Has Crowdfunding Gone Too Far?

"You could help crowdfund my retirement."

This article appears in print in the March 2019 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

There’s a local artist of some renown who recently tried to crowdfund (a) a sabbatical, (b) a vacation, (c) a fleecing or (d) all of the above.

And I must say I admire the artist’s cheek in establishing a “minimum goal” of $8,000 to finance a month of making art in Palm Desert, California. The Seattle-based painter bypassed Kickstarter and GoFundMe because — and I quote — “I’d rather not have to give someone else a percentage.” You simply could mail a check, Venmo a donation or provide your credit card number.

Like other crowdfunding pitches, this one offered rewards pegged to specific giving levels. For a $50 donation, you got a painted mug. For $6,000 — hey, why not aim high? — you received a set of four framed drawings — inspired by three weeks the artist spent in Palm Desert last year — and four shot glasses with the same images.

Killer idea, no?

I mean, who wouldn’t want to help an artist return to the scene of his or her greatest inspiration?

No one, I suppose. Cheeky artists with sufficient chutzpah deserve all the gullible benefactors with sufficient wherewithal they can extort, er, cajole. Which got me thinking … perhaps I could crowdfund my retirement, which will have occurred by the time you read this.

Give or take, I’m thinking $5.7 billion ought to do it. Anyone donating at the $1 billion level will receive a handsomely bound volume of all the columns I’ve written for Seattle Business magazine. (I believe this column is No. 94.) Here’s a bonus offer: For $2 billion, I’ll refrain from sending the handsomely bound volume of all my columns to you and instead send them to your nasty neighbor.

Pony up $500 million and I’ll ghostwrite a letter to the editor of this magazine expressing your jubilation that John Levesque has finally left the building.

Offer me $250 million and I’ll wear a MAGA hat for a month.

Let me have $125 million and I’ll eat a MAGA hat. For a month.

I realize crowdfunding has been used for noble purposes, such as creating inventive new companies that might never have attracted investment capital or raising money for victims of unspeakable, horrible disasters. And I suppose one person’s worthwhile fundraiser is another person’s boondoggle. But when did it become OK to straight-up ask people for vacation money?

There are even crowdfunding sites that encourage us to pay for people’s honeymoons. Whitney and Rob raised $3,500 for their post-nuptial getaway to Greece, according to the Honeyfund website. And get this. Sameer and Nita coerced their friends and loved ones into paying $25,000 for a 17-day honeymoon in South Africa, Rwanda and Kenya. Twenty-five grand!

I’m pretty sure my whole wedding (in 1974) cost a couple of hundred bucks (about a thousand dollars today). And my honeymoon — a few days on Cape Cod — about the same.

Call me old-fashioned. Or just old. (I am retiring, after all.) But asking people for money to help with something that doesn’t involve, say, an organ transplant seems a tad impolite.

So, I declined to support the artist seeking to spend a month in the desert on my dime. And I will understand if you choose not to fund my retirement. Then again, if you give at the $3 billion level, I will simply go away quietly — possibly to an island awash in honeymooners awash in cash — and never bother you again.

John Levesque became managing editor of Seattle Business magazine in March 2011. This is his last issue and his final Final Analysis.

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