Early this month, an unemployed North Carolina writer proved crowdsourcing can work for people in need, and that it can take forms beyond screeching “excuse me ladies and gentlemen!” on a packed C train. Craig Lindsey, a former reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer, was desperate when he faced eviction after months of being unable to cover his rent. Since being laid off from the Observer in 2011 he’d had several sporadic gigs but was still unable to find anything substantial. When he mentioned his troubles on Twitter, a friend suggested he start a Kickstarter campaign.
“I thought he was joking, since I always thought Kickstarter was for funding creative projects like the Veronica Mars movie,” Lindsey told us. “But my back was up against the wall.” The thing is, it actually worked.
Lindsey started an Indiegogo campaign hoping to raise $900 in a week. As perks for donating, he offered movie memorabilia he’d collected over the years such as a True Grit flask and Tropic Thunder bobblehead dolls. He passed this goal in two hours, and by the end of the first day had $2,000. His campaign went viral and that total doubled on day two. Despite posting on his Tumblr and the actual fundraising page that he didn’t need further donations, money kept trickling in and Lindsey raised $7,825 by the end of the week.
Beside now being able to cover his rent and bills for a while and having a bit more faith in humanity, Lindsey says things aren’t dramatically different. He was featured on several local news stations in North Carolina and says he’s heard from people interested in working with him, but is still actively looking for a steady job.
Lindsey isn’t the first freelancer to turn to crowdsourcing sites when his situation got desperate, but his success is quite impressive. Last year we wrote about PJ Gach, a laid-off fashion blogger and freelancer who tried to raise money for her overdue rent through crowdfunding on PayPal. Facing eviction, Gach exhorted her readers and anyone she could find on Twitter to help raise the $7,700 she needed to stay in her two-bedroom $1,700/month Harlem apartment. The Internet, perennially grumpy to begin with,was predictably unmoved by her requests, especially since Gach rejected the idea of getting a roommate. As far as we know, Gach did not end up homeless, even though her campaign fell far short of her goal.
It’s not hard to imagine why Craig Lindsey’s campaign was better received than PJ Gach’s: he kept his fund goal relatively low, reached out to a network of people he actually knew, and generally appeared more responsible. Still, both writers’ situations are reminders of how terrifying it is to be without a safety net, that (near) homelessness has many faces, and that a ridiculous chunk of this country hovers around the poverty threshold. Lindsey acknowledges crowdfunding was effective for temporary relief and a morale boost, but he still needs something sustainable.
Brokesters, where do you stand on crowdfunding to pay rent? Would you support someone doing it? Would you ever try it yourself?