It’s a question I get in ye olde mailbox quite often: should I start a GoFundMe campaign? I figure putting this in post form is a lot easier than repeating myself every other email.

You see, some people look around the site here and get the crazy idea that I’m totally against personal crowdfunding. Actually the opposite is true: I think personal crowdfunding is a powerful tool when used for good, and can accomplish really amazing things for people who need it. That’s why weeding out the fraudulent, distasteful, and downright stupid campaigns is that much more important: making crowdfunding a safer space means the people who need it most can have access to donors who feel safe giving. Win-win, right?

Back to the question though. Should you start a GoFundMe campaign?

When I am asked that question, my full and overly bloviated answer can be summed up in a sentence or two: are you being honest about what you’re asking for? And if so, are you being honest with yourself about your earning potential?

Let’s talk about earning potential. Many people fire up a GoFundMe campaign thinking it’s as easy as point, click, and profit. A new GoFundMe campaign is created every 18 seconds; do you really think your campaign in particular will stand out? Unless you end up the very very very very very rare ‘viral’ campaign, chances are you’ll be lucky to get $20 from your old high school friend and maybe a sympathy fiver from your mom. So whether you need $200 or $20,000, think long and hard about the people you know and if they’ll actually give you money. Maybe it’s easier to just hit up Uncle Steve directly and ask him to bum you a couple hundo so you can get a better phone with which to play Pokemon Go.

Now, about that honesty. This is at the very core of your GoFundMe campaign. Maybe a small part of you thinks you should embellish because it makes a better sob story, but really all you’re doing is bending reality in order to potentially get a better payout. Your plea should be good enough on its own without needing extraneous details or exaggerated truths. Be honest. Be honest or I will hunt you down and… uh, write about you on the internet. Or something. But seriously, just be honest.

There’s another factor worth discussing here, and that is the worthiness of your campaign. Some of the folks over on our Facebook page feel personal crowdfunding should be reserved for extreme cases such as catastrophic illness, job loss, or other unexpected tragedy. Technically, you can use GoFundMe for any purpose at all — no matter how frivolous — as long as it falls within allowed campaigns per their terms and conditions. At the end of the day, it’s really donors who decide what campaigns are meaningful to them. If some guy wants to make potato salad on Kickstarter and raises $55,000, who are any of us to say his campaign was wrong? Granted, I might make fun of your campaign if it’s really stupid but other than that, knock yourself out, it’s ‘Murica baby.

Ultimately, it’s your choice to start a GoFundMe campaign, just as it’s your friends and family who choose to give (or not). Whatever you do, just be truthful. Be transparent. And don’t get butthurt if your reasonable plea for, say, new tires for your old truck that is falling apart at the seams doesn’t do as well as the scammer down the street who is faking cancer just for a couple grand.

Safe crowdfunding, y’all!