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Is GoFundMe Replacing the Offering Plate?

Posted on August 19, 2016 at 4:10 PM

Is GoFundMe Replacing the Offering Plate?

By Tracy L. Darity


We’ve all seen them on our social media timelines. A request to donate money to help start a business, pay for medical treatment, or to bury a child whose life ended tragically. Today those requests now cover anything someone needs a hand-out or hand-up to accomplish. What I am talking about is crowdsourcing accounts by GoFundMe, and other fundraising sites.


Earlier this week a story broke about Baltimore mom Toya Graham. She is the woman we all cheered a year ago when she disciplined her son for engaging in the uprising after the murder of Freddie Gray, by Baltimore police officers. Well that same son accidentally set their home on fire when he inadvertently tossed water on a grease fire. A Baltimore preacher stated that he reached out to the family to provide assistance, but was told thanks but no thanks; we have a GoFundMe page set-up. Indeed they do. It appears the son who set the fire, in hopes of rectifying the situation started the page three days ago. His goal was to raise $5,000 to help with moving expenses. As of this writing, they have raised almost $71K, with the most recent donation coming in a few minutes ago. Wow! That’s like $1,000 an hour.


Currently, the state of Louisiana is recovering from what is being called a disaster equal, if not worse than Hurricane Katrina. The city of Baton Rouge and surrounding areas are under water and some 86K residents are in need of federal assistance. An organization by the name of Oya's Daughters Inc. has started a GoFundMe page to provide supplies to displaced single mothers. Their goal is $8,000, and in one day they have only raised $200.


This is the thing that perplexes me about crowdfunding sites. There never seems to be a solid reasoning behind campaigns that are successful and those that are not. A son is murdered and the family raises $10K for funeral expenses. Three men are gunned down sitting in a car, one is paralyzed and starts a campaign to cover therapy expenses and barely clears $100.


Giving is big business. Every Sunday, and some days in between, millions of people enter churches across the country. At some point during the service those in attendance will be asked to give a monetary donation or tithe. By the way, a tithe is considered 10% of your income. Giving USA Foundation reported that in 2014 Americans gave $114.9 billion dollars to churches and other religious organizations. However, a Gallup poll suggests that Americans confidence in churches to “do the right thing” with donations is below 50%.


A 2015 article published by the Wall Street Journal stated that GoFundMe receives $100 million dollars a month in donations. That’s $1.2 billion dollars a year raised by the average citizen, for people with causes they support. And this is just one company. There are other online crowdfunding sites out there.

 

Laid out side by side, in churches members are asked to give 10% of their earnings to go towards the upkeep of the church, salaries for the staff, funding of ministries; and if anything is left over the poor may benefit. However, with GoFundMe, the owners of the site deduct 10% of money donated to run the business and pay salaries, while 90% goes to the person needing funding. When all the bills are paid, the company’s profit is said to be $60 million annually. So maybe the church could learn a lesson or two from these sites.


I will admit one of my biggest issues with the concept of tithing is that I rarely if ever see churches I have given to, impact the lives of the people or communities they claim to serve. Personally, I have given to numerous crowdfunding sites including GoFundMe and DonorsChoose.org, which helps teachers support their classrooms. The first time I gave to a crowdfunding site it was to help a local artist go to Scotland to present her one woman show at a festival. The following week I made my first GoFundMe donation. It was for someone fighting a terminal illness. Instead of giving to the church that week, I gave the money to her. I must admit, it was a good feeling knowing I actually helped someone in need.  For those who say, just select "Benevolence" on the church offering envelope if that is how you want the money used; please look at your tithe envenope the next time you are in church.  There is probably some fine print somewhere that states regardless of your intentions, the church can use the donation however they choose.


When deciding when to give to a funding campaign I always do my research to make sure it is a legit need. I am also a voyeur in that I always find myself lurking in the comments of any online page I visit. Some commenters are just downright hateful, while others make good points in the midst of their hating. In cases where people are requesting money for things that could have been taken care of by insurance, people are quick to point out how wasteful the person was in their day-today living. Comments like, you’re spending money on luxury items but won’t invest in life, burial or renters insurance, are common.  It plays into the notion that people pay for what they want and then beg for what they need.


I currently pay $52 a month for life insurance and about $420 a quarter for my homeowner’s policy. In doing research for this blog, I discovered burial insurance, which is based on age, would cost me $100 to $150 annually for $5,000 in coverage, and renter’s insurance would run about the same for $30K in property and $100K in liability coverage. So the commenters are valid in their assessments.


The whole idea of people relying on the church or crowdfunding sites goes to bigger issues, which I believe points back at the church. Are we teaching people the basic skills to survive? I’m not talking about the child stricken with a rare form of Cancer and have exceeded the maximum that the insurance company will pay. Or the parent who must quit their job or take leave because their adult child who is across the country has been critically injured and they want to be by their bedside. I’m talking about teaching people how to manage their money and prioritize. To not put tickets to see Beyonce ahead of paying your light bill.


In a perfect world, if the church used tithes to continue the work of Jesus, the majority of the billions of dollars flowing through them would go towards helping the truly less fortunate. Imagine if churches supported business ventures that could employ members, or even sponsored a students run to the Olympics. Instead they have set up a structure where members are paying for a service. Think about it, today’s church is a commodity and we are paying for buildings, entertainment and marketing stunts to get more people through the door. Yet, when they leave they are no more empowered to live a better or prosperous life than when they arrived.


So what say you? What are your thoughts on GoFundMe accounts? Do you think the church could do more to help those in need? Have you ever given to or created a GoFundMe account? Is this a topic that needs to be addressed?


If you agree with this article—please like, if you have an opinion—please comment, and if you with me—please share. I would love to know your point of view. Also, check-out my other blogs on A View From Tracy’s Point.


Peace and Blessings,

 


Tracy

 


Tracy L. Darity is the author of three novels, He Loves Me He Loves Me Not!, Love...Like Snow in Florida on a Hot Summer Day, and The Red Bear Society. Available in print and e-book. To learn more, visit www.TracyLDarity.com or my Amazon page.

 


Categories: Life's Musings

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