How to Monetize Your Grief: It Isn't Pretty

Part 1: How sites like GoFundMe turn hardships into a popularity contest.

Posted Oct 28, 2019

Pexels / CCO
Source: Pexels / CCO

Everyone loves a popularity contest. Whether it’s voting for a prom queen or the next president, human nature always gravitates toward having a favorite—even when it comes to heartbreaking sob stories. 

See if you can guess which of the following three GoFundMe (excerpted) campaigns has raised the most money. (Note: GoFundMe, the world’s largest crowdsourcing website, enables people to fundraise money for all kinds of causes.)

1. “Kanye West, prolific entertainer/fashion icon/celebrity/member of the Kardashian family needs our help! 

Recently, Kanye let us in on his personal struggle. He is 53 million dollars in debt and it doesn't look like he's going to get Mark Zuckerberg's help that he desperately needs. We must open our hearts and wallets for Kanye today. Sure he is personally rich and can buy furs and houses for his family, but without our help, the true genius of Kanye West can't be realized.

As Kanye West has told us time and time again he is the "greatest living artist and greatest artist of all time." Great artists need to be supported financially to achieve their full potential.”

2. "Connor Bailey, a 21 year old...was recently diagnosed with a rare brain disease called MoyaMoya Disease. It is a progressive disease that affects the arteries that carry blood to the brain causing them to become more and more narrow, resulting in clinical strokes.

They will eventually close completely. There is no cure, but there is a bypass surgery in which other healthy arteries can be taken from his head and be used to replace the unhealthy ones.

He and his mother will be required to stay in California for three weeks at the very least. In addition to the extremely high insurance copays this type of surgery incur (he will have two), necessary expenses will include round-trip airline tickets from Atlanta to San Francisco, lodging, meals, rental car, compensation for at least a month off of his mother’s job as a public school teacher, and any other unforeseen needs that may be encountered while they are away from home...”

3. “I didn't think it could happen, but it did. I'm 30 years old and I have a new hero.

And he's 16. 

His name is Chauncy Jones Black, and last week, by God's beautiful design, he met me. I'll never forget it, here comes this kid inside the Highland Kroger asking if he could help take my groceries to my car in exchange for buying him some glazed donuts...

Chauncy lives in Memphis with his disabled mother. He is a straight-A student who is doing his best to make it in a world with no money and very few resources. He wants to work and help his mother financially. He wants to become a successful business owner and offer jobs and opportunities to others in his community. What so many can take for granted, he wants. He wants food, he wants a bed, he wants to work and he wants a chance. 

I've created this go fund me page to help Chauncy have that chance. It starts small. A simple act of kindness, but it can ripple out and create an ocean of prosperity in the world.”

Pexels/ CCO
Source: Pexels/ CCO

The answer may surprise you. 

Chauncy Black’s campaign comes in first at $342,106. Kanye West’s follows at $57,398. Meanwhile, Connor Bailey’s campaign has raised just $3,060 since summer 2018. 

At a glance, these numbers seem wrong.

How does the so-called plight of Kanye West, a giant, ego-maniacal celebrity and husband to one of the wealthiest women in the world (worth an estimated $350 million) trump that of a dying 21-year-old with a rare brain disease?

More baffling considering that West’s campaign was launched by one of his fans in 2015 after West claimed that he was $53 million in debt and was rebuffed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was asked to invest $1 billion into his “ideas.” Apparently, 800 supporters felt the need to step up with their hard-earned cash when Zuckerberg did not. On the bright side, West’s team declined the funds, which were instead donated to a children’s charity. 

And while Chauncy Black sounds like a bright kid with a promising future, how does his campaign whose original goal was set to just $250, to buy a lawnmower for a landscaping business, turn into a viral sensation with more than 14,000 donors? Does his situation deserve more attention than Connor Bailey’s? And if so, why?

[Article continues in part 2]