The Danger of 'Convenient' Generosity

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

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.

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

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.

You Might Also Like

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.

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.

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.

Top Comments

Chance M

19

Chance M commented…

In the interest of disclosure, I have a family member who is recently benefitting from a crowdfunding campaign.
I do think you make good points about stories or causes being over-sensationalized, and it is sometimes hard to make giving seem like a worshipful act when it is so convenient.

Concerning your third point, I wouldn't personally give to such a cause, but I disagree with that being a disadvantage of gofundme. People are going to give to causes with which we disagree; it's just that it's more visible now. I never like the argument that people shouldn't give to such and such cause or spend money on this or that, because this cause or thing really needs money. I don't like that because you could take it on and on with no end. If we question what cause they give to, then why not question the money they spend on themselves. It goes on ad infinitum (if I'm using that term properly). I don't personally like knocking when people give to a certain thing because I deem some other charity more worthy. In some cases it may actually be true, but not always. Besides, people probably aren't giving money to a "Christian" pizza place that they would otherwise be giving to African wells; it's probably money that they would spend on a burger or Starbucks.

"Furthermore, that outpouring of financial support didn't accurately represent the views of all Christians." We aren't the Christian police. Yeah, sometimes it's hard to explain why some in our Christian family do certain things, but I don't think we should tell people not to give to a certain cause because not every Christian supports it.

Andrew Cottrill

1

Andrew Cottrill commented…

Just a note: 5% of 1 billion is 50 million, not 5 million

5 Comments

Chance M

19

Chance M commented…

In the interest of disclosure, I have a family member who is recently benefitting from a crowdfunding campaign.
I do think you make good points about stories or causes being over-sensationalized, and it is sometimes hard to make giving seem like a worshipful act when it is so convenient.

Concerning your third point, I wouldn't personally give to such a cause, but I disagree with that being a disadvantage of gofundme. People are going to give to causes with which we disagree; it's just that it's more visible now. I never like the argument that people shouldn't give to such and such cause or spend money on this or that, because this cause or thing really needs money. I don't like that because you could take it on and on with no end. If we question what cause they give to, then why not question the money they spend on themselves. It goes on ad infinitum (if I'm using that term properly). I don't personally like knocking when people give to a certain thing because I deem some other charity more worthy. In some cases it may actually be true, but not always. Besides, people probably aren't giving money to a "Christian" pizza place that they would otherwise be giving to African wells; it's probably money that they would spend on a burger or Starbucks.

"Furthermore, that outpouring of financial support didn't accurately represent the views of all Christians." We aren't the Christian police. Yeah, sometimes it's hard to explain why some in our Christian family do certain things, but I don't think we should tell people not to give to a certain cause because not every Christian supports it.

Sarah Sciarini

5

Sarah Sciarini replied to Chance M's comment

Chance-- you make a great point! It's true there are always going to be people giving to causes that we don't agree with. Admittedly, I do get a bit frustrated when people give to politically-fuled causes because it often reflects a brand of Christianity that I don't subscribe to, and I personally view as damaging to the church as a whole. That being said, you're right! People will give to their passions.

I, too, have had friends benefit greatly from crowdfunding efforts! I'm thankful when people that are in need are supported. My overall point is more intentionality and less just throwing money at whatever tugs our heartstrings.

Andrew Cottrill

1

Andrew Cottrill commented…

Just a note: 5% of 1 billion is 50 million, not 5 million

Edmond Sanganyado

12

Edmond Sanganyado commented…

I recently read a popular Christian book on generosity. The author advocated for what he termed radical giving. In brief, give everything you don't need, and retain only what you need. To this author giving is an essential tool for decluttering your life.

I enjoyed the book, but one question made me think otherwise. Does the giving your teach has sufficient power to turn a thief into a giver? The giving that the book advocated couldn't transform a thief, it was just convenience- giving out of abundance. Isn't this the type of giving Christ taught against?

I think the question should be directed to crowd funding. How does God receive his glory in the exercise? If God is glorified, then giving this way can transform a thief. Unfortunately, giving to a cause no matter how noble the cause is, fall short of that measure.

Jazmine White

1

Jazmine White replied to Edmond Sanganyado's comment

I believe we should make wise choices in where we choose to invest our donations! I do have two questions though? Where in scripture does it teach about convenience giving? I'm a little confused on what you meant by that. Also, using the argument that our giving won't change a thief into a giver is an assumption isn't it? Changing hearts is God's business, and while the cause might not seem right to us, he may have plans to use that money for his purposes. I think the question of "how does this giving glorify god" is excellent! In the end we're called to be faithful to God with our finances! It just might look different to some people.

Please log in or register to comment

Log In