Crowdfunding websites: Why they make us better people

About three years ago I was a Mary Kay cosmetics seller for a while (good times, I learned a lot of valuable stuff). The Mary Kay culture is all about empowerment, believing in yourself, and working for change (all good things). So, there I was, a new Mary Kay rep, looking for people to empower with makeup, and giving free facials to anyone who would have me. Unfortunately, most people wanting free facials were people who couldn’t afford the product.

There was this one lady I did a group facial for who lived in a very poor part of town. Walking up to the door in my red suit, I knew I wasn’t going to sell anything. I didn’t want to do the party. It would be a waste of my time and resources. But I had faith that I was there for a reason, and I loved to bring smiles to people’s faces, even if it didn’t make me a cent. So I knocked.

Stepping inside, my heart sank further. The kitchen table, which was the only flat surface not the floor, was covered in trash, dirty dishes, and cat food. The floor was covered in dirt, moldy bits of who knew what, and other less savory things. The whole apartment reeked of cigarette smoke. But with a smile, the hostess swept everything off the table onto the floor, so I set up.

I did my facial and makeup routine with the hostess, her mother (who was so high she tried to eat the product instead of put it on her face) and her boyfriend (yes, makeup too). It was not fun, but it was worth it, because I’d never seen any group of people smile so much. Afterwards I talked to the hostess about becoming a Mary Kay consultant because she loved what I did and wanted to do it too. We exchanged contact information and I left. I didn’t sell anything.

We met a few times after to talk about Mary Kay. She wanted to do it because it gave her a sense of worth and empowerment, but she had no money to start. One day, I got a tearful phone call from her: she’d woken up to find her mother dead, probably from drug overdose. I went to her house and held her as she cried. Apparently they’d moved there recently from somewhere else and she had no friends or family to turn to. Because she had no money, her mother was going to be put in a poor man’s grave.

I didn’t bother wondering about society’s failings, who’s fault it was that she was in this situation, or what five steps she needed to fix herself. Her mother had died, and her body would soon be dumped into an unknown grave. So using a crowdfunding website, I set up a fund to have her mother cremated (her choice). Within a few days, we’d raised $1600, and my friend was able to lay her mother, the only person who’d always loved her, to rest.

I was profoundly changed by that experience, and started looking at the world through new eyes. Not only was I reminded to be thankful for all my blessings, but I myself was blessed with the opportunity to help someone else in such a profound way. If it weren’t for crowdfunding websites, there is no way we could have done it. But through this technology, we reached hundreds of people who were eager to help and could spare a few dollars for a good cause.

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Since then I’ve had a great respect for crowdfunding. I’ve helped fund everything from lawyer fees in a custody battle, to creating a unique fantasy card game, helping a south Asian village destroyed by flooding, and producing an audiobook. Crowdfunding projects provide me a reminder not to hoard what I have, but to be generous. They offer a small but tangible way in which I can help, and actually see the direct result. With crowdfunding, a group of people can easily gather and say “you know what, we are going to make this happen.” It is truly an empowering technology and, despite the possibility for abuse (true for anything under the sun), I think the phenomenon of crowdfunding has changed our society, and us, for the better.

Because of my overwhelmingly positive experience with crowdfunding, both giving and receiving, I am once again spearheading a campaign. But for the first time, I’m asking money for myself: a kickstarter campaign to fund the publishing of my debut fantasy novels (read more about them here) so that I can actually earn something to support my family instead of going into debt to publish

It is a distinctly uncomfortable thing to do, asking for money. But I have to remind myself that, not only are my backers getting wonderful rewards (signed books, art prints, hand-made swag), but I’m providing people with an opportunity to be blessed through generosity. I’m reminding myself that, no, I can’t do it on my own, nor should I try. It is naturally human, and naturally healthy, to give and receive help, to be part of a team, to have each others back. My books aren’t for me, they are for other people, and I need that constant reminder.

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My kickstarter campaign starts Tuesday February 2nd, and I need every bit of help I can get. If you aren’t already on my email newsletter list, please sign up here to get a notification when the kickstarter goes live. It is vital for the success of this project to build momentum by getting strong support right off the bat, and your contribution is invaluable. If you sign up for my newsletter you’ll also get bimonthly updates on my publishing, giveaways, and all sorts of other fun content. Even if you aren’t sure you’d want to back this project, you can tell other people about it. Word of mouth is the best way to gain visibility, and a simple tweet or facebook post could make a huge difference! Thank you so much lending me your attention. I hope my stories inspire you to make a difference in the world around you.