I really like this site, Often Awesome, a group of friends and community members mobilizing to raise money and mobilize help for Tim, who’s living with ALS. Its struck me as a good and useful hack in itself. Put a donation button on your blog and set it up to make it easy for people to give a small recurring donation over a year. While blog tip jars don’t usually see a lot of action, I think the idea of $5 or $10 a month to a friend or fellow blogger in need would be effective.
It seems key to then report on what the money is getting used for, to report on how many people are subscribing, to thank people in a heartfelt way and to set goals to increase subscriptions. So, “If we get 30 more people giving $10 a month, we can afford this particular wheelchair, or van, or whatever” is more effective than just asking for money over and over. Then when that goal is reached, set another one and ask again.
Note that Tim and Kaylan ask for people’s time and for help with specific tasks, for visits and company, for rides to appointments and stuff like that too. They made it really clear what they need and made it easy for people to volunteer for small roles or one time occasions. They got people to throw benefits and donate for auctions. Good idea! It’s a ton of work to coordinate in itself, of course.
If you look at sites like Kiva.org they operate on the same principle. They tell a story and they set a goal that’s easy to imagine. If someone said, “Hey, I live in Ecuador and have kind of a hard time in life and you’re making bank as a web developer in the United States of Amazing Privilege, how about you give me some money to even things out?” I might say “Oh sure, okay” since I’m a socialist at heart anyway. But do I go out and do that spontaneously? No. But if someone said “Hey I want to buy a truck for my business and can afford it if I raise $2000 ” I feel pretty good giving them 20 or a hundred bucks towards that goal and am inspired to do so.
I think about this a lot, since I have a job and like to donate to people online or off. It’s a pleasure after my own difficult years and the help I got from friends, to be the one who buys dinner for friends once in a while or to just paypal a random blog-friend 50 bucks when they have a difficult month and have been eating ramen for way too long.
Tim and Kaylan do a really good job of telling the story of what ALS has been like for them, on the blog and in their videos produced by AllAcesMedia. They make it really clear how much that story has been about their entire community rallying around them.
Not everyone has that level of real life support. But we’re still able to build strong communities online. More of us should try telling those stories, including what we might need and need help to get.
While not everyone can articulate their situation or make a story out of their life, if you are capable of doing it or have help to do it, it might be worth a try.
The times I’ve asked for help online have been pretty minor, things like needing someone to bring groceries for a week or two. Successful, though.
I was thinking about this issue recently also because of Roger Ebert’s post announcing that he was putting some of his content behind a subscription wall. He’ll still write out in public for free, supported by advertising revenue or paid by newspapers, but there’s extra stuff you can see by paying him $5 a month. I worry this will be pointed to by news media as a successful example of the subscription model for content. When in fact it will be successful not because people are willing to pay $5 a month for a writer’s extra blog posts and twitters, but because people like and admire Roger Ebert and want to give him a hand and show him he’s appreciated for his lifetime of entertaining writing and performance and for what he’s put out into the world and will continue to do.
Have you ever donated money online to an individual in a hard situation? Why or why not? Would you ask for help in this way? Have you ever run a successful fundraiser for yourself or something you need for accessibility or help with an impairment or illness? Or do you think I’m way off base in suggesting this tactic to people with disabilities?