In a recent Maclean’s piece, Rosemary Counter writes about a young lady at an interesting crossroads in her life. Whereas previous generations might have picked up two or three jobs to work their way through college, unemployed 30-somethings nowadays can simply hop on the nearest crowdfunding site and commence to cyberbegging:
Alicia McGill, a 33-year-old in Milton, Ont., is out of work and money, especially the $20,000 it will cost to follow her dream of veterinary school. “I don’t want to beg for handouts,” she says, “but I see other people doing it and I think, why not me?” In another era, McGill might have plunged into debt. Instead, she wrote a few hundred words on her hardship, linked to the program she plans to take, and posted her crowdfunding page onto her social media. “I just want to do something with my life that gives me purpose and meaning,” she says.
Sure, vet school is far more altruistic than, say, asking strangers on the internet to pay for removal of the giant 420 tattoo on your forehead. But it’s still placing the onus on the generosity of others rather than the personal financial responsibility of yore.
Alicia writes on her GoFundMe page:
“I’ve always loved animals and had an inexplicable connection with them. Since my first dog to my current rabbit, I love them and I have always wanted to help them and their people. I was discouraged from getting into the field by some who tried to convince me that it was a thankless career choice. I unfortunately took this bad advice and pursued other things all the while in my head I knew what I should be doing.”
Thing is, if she is truly seeking to do something worthwhile with her love for animals, there are several options that don’t involve any money at all. For example, I foster cats for a non-profit group, and volunteer my time on the advocacy side promoting spay/neuter and community access to pet care programs. There are dozens of rescue groups and shelters in every municipality desperate for volunteers to do everything from socializing animals to cleaning cages to writing grants. Wherever your strengths lie, surely there is a group that would love your talents. No GoFundMe page required!
But for people like Alicia, the idea that others are turning to crowdfunding to fund their hopes and dreams compels them to do the same. As she said: “I don’t want to beg for handouts, but I see other people doing it and I think, why not me?” Why not indeed.
The why not may lie in the fact that Alicia has raised a measly $30 of her goal, $20 of which came from the reporter who interviewed her for the Maclean’s piece.
“Getting $10 means there’s something wrong with your plan,” says etiquette expert Jay Remer. Crowdfunding exists along a personal-to-altruistic spectrum, he explains, and the larger your cash goal the more altruistic you should be. More important is the why. “If the answer’s ‘cash,’ then this is by definition a cash grab.”
Is there anything more altruistic than turning a love for animals into a veterinary career? Perhaps there is. Perhaps it’s busting your hump to pay for your own education like countless future veterinarians do every year, again, no GoFundMe required.
Alas, that’s no longer the world we live in.