Valium Vickie

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dear GoFundMe(like) Crowdfunding Site: I'm an Artist!

When they're used correctly, popular crowdfunding sites like gofundme.com and givemeyourmoneyyoustupidspoiledmillennial.com can be invaluable resources for noble, worthwhile causes. But some of the online fundraising campaigns I've seen recently are really something. One of the most ridiculous fundraising requests I've ever seen comes from longtime Valium Vickie contributor Kenneth Larson. Here is a transcript of Larson's attempt to set the campaign up:

* Note: The names have been changed.

The Cause




MAY 19, 2015  |  09:20PM CDT
Original message
Kenneth wrote:

To whom it may concern,

I've seen A LOT of people trying to raise money for their own personal issues on sites like this, GoFundMe & something that I believe was called Pay It Straightforward. These fundraising campaigns really bother me. I mean, I saw this one case the other day where this lady Tricia (not her real name) was going on and on about how her husband got hit by a car crossing the street, and how she was so wrapped up in caring for her husband Dax (not his real name) that she missed a few rent payments and now she was in danger of being evicted. So now this lady has the nerve to ask people like us to cover for her mistakes. I mean, that story is sad and all, but come on? Maybe Dax should learn how to cross the street. I'm sorry, but no. Just no.

This got me to thinking. If anybody deserves a fundraising campaign it's me. Here's my story: My grandfather has been sick for a while, and it's looks like he's finally going to pass soon. The good news is I'm the beneficiary on his life insurance policy. The bad news is he wants me to use a good chunk of that money for his rather excessive burial and funeral service expenses. I had already planned on using that money to sustain myself so I could quit my job and focus on my art full time.

Yes, that's right, I'm an artist. I know plenty of people claim to be "artists," but I'm the genuine article. The project I'm working on now could literally change the way we (HUMAN BEINGS) look at LOVE -- and IMPACT the way we live our lives. But that project won't ever come to fruition if I have to work a 9-to-5 like some civilian. I NEED to be 100% focused on my art -- and with my pop's life insurance money, I can be. At least until I finish this project I can.

So I guess I have a few questions. One: Can I set up a fundraising campaign through your site? I honestly don't see why I shouldn't be able to. After all, most people's campaigns are somewhat selfish and don't offer anything in return to people for their generous donations. I'm offering people my ART.

I guess, the final question is: How should I market my campaign? You guys are the experts. Do you think I'll get more donations if I'm COMPLETELY honest (like my art) and say, "I need donations for my grandfather's funeral expenses ... so I can live off of his life insurance money to pursue my ART full-time while the inspiration is at its current fever pitch, etc., etc." Or should I keep it vague (but not dishonest) and simply say: "I need help raising money for my grandfather's funeral expenses." You guys are the experts, so please let me know.

Also, when responding, please keep in mind that it wasn't easy for me to be so HONEST with you about my situation.

Sincerely,
Kenneth

MAY 19, 2015  |  11:44AM CDT
Meg F. replied:

Hi Kenneth,
Thank you so much for reaching out. Although GiveForward specializes in fundraising for medical and other emergency expenses, you can use GiveForward to raise money for other endeavors. The only specific restrictions we have are that you cannot raise money for legal fees or send money to an international bank account.

The most important thing while using our site is to be completely honest with your supporters. As you mentioned, being honest isn’t always easy, and we don’t want you to share anything you are uncomfortable with. However, for the sake of transparency, it is important that your supporters understand where their funds will go. In this case, it would be best to explain that the funds will be going to funeral expenses, but will also be allowing you to quit your job and focus on art full time.

Most donations on our site will come from friends, family, and other people that you know. If you have a great network to reach out to for donations, then I would definitely suggest creating a page on our site! Just go to giveforward.com and click on the “Create” link to get started. You just have to tell your story, add some pictures, and then share the personalized link with your network.
Once you set up your page, you will be assigned a personal fundraising coach who can answer any questions you might have in the future.

My Best,
Meg

MAY 21, 2015  |  11:05PM CDT
 
Kenneth replied:
 

Meg (do you mind if I call you Meg?) or Ms. F.,
 
Please, call me Kenn. First off, thanks so much for getting back to me so quickly. I gave you all of the stars on the "Rate Our Interaction," because of the thoughtful feedback you offered regarding my unique situation.
Because you didn't respond to my initial statement about the general nature of fundraising campaigns, I assume you also believe many causes are selfish and non-emergent but are unable to vocally express those thoughts because of your current position. I completely understand, and I respect your professionalism. 

Now let's get down to business. After meditating on your response, I think you're right. "For the sake of transparency," I need to let my supporters know that not only will their donations go to my grandfather's funeral expenses, they will also go toward helping me to leave the chains of corporate America behind and pursue my ART full-time. Like my ART, my fundraising campaign will be 1000% honest.

That brings me to my follow-up questions. In your letter, you said, Most donations on our site will come from friends, family, and other people that you know. If you have a great network to reach out to for donations, then I would definitely suggest creating a page on our site! If you have a great network to reach out to for donations, then I would definitely suggest creating a page on our site! 

That may present a bit of a problem. My biological father split when I was only five. He told my mom he couldn't be tied down with a family and needed to devote himself to his music full-time which, to this day, I think is an inexcusably selfish move. Who would actually say something like that out loud? Not that it matters, but he failed. Instead of writing original music, he now spends his time playing in a Steely Dan covered band that calls itself 'Reeling in the Gears,' a subtle nod to my deadbeat dad's daytime gig as an auto mechanic (I Googled him). My mother's a drunk, and my stepfather constantly tells me that ART is for queer little ladybugs. There's my feeble grandfather, whom I love. But this whole campaign centers around his life insurance money so I'm not sure if that's a conflict of interest or something. 

That leaves my friends. They mean well, but most of them are artists. They're not ARTISTS like me, people who need ART the way fish need WATER, the way nymphos need COITUS. But they think artsy things are cool, you know? Anyway, a bunch of these "friends" kind of owe me some money. So can I list the people who owe me by name on the fundraising page or do you have rules against this type of thing? I think guilting some of these people into doing the right thing could be a good way to get the ball rolling and that could create some type of domino effect and then, who knows? Maybe I'll be able to use ALL of Pop's life insurance money to fund my life as a FULL-TIME ARTIST.

Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated, but please understand the urgency of the situation when it comes to getting back to me. My grandfather is stable right now, but he is very, very old, and I need to get this campaign up and running BEFORE he takes a turn.

Thanks again for everything Meg or Ms. F.!
Sincerely,
Kenn

MAY 21, 2015  |  09:01AM CDT
Meg F. replied:

Hi Kenn,

I’m sorry to hear about some of the conflict within your family throughout your life. I’m glad to hear you have a strong community of fellow artists, though, and, of course, you have your art as an outlet as well!
 
As I said, most of the donations we see on our site are from people who know you personally. There are a few reasons for this. First off, like yourself, many people are skeptical of fundraisers for individuals and causes that they do not know personally. While the majority of the causes on our site are genuine and honest, there are always a small minority of people who will try to start fundraisers selfishly. If you have not met the recipient or organizer personally, it is hard to tell whether a fundraiser is a worthy cause or not. Most importantly, the people who know you personally are the people who are most familiar with your situation and your passion for making art, and are therefore most likely to feel compelled to give. 

Although it may be tempting to list the people who owe you money, I would advise against it. In general, it is best not to put anyone’s name or information on the internet without their permission, and, though listing off names would almost certainly provoke a reaction from your friends, it may be a negative reaction. I would recommend posting your story to your page, and reaching out to those closest to you in a private, direct way explaining why their contribution would mean so much to you.


If you need any help with the create process, please let me know! My thoughts are with your grandfather and all of his loved ones.

My Best,

Meg

MAY 28, 2015  |  11:18PM CDT

Kenneth replied:

Meg,
 
I took your last response seriously, and I've been thinking about how best to respond. First off, the easy part. Thanks much for your thoughtful response. You're advice in our email exchange has really helped shape the direction of my fundraising campaign. For example, I've decided, in a large part because of your advice, that listing the friends who owe me money on the event page. But I will reach out and let them know that they'd better damn well donate if they expect to stay friends.

Now for the tricky part. I'm really going out on a limb here, and there's a small chance I'm completely off base (but I don't really think I am) so please be respectful of that in your response. Throughout our conversation, I've noticed a certain tone or vibe that I thought I may have been imagining. However, two statements in your most recent email have confirmed my suspicions. The two statements I'm referring to are: if you have not met the recipient or organizer personally, it is hard to tell whether a fundraiser is a worthy cause or not and If you need any help with the create process, please let me know!

While I may have missed some hints in the previous emails you sent, it's impossible not to see what you are getting at there. I too have felt a connection, and while I'm flattered by your not-so-subtle offer to meet the "organizer personally," I feel there are some things you should know. First, I'm currently in a committed relationship. That being said, the relationship isn't monogamous. As an ARTIST, monogamy is as dangerous as sobriety. If you would like to meet personally, initially as just a business meeting to discuss my project, I'd be open to that. However, my partner would have to accompany us. My partner would be there simply to vet you -- and also to ensure you're not trying to take advantage of my gentle ARTIST spirit. 

Again, keep in mind how vulnerable I feel in broaching this difficult subject and let me know how you'd like to proceed.

Sincerely,
Kenn

MAY 28, 2015  |  10:33AM CDT
Ron R. replied:
 

Hi Kenn,
Thank you so much for your kind words, and I am so glad that Meg helped you build a clear idea of what you’d like your campaign to look like! All of us at GiveForward are here to help you create and manage a successful fundraiser, but can be done via email or over the phone. Once you publish your fundraiser on our site, you will be assigned a personal fundraising coach who can help you with any tips or suggestions you might need for making your fundraiser a success.

I apologize if this was not clear, but Meg’s words were advice that we give to many of our users about the general nature of fundraising campaigns. It is rare to see a lot of donations or support from people you do not know, and, for the most part, we suggest promoting within your current circle of friends, families, and acquaintances.
Please let us know if you have any further questions! Any of our User Happiness Representatives would be more than happy to help!

My best,
Ron

MAY 29, 2015  |  01:23PM CDT
Kenneth
replied:
 
Oh dear. Based on the fact that I'm receiving this message from you, Ron R., I assume my assumptions about Meg F's messages were incorrect, weren't they? 

So when you say: I apologize if this was not clear, but Meg’s words were advice that we give to many of our users about the general nature of fundraising campaigns, you mean I was mistaken, and Meg F. was never actually asking me out on a date, don't you? 

I'm SO embarrassed at the pickle I've gotten myself into. I simply don't know what to say, Ron R. I feel like a heel -- a heel that has suffered an Achilles tear to boot. You mentioned also said: Once you publish your fundraiser on our site, you will be assigned a personal fundraising coach who can help you with any tips or suggestions you might need for making your fundraiser a success. I'm assuming that because of our "misunderstanding," Meg F. would never agree to be my personal fundraising coach once my fundraiser is published. Is that correct, Ron R.?

Before I continue, would you mind passing along an apology to Ron F for me?

Sincerely,
Kenn L.
ARTIST

MAY 29, 2015  |  02:52PM CDT
Kara S. replied:

Hi Kenn,
Like Ron mentioned, as soon as you create a fundraiser you will be assigned a Fundraising Coach from our team. Meg F is actually a User Happiness Representative, like myself and Ron, so you would be assigned to someone else as a coach. All of our coaches are wonderful, so you’ll be in good hands. If you need any help with the create process, let us know!

Best,
Kara
Kara S.
User Happiness Rep

JUN 02, 2015  |  07:48PM CDT
Kenneth replied:
 
Kara S.,

I'm SOO confused right now, and I'm also feeling pretty vulnerable. (I don't know if you know this, but I'm an ARTIST, so I feel more deeply than regular people.) I was talking to Ron R. about passing along a message to Meg F., and the next thing I know I'm getting an email from you, Kara S., about the the difference between a Fundraising Co-chair and a User Happiness Associate that doesn't really address my apology to Kara F., which is something I really need to clear up before I put my fundraiser up live. Honestly, I have this sneaking suspicion that you guys are playing some elaborate prank on me, and it's very disconcerting.

If this isn't the case, then I apologize, but I really think your average person would see this situation the same way that I do. I'm not sure how much you know about my situation, but apparently I misinterpreted some things that Meg F. said to encourage me in fundraising efforts. Next thing I know, I'm being contacted by Ron R. from whom I failed to receive any reply at all. 

If this isn't you guys just having a little fun with an eccentric (i.e., ARTIST), then the only other explanation that seems plausible is this: Ron R. has feelings for Meg F. and, because of this, he knowingly sabotaged my apology. As a romantic, I understand this logic, but can you, Kara S., PLEASE clarify what's going on here and let me know if it's possible to somehow get my apology to Meg F.?

Sincerely,
Kenn L.
ARTIST
JUN 02, 2015  |  10:07AM CDT
Ron R. replied:
 

Hi Kenn,
I’m so sorry for any miscommunication! There are eight User Happiness Reps at GiveForward, the team which Meg, Kara, and I are a part of. We answer emails as they come in; so you may hear back from different people at different times. I assure you we are here simply to help! Please know that your message was passed along to Meg and no further apologies are necessary. If you have any further questions about creating a fundraiser on our site, any of us would be happy to help out.

My best,
Ron


JUN 02, 2015  |  07:48PM CDT
Kenneth replied:

Ron R.

Thanks for clarifying. I gave you all of the stars in my rating to show my gratitude for your help. Also, I apologize for insinuating that you may have feelings for Meg F. If you do, that's none of my business. Also, I apologize for the delay, but I relapsed again ... hard. I know that's not relevant to our situation, but I want you to know that I'm REAL. I'm not sure if I mentioned it to you (or just Meg F. & Kara S.), but I'm an ARTIST, and I choose to suffer for my ART. Did you know that if an ARTIST doesn't use mind-altering substances, his or her ART will ALWAYS be contrived. It's a fact.

Anyway, I don't mean to sound ungrateful here. I very much appreciate the advice Giveforward offered about how I should stress the truth about my situation and how awful my immediate family has been to me in the hopes of garnering more donations for people. But here's the thing: I can't push forward with this project until I'm ABSOLUTELY SURE the misunderstanding with Meg F. is behind me and that I'm forgiven.

To do that, I need you Ron R. to pass along this forgiveness poem I've written for Meg F. and let me know exactly what she said. Can you do that for me, Ron R?

Here is my forgiveness poem, titled "Darkest Hollows:"

In darkest hollows, viscous phlegm crawls slowly toward the light
while diseased pustules weep tears of atonement.
Am I forgiven?

Cheers,
Kenn

END OF CORRESPONDENCE