7 Ridiculous Crowdfunding Campaigns: When is It OK to Ask for Money?

This diptych shows four different photos: a wedding, a pregnancy, travel and a skywriter. This is to represent crowdfunding ideas people have done.
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Crowdfunding is an amazing thing. It can change lives, make dreams come true and raise money for worthy causes all over the world.

But some people seem to look at crowdfunding campaigns as their own personal piggy banks, where they can shamelessly solicit random strangers to fund their lifestyle choices, unnecessary luxuries and hair-brained schemes.

Sometimes, the results can be hilarious. Other times? Just plain tacky.

Consider these seven crowdfunding campaigns that made us go “Hmm…” Some of them succeeded (much to our amazement), while some of which failed brilliantly (much to our non-amazement), but all of them have the potential to make you ask where we should draw the line with crowdfunding.

What do you think of these crowdfunding campaigns — are they ridiculous or totally acceptable?

1. Fund Our Extravagant Wedding(s)

When Eric Turner and Morné Coetzer got engaged, they decided to throw a destination wedding. Fair enough, since at the time, gay marriage wasn’t legal in their respective hometowns of Houston and London.

They then decided to go big and host four separate wedding events around the globe. That’s when they took to GoFundme to ask the public to help them raise $7,000 so that Eric’s own parents could attend these events.

Why not pay for his parents’ tickets themselves, you might ask, if the couple could afford to host an international, multiple-event wedding extravaganza? “We have a lot to pay for,” Eric wrote, “but our first priority is making the ceremony happen.”

The couple were around $3,000 on their way to their goal when the public backlash got so bad they deleted the campaign altogether.

Turner and Coetzer raised nothing as their campaign was cancelled.

2. Fund Our Dream Honeymoon

Gerald and Rachel Monaco funded their own wedding ceremony and reception, but when it came time to plan their honeymoon, they turned their eyes to their guests. They longed to honeymoon in a resort in Finland where guests stay in igloos, and it wouldn’t come cheap. So they asked their guests to skip the wedding presents and instead donate toward their $9,000 Tilt.com honeymoon campaign.

Their guests didn’t quite jump at the opportunity. The couple raised less than $2,000 — but that didn’t hurt their travel plans. By combining other monetary wedding gifts with their own savings, they were still able to book the igloo rooms they’d dreamed of. (Which forces us to ask: Why did they need to raise extra funds in the first place?)

The Monacos raised $1,900 of their $9,000 goal.

3. Fund My Potato Salad

Zack “Danger” Brown wanted to make a potato salad, because he’d never made one before. His Kickstarter campaign was pretty simple (“Basically I’m just making potato salad. I haven’t decided what kind yet.”) and his goal was equally humble (a mere $10). He offered backers rewards like “I will say your name out loud while making the potato salad” and “Receive a potato-salad themed haiku written by me.”

The sheer silliness of Brown’s campaign quickly made it a viral sensation. People flocked to fund his potato salad-making, the media picked up the story and one crowdfunding advocate went so far as to say, “[people] are finding joy and connection in the act of funding a potato salad. Andy Warhol would be so f***ing proud. So would the dadaists.”

While we doubt Brown was out to make anyone particularly proud, his results were nonetheless impressive.

Brown raised $55,492 of his $10 goal (much of which he has since donated to charity).

4. Fund Me Eating a Burrito

Design student Noboru Bitoy wanted a burrito from Chipotle. So, as any of us would, he went on Kickstarter and started a campaign to raise $8 so he could buy one — and “graph its deliciousness.” (Hey, you gotta give a little something to get a little something.)

As with the potato salad campaign, the cheekiness of Bitoy’s goal won him unexpected attention, and after raising a record-breaking 13,000% of his original funding goal, he added stretch goals like graphing the deliciousness of a Chipotle burrito eaten while falling 13,000 feet skydiving — a goal he was able to achieve.

What’s the last thing you accomplished when you got a case of the munchies?

Bitoy raised $1,050 of his $8 goal.

5. Fund Our Baby

Sean and Jessica Haley wanted nothing more than to become parents, but doctors told them they had a 1% chance of conceiving naturally. Their insurance didn’t cover the cost of in vitro fertilization (IVF), so after much debate, they launched an Indiegogo campaign asking for $5,000. (They estimated the real cost to be closer to $16,405, but weren’t comfortable asking for more.)

The Internet was divided on the Haleys’ campaign — strangers struggling with their own infertility issues sent encouraging emails in addition to donations, while other strangers sent nasty remarks like “If you can’t afford IVF, how can you afford a baby?” and “I would like a bigger house, a new car and a safari trip to Africa. Too bad I can’t afford it. Such is life.”

In the end, the positive responses won out. After they exceeded their fundraising goal, the couple welcomed Landon Haley, the “first crowdfunded baby,” on April 7, 2012.

The Haleys raised $8,050 of their $5,000 goal (and are now raising a toddler because of it).

6. Fund a Cat Calendar

Not just any cat calendar, mind you, but the “World’s Most Super Amazing 100% Awesome Cat Calendar.”

Kate Funk and Brennan Goh had created cat-themed calendars before — involving handmade dioramas, costumes and wigs, and one very willing cat named AC — but they had run into some printing problems in the past. So for their sixth annual calendar (theme: “Magical Creatures”), they decided to raise the funds on Kickstarter to make sure it was printed on time and properly for their first appearance at the National Stationery Show.

Their pitch: “Do you enjoy photos of cats dressed up as magical creatures? Do you use a calendar? Yes? Then we have something awesome for you.”

Not surprisingly, the Internet enthusiastically responded that it did, in fact, enjoy whimsical photos of cats, and the team reached their initial goal within a week — after which donations continued to pour in.

Funk and Groh raised $25,183 of their $3,500 goal.

7. Fund a Plane to Skywrite “Stupid Things”

When a crowdfunding campaign is started by a comedian, at least you can be clear on how seriously they’re taking themselves.

Stand-up comedian Kurt Braunholer decided one day that it would be fun to hire a skywriter to “write stupid things with clouds in the sky” above L.A. So he started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $4,000 to do just that, giving backers the opportunity to vote on which phrase would be writ large.

A total of 257 backers pledged to help Braunholer with his goal to “insert absurdity into strangers’ lives and (hopefully) make the world a better place,” and on March 23, 2015, the message “How do I land?” appeared in the L.A. sky and stayed there for about 20 minutes. It also lives on forever on Imgur, where it’s been viewed 3 million times and counting.

Braunholer commented to the Huffington Post on the success of his campaign, “It’s such a stupid thing, and I love stupid. I’m just so excited that the internet loves stupid too!”

Braunholer raised $6,820 of his $4,000 goal.

Your Turn: What do you think of these crowdfunding campaigns? Are they bold and creative, or just plain tacky? Would you ever consider crowdfunding one of your goals?

Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.