More Than Money
FIRST GLIMPSE: Crowdfunding
Sometimes, truth really is stranger than fiction.
In late 2013, through the generosity of 741 complete strangers, Garrett Heath of San Antonio, Texas, raised $17,542 to bring his dream to life—the “Pi” pan. (No, that’s not a typo.) Sure to make the Christmas wish list of geeks everywhere, his quirky pan in the shape of the Pi symbol really broke the mold.
Entrepreneurs Key Portilla Kawamura and Ali Ganjavian raised $195,094 from 1,846 donors in 2012 to fund the “Ostrich Pillow,” strange-looking headgear (pictured above) designed to give users private space to relax (or even sleep) in public. The money helped catapult their company, Studio Banana Things, to the upper ranks of the world’s quirky vendor list.
The list goes on and on—$46,261 raised for Combat Kitchenware; $3,119 to produce the Five O’clock Shadow crochet ski mask (keeping skiers warm while making them look burly); $29,015 for the production of Griz Coat, realistic outerwear that, you guessed it, makes wearers resemble a grizzly bear. Perhaps the greatest head scratcher is the $59,065 raised for no sock socks…dubbed “sole socks” and designed to let people go sockless without stinky shoes. Sixty grand? Really? Just wish I had thought of it.
These are only a few examples of a growing phenomenon known as crowdfunding or crowdsourcing. Since Kickstarter.com launched in April 2009, more than 10 million people have given $2 billion through the site to a host of projects—97,000 and counting. Kickstarter was (appropriately) only the beginning. A number of sites have joined the funding fad—GoFundMe, RocketHub, FundRazr, and Crowdfunder, just to name a few.
According to a report from industry research firm Massolution, in 2014 alone, companies and individuals across the globe raised $16.2 billion, a 167% increase over 2013 (in the middle of a struggling economy). The premise of crowdfunding is simple: use the Internet to give a large number of potential supporters (backers) an opportunity to fund projects they deem worthwhile. Many donors, one worthy cause. Sounds almost…biblical.
I hate to burst the funding bubble, but God came up with crowdsourcing years before Al Gore “invented” the Internet. He called it tithing, first introduced in Leviticus 27:30-33 when God instructed Israel to give “all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree” to support the work of the priesthood and the care of God’s dwelling place. The premise was simple: a large number of supporters to fund the project God deemed worthy.
Jesus shared His own principles of giving in the New Testament when He instructed disciples to follow God, not money (Matthew 6:24); to give freely and quietly (Matthew 6:3-4); to give sacrificially (Mark 12:41-44); and to give with the right motive—a heart for God (Matthew 6:21).
Thankfully, in my life as a preacher’s kid turned youth and music minister, I have experienced firsthand the faithfulness of God’s folks, especially Free Will Baptists. But today, the financial decisions of the faithful seem a bit complicated.
Kickstarter.com may have 97,000 opportunities to give, but the Church has her own fair share—denominational ministries, teen missions trips, local shelters, colleges (not to mention college students), crisis pregnancy centers, and local churches struggling to make ends meet. With so many worthwhile ministries, where should we put our money? May I offer three simple suggestions?
Keep tithing. It’s God’s plan for funding His ministry, and it works at every level of ministry, from local church to national ministries. (Also, consider tithing on your estate. It’s a great way to keep giving to ministries you love long after you are gone.)
Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Don’t be a “bandwagon” giver, jumping on every new ministry cause. Instead, be faithful to commitments made already; those ministries are counting on you. Pray earnestly before making your next commitment, then stick to it.
Do your homework. Don’t get caught funding no-sock socks when souls are truly at stake. Give to reliable, accountable ministries that ultimately seek to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
You won’t hear me say it often, but it may be time to follow the crowd…funding the work of the Kingdom.
About the columnist: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.