazy mentality while supporting the idea of handouts and an entitled, “me first” mentality? Or does it allow the global community to come together and assist each other in meaningful and helpful ways while making our world a better place? Both?
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Of course no one is forcing anyone to give what one does not want to give as everything is, obviously, voluntary.  Yet what are the ethical implications of simply asking the question and requesting the funds? For example, I can ask you if I can borrow a $100 and you are free to say yes or no—no harm done—or is there? The act of me making the request has ethical and relational implications. I have placed you in an awkward position, potentially making you feel guilty, and forcing your hand to make a difficult decision since just asking the question changes the nature of the relationship itself. Then again, no one is forcing one to react this way either.
Such tension.
So my opinion on crowd sourcing? Like anything in life, one must take the good with the bad. Will it reinforce a lazier and entitled mentality? Potentially yes and it will for some. I heard of an acquaintance requesting funds for Yoga training. Really? Perhaps some of you may want to fund my LA Fitness gym membership and protein shakes. After all, your donation will make the world a more aesthetically pleasing place. However, will it also promote a means by which to communally support and help each other for the better? Yes, and it does. Donating to children with cancer and funding research for valuable cures can only benefit the planet.
Perhaps the new electronic work ethic is working very hard and creatively at asking people for money. Fundraising of all varieties has always been hard work and is a skill to master to be sure. However, the fact that all can now fund raise so quickly and easily through the internet while being available to all, may result in the first generation of people who view crowd sourcing as an honorable and noble profession. And why not? Just because I have a hard time wrapping my analogue mind around it does not necessarily make it a bad idea.
In the meantime, I personally will keep searching for long lost bank accounts that I have forgotten existed and were established the old fashioned way, “I uurned it.“
And if you disagree with my point of view? Help fund a boy with a camera on his forehead on a trip to Nepal for research. This hypocrite did. Sometimes my love trumps my logic.
 

jimmysintension

8 Comments

  1. So glad that this was opened up. I am another individual that is all for crowd funding. I was exposed to this last year when I made a Kickstarter for a band called Assuming We Survive. They set a $2000 goal and made almost $6000. It was very inpirational to see a hard working band generate that much income from a simple video exposing their life.

    That being said, if their is someone out there that can see the vision you have and support you. Awesome! The bigger question here is, what kind of investors roam these sites?

    Whether people like it or not, it is only getting bigger and people are finding how to fund their entire life through different projects!

    • Thanks for the comment Nick. I see a dichotomy here between those who solicit funds for a very particular product -in this case musical entertainment that the masses can enjoy- and those who solicit funds for personal achievement and gain. I have contributed to crowd sourcing projects prior to Jordan’s…yet it is always because they have provided a service to me that I believe deserves reward. I would be very curious as to the percentage of those who seek funds and their success rates.

  2. I was thinking about this quite a bit yesterday. Clearly, your conclusion that crowdsourcing will have positive and negative effects seems true to me. It does allow people to be philanthropic when they otherwise might not have (most philanthropists were/are wealthy people with a lot of time to discover things to fund). I think this is important because it allows people to help fund something they (hopefully) value or find meaningful, when they likely would not be able to participate in it’s creation in another way. For instance, 3,411 people are definitely not going to go to Nepal to create a documentary about singing bowls, but that many people may be legitimately interested in this documentary. Furthermore, Jordan may not be willing and/or able to support himself as he saves up the potentially thousands of dollars to make such a documentary that may or may not be financially “worth it” (i.e. breaking even). Crowdsourcing allows both the 3,411 interested people as well as Jordan to go forth with this otherwise unlikely, though interesting and possibly valuable, documentary.

    Why I was thinking about it, is that I have a friend who has lived on a sustainable farm with her family since she was 12 years old (she is currently 20). This sustainable farm has about 20 full-time residents (that live in a village-style community) who teach permaculture design courses, watershed restoration, etc. to people interested in sustainable agriculture/family farming, etc. My friend knows how to do a lot of interesting things; she can process farm or hunted animals and tan their hides, make clothing, jewelry, garden, cook, and even made her own very small house with the help of some friends (out of natural, on-site materials, of course!). She doesn’t really have any skills that people will pay for, but luckily her back-to-the-land, farming lifestyle allows her to live the type of life she wants, with very little requirement for any money.

    But now she wants to take a year-long, $10,000 wilderness skills course, where she will literally be taught to and actually live in the wilderness for a year with minimal supplies and her instructors. She is trying to garner the money via crowdsourcing. At first, I thought something along the lines of “what the fuck? You need to leave the farm (and subsequently your family) to go get a job, live extremely frugally and save up that money!” Unfortunately, this is not very likely, as saving that much money for someone without marketable skills while supporting oneself is pretty hard. Some people may truly value this type of dedication to environmental, indigenous-style, sustainable, wild-living (I certainly do), and know that this friend of mine would make an amazing and powerful leader if she did something as intense as this. I’m tired of writing so I’m going to stop now. This is already long-winded enough.

  3. Josh…I hate when some replies are longer than my original blog! Seriously, so what are you going to do? Are you going to support her? It seems to me that this would fall in the category of personal achievement and does not have necessarily direct positive communal implications. Can you provide the link to her fundraiser campaign so we can check it out? I am quite curious.

  4. Personally, I’m really excited to see what crowd funding will bring to the world in regards to culture. The entertainment industry has had a really strong “death grip” on the market for the last 40+ years, and with things like indigogo, artists now have a chance to see their projects get created without having a studio or label tear it apart for the best possible marketability. I think sites like this are going to bring a new area of pure art with less corporate taint.

    If I wanted to make a short film in the late 90s, I would have had to pull the collective resources of my friends and I, then go door to door to dentists offices with a sales pitch, finish that pitch in 3-5 minutes without going over, and then convince the dentist to send some funds my way and invest in a movie. It was a very time consuming process, full of rejection and thus frustrating, and I was never able to reach my funding goals which meant everyone got their money back and the project never got completed.

    Now, I can put together a small crew and shoot a mock trailer with scenes that I think will sell my film product. With that trailer and a well organized crowd sourcing campaign, I can reach millions of people and not only show them my dream project, but I can also invite them to donate and become a part of my vision. On top of all that, I am getting free advertisement for my project through the website.

    Yes, crowd sourcing can seem lazy, and in some cases it really is. I have seen some silly ass projects on these sites over the last few years, and like you said, there are people asking for straight up handouts for something that is only for them (yoga). That is selfish, and a waste of a great tool. I think things like that should be moderated to keep the quality of the site up to par.

    So these sites are about convenience, but can feed laziness. What grinds my gears is when famous people use it to fund their “dream project”. If anything shows laziness, and lack of faith in a project, is Zach Braff begging for $1 million to fund his dream project when the douche bag was reeling in $350k per Scrubs episode. Talk about a douche bag…

  5. Crowd Funding… As described above related to the internet gives anyone the tool to do what has before only been available to governments and large corporations. That is a means to fund a project that an individual or even a small group would not be able to fund alone.

    possible a different term for this than crowd funding but i see the word an think many public works projects such as Dams for water and power, and the Interstate system that was paid for by the masses of Americans paying taxes.

    The prestigious Carnegie Hall was built by the steel tycoon who made his money from selling steel. Andrew Carnegie used money he obtained from a large crowd of people. If you consider an individuals time and skills and a source of funding. I see Carnegie Hall as being built by hard working men in Iron mines and Steel mills, Rail road workers who laid the track and built the trains that carried the steel and the workers who physically built it, everyone who bought steel… An army of people…. that is the crowd of people who funded the building of Carnegie Hall which so many people still enjoy. That is what i see when i look at things, I often think of those who really paid and worked for it, and that rarely a single person is responsible for building of projects that require the skills and time of so many individuals.

    Ethics will always be a problem World War II is a good example if this, German Nazi’s were funded by the masses of people in the country’s involved on their side of the war.

    To draw some lines (nature rarely has any Hard lines) Internet crowd funding is much different that Government or corporations in regards to funding. It does not require any personal investment in the project, dedication, or accountability other than the good word and “Faith” in the person your giving your money to.

    For the “Yoga Girl” is she just lazy or a full time A student who’s parents said she had to find a way to pay for her class because they cant afford it? I haven’t looked at any of them i’m just speculating. and hoped she would mention any necessary information when asking for money.

    “A fool and his money are easily separated” not sure if that quote is right or who said it but the power is held by those who donate, if they are incapable of good judgment with where they spend their money LAZY beggars will get it.

    To conclude… the ability of governments or corporations to take on projects that can only be completed by a group of people with the right skills and the proper funds is now available to small groups or individuals who have the skills but lack the means to acquire finical funds. There will always be lazy people willing to take advantage of situations and individuals who’s actions are unethical by the standards of others and is where good judgment comes in.

    P.S. Standards is a weird word as people in general do not have a standard “standard” by which ethical actions are judged in all situations.

  6. Work ethic is a false flag. We should switch to production ethic. It doesn’t matter how hard you work. What matters is what you produce. If you worked 18 hour days getting soil samples but they were all incorrect, not only does not help. It is harmful. You have produced negative value. If your son enjoys his Tibet trip that doesn’t effect whether or not he made a quality product for those who supported him. The best part is that they all did it voluntarily. The funds from the government you mentioned were all taken through threat of violence. Not to mention the big chunk that the bureaucrats take.

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