Mike[ref]Obviously not his real name ...[/ref] was one of the smallest Scouts I'd ever seen. He was skinny, a little short for his age, and approached every conversation with a demure attitude that betrayed his real thirst for involvement in the group.

I got to know Mike pretty well after he joined the Scout Troop. He loved playing with Legos. He thought Magic cards were a wasted of time. He was afraid of getting lost in the woods and always carried his grandpa's old compass. Mike was a very fun kid; he was complex in his interests and, once he opened up, one of the most endearing people you'd ever meet.

As we got closer and closer to summer camp, though, he started to skip Troop meetings. We'd announce that meal planning would happen the next week and not see him for two. We'd start planning tent partners, and he'd sneak out the door with his parents and head home. When we passed around the final sign up sheet for attendees I saw him tear up as he passed the envelope to the next boy.

That week was the Troop Committee meeting when all of the adult leaders gathered together to plan the next month of activities. The first item on the agenda: "scholarships" for Scouts to attend summer camp.

Seriously, it's only $200. If someone is asking for a hand-out like that, they really shouldn't be going to camp.

The monotonous conversation continued for another fifteen minutes with just about every leader echoing the same sentiment. Boys who couldn't otherwise afford to attend camp should work harder to fund raise. We already provided them with candy and popcorn and wreathes to sell. They could collect cans. They could mow lawns. Anyone asking for extra help from the Troop was lazy and didn't deserve it.

Mike's dad just lost his job, and his mom's been unemployed and disabled for the past year. He got his uniform from Goodwill. All of the money he raised from Troop fundraisers went to pay for his annual dues. Without a sponsorship, he won't be coming to camp with us.

As everyone had piled on with the talk of lazy Scouts or absentee parents, they overlooked a very important fact: not everyone's story is the same.

Websites and Blogging

I came across a very similar story today on Facebook:

Can someone please explain the thought process behind someone using a crowd funding campaign to pay for them to blog?

The sentiment in response to this question was remarkably similar to that of the Scout leaders in the earlier story:

  • Poor work ethic
  • "Get rich quick" expectations
  • Mocking the concept entirely

All of these responses reflect the same mistake as the earlier story as well: not everyone's situation is the same.

Not everyone has the technical know-how to build a site.[ref]If the end goal is to monetize the site, utilizing a free hosting platform is likely not an option.[/ref] Not everyone has the freedom to write what they want when they want, either. A writer friend of mine gave up her dream of writing because she had to work 80+ hours a week just to provide for her kids. Taking time out to build a blog/audience from scratch was not an option.

Others are in a position where writing will put them (or their families) in professional or personal danger. Moving forward without some sort of backing is inadvisable in many of these circumstances.

A crowd-funding campaign, however, does two things for the fundraiser:

  1. It gives them a financial cushion to protect from the potential impact of their endeavor being a failure. Not every blog can grow to provide a reliable income. Many are true labors of love with revenues that barely - if at all - cover the cost of the domain.[ref]I explicitly omit advertising on this site as part of my personal campaign to help clean up the crappy state of the web. I accept donations through Gratipay that used to cover $7/week. That covers the domain, my CDN, and part of the services that make this site go. But $364/year comes nowhere close to being a sustainable income.[/ref]
  2. It helps gauge whether or not a market exists for a particular idea or product, again helping to minimize the risk of the endeavor being a failure.

Why do people create crowdfunding campaigns for their blogs? For the same reason people ask for money to help create a project, sponsor attendance of a conference, pay off a burdensome debt, cover the costs of a memorial service, or attend Boy Scout summer camp.

You don't have to understand why someone wants your help living their dream. Just recognize that, if you're already living yours, you might just have been in a better place to get there; their road might be harder to walk.