By Susan Jacobson
Daliah Lugo wants a license to practice law in Florida, but she can’t afford the Bar exam fees. Lori Krause has fallen behind on her bills and needs new tires. Rich Wise didn’t have the cash to retrieve his dogs from the pound.
The three Floridians are among thousands of people who have turned to crowdfunding to pay for necessities and luxuries alike.
Known as places to appeal for help with catastrophic medical expenses and raise capital for business ventures, crowdfunding websites also are awash in requests for assistance with veterinary bills, vacations and video-game consoles.
They’re a more efficient and less intrusive method of raising money than the phone calls, letters and in-person appeals of the past, crowdfunding experts said.
“People have always begged for money and asked for money, and crowdfunding has more easily allowed you to make that call heard through a large group,” said Ethan Mollick, a Harvard- and MIT-educated professor of entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Pennsylvania.
And people do ask, for a lot.
A check of two of the most popular sites, GoFundMe and Indiegogo, shows Floridians rely on friends, relatives, acquaintances and strangers to fulfill myriad wishes, including supplies for a “once-in-a-lifetime” cross-country hike, eye surgery for a dog, a honeymoon (along with a new roof), study abroad, new cars, infertility treatments and even “chest-masculinization” surgery for a transgender man.
“I guess you could say this is a different form of panhandling depending on the nature of the need,” said Sherry Thomas, founder and president of Palm Beach Etiquette.
GoFundMe cannot monitor the accuracy of each of the hundreds of thousands of campaigns on its site, and campaign organizers are free to decide how to use the money they raise, spokeswoman Kelsea Little said.