Yesterday an interesting thing happened. I'd already had my eye on a developing trend for a few weeks when a tweet directed at my attention created a bit of a frenzy. Here's what it said:
This is a new-ish trend, brought about by the success of Kickstarter and other fundraisers on sites like Go Fund Me or Indiegogo. Those sites have had their share of criticism when popular, but perhaps frivolous, campaigns raise well over $1 million when other, less flashy campaigns struggle to reach their limits and serve a more serious purpose (like, say, a campaign to raise funds for teachers to buy school supplies).
That said, nothing comes close to parents using these platforms to raise funds to help them have or adopt a baby. The concept has some moral implications that raise the question, "What about this feels so...wrong?" It's one of those occasions that the definition of "overshare" is relatively broad, because charity can apply to so many things.
Personally, I enjoy giving to causes that I stand behind, be it helping an artist to fund a new project or helping a family from losing their home due to circumstances out of their control. I think the fundraising platforms that have cropped up online prove that the power is in the individual, and we should all rely on each other, as opposed to insurance companies or our 401k's, to get through life. However, much as I believe people should edit themselves when it comes to sharing poop pictures, I also believe people should be choosy with their fundraisers.
What if a family that needs their friends' and relatives' help to adopt a baby discovers in two years that the child has a disease or a disability that requires extensive treatment? Will there be another fundraiser?
When I was chatting with people about this online yesterday, I learned about one example in which a couple that raised the funds for their first adopted child is now requesting donations for the second. Is it rude to think that's greedy, or is it actually just greedy?
What about the people who raise money for fertility treatments? Does it make a difference if someone raises money for a different medical expense, like a wheelchair, or cancer coverage, or a necessary surgery? Does "opting-in" to a scenario, like parenthood, distinguish what's appropriate from what's inappropriate? I think it does, and that's what makes baby fundraising seem awkward.
But, if you think about it, baby showers exist to help couples retain necessary items, as do weddings and wedding showers. What's so different about a fundraiser that uses donations to make or adopt a baby? I received a tweet from Stephanie Kaloi, the managing editor of Offbeat Families, after Emily's initial tweets that said:
And Alice Wright from Get Off My Internets mentioned that she'd just written on the subject, specifically a blogger with six kids who's fundraising to adopt a seventh child. That woman posted on her Facebook fan page that "God spoke to her and her husband's hearts" and told them to apply for the child anyway, which they did, and now they're approved and seeking money to make it all official.
The blogger wrote, "I have 1473 Facebook friends. If every one of them gave $21.20 to our adoption fund, we'd be at our goal." The child has Down Syndrome, and the first comment on Get Off My Internets aptly says, "Is she going to fund the cost of raising a child with special needs with internet begging?"
Does it, or should it, matter if a person already has six kids when she's running a fundraiser to bring on a seventh? It seems like once you start asking for money publicly (some might call it virtual panhandling), you open yourself up to criticism from people who are wondering why you'd take on the expense of another child (especially one with special needs) when you already have six children to support and educate. Or, thinking about it from another perspective, should it matter if a couple that's raising donations to fund IVF is in their 20s versus their 40s? All of these questions were circulating through my head when I got this submission last night:
Apparently even reverse vasectomies are worthy of a fundraiser. Ginger sounds pleasant enough, but I have to call out the fact that, A) there are no "Likes" on her post, and B) one of her friends seemingly felt obligated to apologize for not donating. I call those red flags, but maybe I'm being too harsh.
Is it EVER really appropriate to ask your friends for money, and if so, why a baby and not something else that appreciates with time, like a new home or a piece of art that, when sold, would provide relatives with financial security? Who's to say I shouldn't start a campaign to raise money for all the plastic surgery that I might decide to have in 25 years? No one! I'm doing it!!!
As a final thought, I'll say this: If you're offering your friends something with your fundraiser, like a terrible t-shirt or a shitty mug, that's better than nothing. And if you're raising funds via another route, like a garage sale, you don't have to tell your friends that the money is going toward adopting a baby. It could be going toward a bedazzled jacuzzi for all they're concerned. What you do with your money is your business -- and what your friends and family do with their money is their business. Maybe we should keep it that way.