Crowdfunding: resourceful or tacky?

We’ve all seen those posts on facebook, linking us to GoFundMe accounts for an array of different reasons. One popped up on my feed yesterday asking for contributions to a horse’s vet bills, and I started thinking more about crowdfunding.

In general I do not contribute to crowdfunding type of things except for in very specific circumstances. To be honest, I find the vast majority of it to be tacky and tasteless. I can’t imagine ever asking someone to pay my horse’s or dog’s vet bill – IMO vet bills are part of being a pet owner and it’s my responsibility to take care of that. I would be mortified to ever put my hand out and ask other people for that money. If I didn’t have it I’d put it on a credit card and pay it off as I could, or ask the vet about a payment plan. That’s my own circumstance to bail myself out of. Other things I’ve seen people asking for money to fund:

  • buying back a former horse (maybe sell one of your other horses instead?)
  • their horse show season (for real?)
  • their kid’s birthday party (I have no words)
  • their vacation (are you gonna pay for my vacation?)
  • paying off a lien that someone took out on their horse because they didn’t pay board (speechless)

To me, none of those are things you should ever ask someone else to pay for. Get a second job, sell some stuff, have a bake sale, sell an organ… I dunno… just be responsible for your own life. What gets me most is that the people who seem to always be asking for handouts are the same ones who seem to have plenty of money to eat out all the time, buy booze, buy new clothes, get their hair and nails done, spend their weekends watching Netflix, go on vacation, etc etc. When did we become a society that would rather panhandle on the internet than actually work for something we want?

Some of you probably remember Taylor McFall, the girl who raised money last year to purchase the pony she had been leasing. I really loved this story, mostly because her mother would not allow her to just accept straight donations. She cleaned tack, she washed trucks, she made and sold horse treats. She earned the money she made, and she bought that pony herself. Big kudos to Taylor’s mother for teaching her daughter the value of a dollar and that with enough hard work you can get just about anything you want, without asking people for handouts.

That’s not to say that I’m a total scrooge about crowdfunding. I have contributed exactly twice – once to the CANTER Texas startup costs, to help them get the 501c licensing and stuff, and just a couple weeks ago to Jimmie Schramm’s Rolex fund. “Wait a minute”,  you say… didn’t I just write earlier that I don’t feel like people should be asking for show money? Yeah you’re right, maybe I’m a little bit of a hypocrite here, but let me explain why they’re different to me. #1 It’s Rolex. #2 Jimmie is a young pro that owns her own horse. She doesn’t have a rich owner that foots the all the bills. #3 They’re really just getting their training operation off the ground. #4 I get a coozie and a bumper sticker that say “I Believe in Bells” in return for my contribution. Hells yeah! #5 If for some reason they end up not going to Rolex, the money will supposedly be donated to a therapeutic riding center. #6 At the end of the day, I’m a Schramm fan. So, whether you agree with my logic or not, I think that’s a lot different than just some random person that wants to go to horse shows.

I will include a caveat and say that I think Kickstarter type of things are a lot different. Generally those are businesses or inventions trying to get off the ground and you almost always get things in return for your contribution. I’ve contributed to a few of those with zero hesitation. Much different in my eyes than paying someone’s vet bill for them.

What’s your view on crowdfunding? What are legitimate reasons to ask for contributions from other people? What causes have you donated toward? I realize that I might feel more strongly about it than most and seem pretty judgmental, but I’m genuinely curious to see what other people think when they see these things.

45 thoughts on “Crowdfunding: resourceful or tacky?

  1. I have to agree with you. For the most part, I think it is tacky and tasteless. You’re right, vet bills and showing and everything else are a part of horse ownership. If something happens to my horse and people want to donate to help pay for it, I would really appreciate it. But I would NEVER think to ask someone to. I even felt uncomfortable with the mule that raised money to travel to the dressage finals. I guess plenty of people donated and that’s cool, but I don’t personally agree with it. Maybe I am just a bitch, or maybe it’s because my dad always taught me to work for what you want.

    I am sure there are a few good horse causes out there and Rolex is a pretty good one, but for the most part, I stay away from them.

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  2. I find begging for money truly appalling. If you can’t afford what you have or what you’re doing, then work harder and longer for it. Calling it “crowdfunding” doesn’t change my opinion.

    I also research charities before giving, and pick ones that dedicate the bulk of the donations to the cause, not overhead.

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  3. Amen. Pay your own bills. Go without.

    I HATE how entitled our society has become, and I see it every single day at work (I am a teacher). Just as an example: we provide breakfast and lunch for purchase (government subsidized). Many of our kids get free or reduced priced lunches. For those kids who have no cash on hand, we let them charge their lunch. I have one student in my class who owes over $300 and we have no mechanism to force her family to pay it back! Do these families feed they kids over the summer? If so, why can’t can’t they feed them the rest of the year.

    DRIVES ME CRAZY!

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  4. I fall into the same category- I’ve worked multiple jobs to afford my equestrian lifestyle, and asking for handouts for such things shows a lack of respect for those that did put in the extra effort to afford it.

    PS the story of Taylor was just amazing, and such a breath of fresh air. And yes, Schramm fan! I didn’t know they were trying to raise money, not like I have a bunch of extra dolla bills floating around but I may go check it out. Just bummed I won’t be in KY to root them on!

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  5. Totally agree. When I donate, I do so to a particular horse rescue.

    There are some expenses that are so overwhelming and are in the nature of a business transaction – like a trip to Rolex, or a trip overseas, for a big competition horse – that I feel more comfortable supporting them. But an individual’s saddle fund? horse fund? vet bill fund? Hell no.

    (the exception to the individual vet bill fund is if one person rescued a particular horse…but I’m still not going to donate and I’m going to be side-eyeing pretty hard as to why that person didn’t place the horse with a legitimate rescue.)

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  6. Definitely agree- if you need your vacation, vet bill, or show season funded by strangers, maybe you shouldn’t be doing these things.

    I do feel like special occasions that can make or break careers warrant support (Rolex, a classmate going on a once in a lifetime trip for her Master’s degree, etc.), but that’s it.

    Maybe they’ll fund me on my way through vet school. Goodbye, student debt. 😉

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    1. When I was doing some research for this post I actually came across a couple articles with tips on how to use crowdfunding to pay for college tuition. It’s appalling.

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  7. I have some pretty strong opinions about this, and I do find it really entitled that people ask for helps to BILLS/Vacation type things! But this is the society we live in. However, about 2 years ago, after moving into a new barn, the very first week our tack room was burglarized and all of our tack was stolen. Each girl in the co-op works at least 2-3 jobs already to make horses a real possibility in our lives and at the advice of many friends, I took to the blogosphere and internet for help. It was difficult for us to do, but the outpouring of support was astounding. To this day, when I use a saddle pad that was donated or clean a piece of tack that someone was kind enough to give us, my heart fills with warmth knowing that eventers (and horse people in general) are in it together. We made and sent thank you cards to everyone that donated anything and would return the favor in a second if someone needed our help!

    ps. We board around the corner from the Schramms and they are some of the nicest most down to earth people I’ve ever met! I love Bellamy!

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    1. Niamh, I have to say that I think your situation is a little different. While an emergency colic surgery and burglary of all your tack are two life emergencies, they fall under different categories to me. When you take on the responsibility of a horse, you take on the knowledge that it may colic and you may have to decide about a colic surgery in the future. This is part of horse ownership. When someone robs your tack room, this is an act of human greed and is not something that anyone prepares for with horse ownership. This is the kind of “pay it forward” donation that I would make, to 1) atone for the horribleness of others in some way and 2) in the hopes that someone would do me such a kindness were I to need it in the future.

      (PS for the future, you may consider looking into insurance on your saddles. State Farm has a fantastic personal articles policy where you pay $1 per $100 insured and saddles can be insured.)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. With you 100%. I can’t stand when people use crowd funding for vet bills or personal things. I work for what I have and if I can’t afford it, I don’t have it. Simple as that.

    Rolex trips? I’ve donated and I’m a syndicate member so I totally understand bigger situations like that.

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  9. I remember a few years ago when Richard Spooner tried to crowdfund for his next big jumper. I was completely appalled that a 5* GP winning rider with as much backing as he has would have the gall to do something like that.

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  10. I totally agree: if you can’t afford your own vet bills, then maybe you shouldn’t own a horse? Just saying.

    I do think begging people for money is tacky, especially the people asking for financial help in going to a high-dollar show (really????). I’ve never liked fundraising, even as a kid, but I will donate to certain non-profits like horse rescues, where the financial help is definitely needed and put to wonderful use. I love the story of Taylor McFall though, it’s a breath of fresh air! It’s great that her mom made her earn her pony’s sale price, which (I think) really taught her the value of hard work and the value of a dollar. Many kids these days don’t have any concept of how to work for your money and think they should just get handed everything they want, which is extremely sad. I’ve been working since I was 16 years old and have worked hard to pay for everything I have….which is also why I’ve waited almost 30 years to buy my first horse.

    Back to your point: I very rarely look twice at a Crowdfunding or a GoFundMe link. No way, Jose.

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  11. SMH… We are a society of ppl who think things should be handed to us.

    When I was younger and wanted something, I babysat, did extra odds and ends for ppl and saved saved saved… That’s how I paid for my horse shows before I was old enough for a real job…

    I am all for helping ppl but there are too many out there who just want the easy way out!

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    1. PS.. I’ve had to go without a lot of things to afford my horse… As adults we budget, work hard and save to afford thing. Plan ahead ppl and if you can’t afford it, save till you can or don’t do it 😉

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  12. Yeah, pretty much this. I see the things that come up and am flabbergasted (that’s still a thing, right?) by what people are willing to try and get others to pay for.

    WTF I am not contributing to your vacation in Latin American. And yes, buying tack is 100% more important to me than your show season.

    And I’m not ashamed.

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  13. I hate it when people crowdfund for useless things. I totally get jealous when people donate too. I remember the first thing I wanted that my mom told me was excess and if I wanted it I had to work for. I wanted a leather halter for my pony so bad. I cleaned nasty endurance tack for 4 hours. I got twenty bucks and that triple stitched dover halter was mine! Worst part was, two weeks later it got stolen. I didn’t want my mom to buy me a new one because I didn’t want it to get stolen again. Ever since that moment I’ve learned how important it is to work for your money.

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  14. Yes yes yes, I completely agree. I’ve been taught that you work hard for what you want, period. No handouts. Like Karley said, we’re in a society full of lazy people that think they deserve to be handed things without the effort. That’s why planning ahead is so important – I get that a lot of times we have expensive things that pop up (like vet bills) but that’s why planning ahead and realizing what you’re getting into (Horses aren’t hamsters, people.) is so important.

    I feel like people have no pride – I would be so embarrassed to start up a Go Fund Me page for the things like you listed.

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  15. Do people really “crowd source” to pay their bills or fund extras they can’t afford?!

    My online endeavors are fairly limited. Facebook (and the like) freak me out. I know they can be great for networking and staying in touch with faraway friends and family but…so much time wasting and drama. Keeping up with you fellow horsewomen is about the extent of it for me – basically because my time is limited as I am working one of my (several) jobs to pay for building a house, my horse and taking care of my farm…100% on my own.

    One of the less appealing sides of the interwebs…

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  16. Someone on one of the Facebook groups I’m a part of started a discussion regarding crowdfunding her next horse. TL;DR her existing upper level prospect had been taken out of contention due to injuries, and her family had spent all of their horse budget maintaining said ULP for the last year. So they had no additional horse budget and now no horse.

    I wrote a lengthy response regarding why I thought crowd-funding for a horse was tacky and a poor choice, but it really boiled down to a few points. 1. Luxury item — why am I contributing from my luxury savings to yours? 2. What exactly am I supposed to get out of this?

    If you think about it, syndication is a form of high-roller crowd-funding, and what the backers get out of it is knowing that they a) own (part of) this fantastic horse and b) are contributing to the state of American Eventing/Dressage/whatever through both competition and possibly future breeding. So they are getting something out of it, and since those backers are unlikely to be performing at such high levels themselves (lmk if The Trump jockeys sometime) that is their involvement with the luxury item. So you could think of Spooner’s attempt to crowd fund as a lower version of this — I think if people had had a stake in the horse, possibly it could have worked. But it was presented poorly and so it didn’t (or perhaps it did and I have no idea).

    The rise of crowd funding has, in my opinion, encouraged people to take even less responsibility for their lives and financial states. When you enter into something high risk-high reward like horse ownership, you should know what you are doing and be adequately prepared for such a thing. If you can just keep begging money off of other people, then why prepare for your future? I will never contribute to such funds for just this reason.

    Now, nonprofit startup and horse maintenance is an entirely different issue. I see that as an overall benefit to society, so am totally willing to kick some change their way if I have the chance. And as I mentioned in my response to Niamh, when human- or nature-driven disaster strikes, I’m also willing to help out. But absolutely not for an individual or group’s selfishness.

    (PS Sorry for the essay.)

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  17. I’ve donated to one exactly once – for a young college student that we know personally, who in the same week had lost both her jobs and her parents cut her off for her choice of sexuality. She’s an incredibly responsible person and a very hard worker but was suddenly faced with bills she couldn’t cover, so we helped her a bit. Within two weeks, she had moved to a smaller and cheaper apartment, gotten THREE jobs, and gotten back on her feet – just like I knew she would. Sometimes, someone deserves a little help, especially if they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them.

    But funding someone’s vacation or vet bills? Wow, I should totally try that!

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      1. Cathryn, she’s doing really well! Graduating in May, and planning to go to grad school in the fall. Her mare is doing great too. I think she’s also working two jobs right now, and has a cute apartment that she’s very proud of. She’s a really good kid – we’ve known her for years and she’s actually helped out around our place before. I wish her the absolute best.

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  18. I don’t really know how I feel about this, to be honest. I mean, I understand sometimes people fall on hard times and want to save their pets. I get it – it DOES happen.

    I guess it depends on the story-line and on what happened. I mean, if someone was in a riding accident and needed assistance with vet bills for their horse to recover while they themselves were in the hospital, I think it would be more of a legitimate time to ask for help… but the whole “help me go to Rolex” isn’t really on my top 10. I get it, we all need a little help sometimes but it depends on the circumstances.

    Personally, I’ve donated twice to assist people with their horses. The first time was for a friend who takes on special case horses – one of which is a Quarter Horse mare with HYPP and has seizures sometimes. Her main riding horse was very, very sick and after thousands of dollars invested into his care, as well as her HYPP mare getting sick, she was strapped for cash. She set up a GoFundMe account and I donated.

    The second time was for the individual “jenj” is talking about. I do not know her, but saw a post about her plea over on Andrea’s blog “The Reeling”. I didn’t donate a billion dollars, but I did help out.

    Sometimes everyone just needs a little help. But, to pay for someone’s shows or vacations? Uhm, no.

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      1. I feel the same way as Cathryn. And even having major medical insurance isn’t enough during really catastrophic events: insurance reimburses you. You still have to be able to come up with the money up front.

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  19. It’s a case by case thing with me. Some vet bill instances are worth donating to in my opinion, but I’ve been taught that part of horse owning is to have a back-up pool of money to dip into because horses can’t always control all four legs. Absolutely wouldn’t pay for someone else’s vacation. I’d rather put money towards my own get away.

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  20. I think there are some legitimate reasons to crowdfund, but I really don’t think that it’s ok to ask for money for your bills or horse shows, either. I’ve easily spent $5000 in the past year on my horse’s vet bills, which WAS my new horse and show fund, but I wasn’t going to ask anyone else to help me pay for something that I took on knowing full well what I was getting in to. Horses go lame, get sick, stuff happens, life happens. I haven’t gone to a nice place to eat in years, haven’t gotten my hair cut in even longer, and leave out things that I don’t ABSOLUTELY need to survive, but my horse has the best care he can possibly have and always will.

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  21. I can’t really say much since my friends and I have a go fund me to help us go to Midsouth, BUT we are doing things like auctions, clinics, bottle drives etc to raise the money.

    I donate a lot to those things I want to help, and just pass by the ones I don’t want to.

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  22. I agree with a lot of commenters that part of responsible horse ownership (or other pets too!) is to expect the unexpected and have a little backup savings/ credit cards/ insurance to help out. I had to work pretty hard to get where I am now (which is simply just owning a horse and doing low level showing) and I’d never consider setting up crowdfunding to help me pay bills. I think setting one up for vacations is absolutely appalling. I haven’t actually seen many of these campaigns myself, but I have’t been looking either.

    I do think that crowdfunding has it’s place for sure – it can be used for a lot of good. I have donated to two things in the past year: both were for help offsetting medical/personal expenses in the wake of medical conditions leaving these people without incomes. One of whom is a friend of my sister’s and the other I don’t know at all except through a reputable author that I follow.

    Tori, I think your campaign is different – you’re doing other stuff (like the auctions and clinics that you mentioned) to help raise money instead of simply just sitting back and asking for it. That is very different to me.

    I’ve seen a few horse related GoFundMe’s lately that I didn’t know how I felt about….One was for Sinead Halpin raising money to take her mount, Farrah (the pony) up the levels – part of me was like “Yay pony! I want to help the pony!” and another part of me was like, “Wait I have my own pony that I’m paying for…She’s a big name rider and I’m sure the pony’s owner is a little better off than me…why should I be paying for them?”

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  23. Couldn’t agree more ( and go Jimmie and Belle!)
    Typically my dollars go to situations that are close to my heart or people I really believe in.
    Really? A birthday party? Nope, not gonna happen.

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  24. eh i work in the fundraising industry and believe that everyone has their own causes and motivations for giving. certain things unlock an individual’s charitable spirit (like your points for Jimmie Schramm), and other things don’t.

    i celebrate generosity where i see it, and don’t worry about folks who don’t give. there’s no shame in not supporting a cause you don’t relate to (and there are so many needy causes in the world that it’s pointless to trying to rate one as more important than another).

    in regards to crowd-funding, it doesn’t bother me or scream ‘tacky’. if you want to give, then give. otherwise just move along. in a way tho i kinda applaud the individual’s resourceful spirit. it might not be traditional in the ‘get a job’ sense… but at least they’re trying (tho quite frankly it rarely works out…)

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    1. I guess it’s a difference of perspective because I don’t think setting up a GoFundMe and posting it all over facebook qualifies as “trying”. To me that’s glorified begging.

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      1. yea i hear you… and it would probably irritate me more if it was showing up in my facebook news feed all day every day… tho that’s among the reasons i avoid fb haha

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  25. I’ve contributed to a GoFundMe thing ONCE. Just once. And it’s to an online “friend” I’ve known for almost 2 years, and it was to raise money to go to puppy mill auctions to buy dogs OUT of that life and save them from the puppy mills.
    She posts photos of the dogs she saves, and lets us know who is fostering them, etc. To me, that’s a legit thing to do as it’s not money she’s keeping, it’s all for the dogs, and I’m good with that.

    For me, each month, I set aside $20 to the Heifer organization, and then $20 to donate to some other charity or organization that speaks to me that month. 1 month it was to a local equine rescue group. Another month, a political cause that spoke to me. It just depends on where I think the “need” is greatest that month.

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  26. I guess none of my friends goes this route because I never see people crowdfunding on my FB. On very rare occasions, a friend will mention the story of another friend who needs help, and in those cases I might donate depending on the cause. I volunteered at a legit 501(c)(3) equine rescue whose owner specifically told me one day, “I started this because I figured I could get rich with people’s donations. Everyone wants to save the horses!” Which is actually not true during the height of a recession. I busted my ass off at that rescue with those horses, training, feeding, mucking stalls, trying to come up with ideas for fundraisers, while the owner of the rescue sat back waiting for money to pour in. And it never did. Because of this experience, I am more likely to donate a few bucks to the underdog who can’t afford her horse’s emergency vet bill than to the big rescue. It’s still rare that I donate because I have enough bills to pay for myself, but if I’m going to donate, it’s going to be to an individual that really needs it. What goes around comes around, is the way I see it.

    Asking for donations for birthday parties, vacations or big competitions will rub me the wrong way. I personally think it’s appalling for big name riders to ask for funding for their big name horses or their big name competitions. Pro riders can get pro deals and sponsorships that the rest of us can’t. I’m not paying for anyone else’s competitions when I have to scrimp and save for my own. But when it comes to emergency vet bills, shit happens. I see it all the time in my job: I work in a veterinary ER. Right now there is an animal hospitalized in our ICU whose bill is up to $16,000. Sixteen THOUSAND. The owner can afford it, but the vast majority of people, even in the DC area where I work who are pretty well-off, do not have that kind of money to spend on a pet. When it’s about life or death, you don’t always have time to go out and interview for a second job so you can pay that bill. Your credit cards might be maxed out. Your savings might have gone into fixing your car or paying your child’s hospital bill or fixing the flooded basement. We had a family who hospitalized their 9 cats when their house burned down. They had just cancelled their homeowner’s insurance because they couldn’t afford it. They lost *everything* and ended up surrendering the cats to the hospital I worked at. The hospital ate the cost (we got no Christmas bonuses that year), saved the cats and found homes for all of them. I guess maybe I’ve been exposed to the downside of people’s lives too often in my line of work. It’s great that everyone here can afford their vet bills, but you would be surprised by the number of people in the world who can’t. Who have to euthanize a perfectly young, otherwise healthy animal with a broken leg because they can’t even afford the $500 amputation. The truth of the matter is that if only the people who could afford the big vet bills had pets, there would be an even larger number of homeless pets out there. Should more people have pet insurance? You betcha. Does everyone know this option exists? No they do not. And this applies to horses as well. My main competition horse is covered for up to $7500 in major medical & surgical. But I still have to come up with that money up front for insurance to reimburse me. Pet insurance works the same way.

    So because of all of this, I don’t think crowdfunding is tacky in instances where the help is genuinely needed for stuff like medical expenses for themselves or their pets. I just can’t judge when it comes to that specific scenario.

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