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Krista Blazier, Features Editor

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Imagine: people financially supporting your needs and/or aspirations just because you asked them to on the internet. That’s the dream, isn’t it?

Well for some, this dream has become a reality through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is an internet phenomenon that allows people to request money from strangers so that they may achieve any goals that they may not be able to afford to reach themselves.

Websites like GoFundMe are used primarily for personal goals, allowing people to ask for donations in order to fund events like weddings, honeymoons or funerals, or pay for things such as cancer treatments or surgery.

It is undeniably generous for strangers to fund special events, education or life-saving medical treatments that others may not be able to afford. Even our school uses charitable crowdfunding to help raise tuition money for students who need financial aid. Crowds4Pres helped to raise $63,803.97 in financial aid for Pres students last year.

However, some requests in this realm of crowdfunding are flat-out inappropriate. I really do not have a lot of desire to help you get your dream wedding and send your husband and you to Hawaii for a honeymoon while others are asking for money to help save their lives.

This is not to say that honeymoons and weddings are not important; of course everyone deserves to have a memorable experience of a very significant event in their lives. But if you can’t afford a blow-out wedding, maybe you shouldn’t have one–it’s called setting a budget and sticking to it. I’d much rather have my donation money used for something more important, like aiding others in obtaining serious medical care.

On the other end of crowdfunding, websites like Kickstarter attract backers for potential inventions; this is the more business-like side of the matter. As opposed to a charity-based donation, you get something in return for your support. On sites like these, the creator of the project creates a page for his idea that goes onto the site, including a brief description of his project goals, occasionally a video and motivation for people to invest. For each increment of donation, the creators offer rewards to their investors.

Sounds simple enough, right? Potentially, some really cool things could be created. Not every genius inventor can be rich, so attracting investors seems like the way to go.

The thing is, this can be problematic for those giving away money. First off, some ideas should simply just not be funded. Sure, there are projects that I am sure plenty of people would be enthused to fund; for example, a hoverboard is being developed thanks to Kickstarter. Also, fans of Veronica Mars were thrilled to see their favorite TV show become a movie due to fans’ enthusiastic Kickstarter donations.

However, some of the projects you might come across are not the most worthy of your money. One creator, Zack “Danger” Brown, successfully raised $55,492 to fund his project of–wait for it–making potato salad. That’s right. People paid tens of thousands of dollars to a man with a funding goal of $10 so that he could make himself something to eat. In addition to this, projects such as the “Shrimp Cloud,” an internet-accessible drive filled with pictures of shrimp, exist and are supported on Kickstarter. People are paying other people money to chase their dreams of doing stupid things.

Besides the simple fact that some of the projects are simply insignificant, there is also a larger liability involved. Chances are, you wouldn’t know the person you are giving money to, and it is possible that they will not follow through with whatever it is you are helping them do. It is sad to say, but crowdfunding scams are a prevalent issue due to the fact that people are sometimes dishonest and selfish. Though there have been only a few specific cases in which fraud was evident, experts believe that many cases go unrecognized frequently.

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau says, “Trying to vet and monitor every crowdfunding campaign is impractical for the website operators, however, the large sites are developing teams devoted specifically to identifying and stopping fraud.”

While crowdfunding sites are attempting to improve safety and protect their customers, it is simply impossible to monitor on such a large scale.

In addition, some “inventors” may simply be just dreamers. Just because someone says that they need money so they can invent the world’s first flying car does not mean that they are capable of doing it. Sure, I, too, would love to see a flying car be developed! But, you have to ask yourself: does this person on the internet that I do not know even have a solid plan to create whatever it is I am investing in?

People should learn to be more responsible with their money, and perhaps paying someone to attempt to create some poorly thought out, pointless product may not be the best use of their earnings. I think we can all agree that it would be disappointing to invest in a product that turns out to be a dud.

Clearly, crowdfunding is not going away anytime soon. It harnesses the power of the Internet and has shown some truly awesome benefits, like paying for someone’s cancer treatment or funding a creative project that wouldn’t have otherwise gotten off the ground. At the same time, others have clearly started to consider crowdfunding an acceptable way to pay for any of life’s big occasions, like weddings, furnishing a nursery, or financing a dream trip.

So before you make a donation, ask yourself: am I contributing to a worthy cause, or am I just following the crowd?

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