British Columbia

Crowdfunding for non-emergencies: the etiquette of asking for money online

More people are turning to crowdfunding for things you might not consider emergencies — like travel, tuition, and art projects — with surprising success.

Many campaigns now ask for help with tuition, travel, art projects and parties

Ismael Traore, a student researching in Vernon, says despite feeling awkward, he used crowd-funding to pay his tuition fees. (Go Fund Me)

It is fairly common these days for people who fall on hard times to launch a fundraising campaign on one of the popular crowdfunding websites.

Sites like are full of people raising money because of medical crises or house fires.

But more people are turning to crowdfunding to provide relief for things you might not consider emergencies — like travelling abroad, tuition, and art projects.

And sometimes, like in Ismael Traore's case, it works.

The McMaster international student is in Vernon conducting research. Unfortunately, his study visa expired this year. In order to get a new one, he had to pay his tuition up front, but because of his expired student visa, he was unable to foot the bill.

"I went on my Facebook and told my friends that I'm feeling hopeless right now."

His friends encouraged him to start a crowdfunding page, promising to contribute. Traore was initially reluctant.

"It is very awkward because on this side of the world, the culture is anti-free handout, and ... I don't want to come across as a beggar."

Nevertheless, Traore started his page, and was surprised to see funds accumulated within a matter of hours. He has now raised over $6,000.

"I really felt supported."

Crowdfunding usage spreading

But Daryl Hatton, the CEO of FundRazr, a Canadian crowdfunding website, and a director with the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada cautions there is a fatigue growing in the marketplace around the concept of crowdfunding.

Daryl Hatton, a director with the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada, says the key to a successful campaign is a large network of friends and family willing to donate. (FundRazr)

"In the beginning, this was about critical funding emergencies — they had a car accident, or their house burned down, or they were diagnosed with a cancer or critical illness."

In this way, Hatton says, crowdfunding was building on the old concept of "pass the hat" where communities would rally around those in need.

Today, the usage has spread further.

"It's branched out into many more things in life that are common challenges that we all face in our lives about funding our school, or funding travel."

'An ATM on your karma bank'

Hatton said it is becoming more difficult for people with these more "common" challenges to raise any money.

"We are coaching people to ask for things that are important and setting their expectations correctly. One of the biggest myths of crowdfunding is that someone will have a problem, they'll publish their campaign and they'll expect the world to come running."

The truth, Hatton says, is that successful crowdfunding campaigns — like Traore's — depends on a strong network of friends and family willing to contribute.

"Crowdfunding is a little bit like an ATM on your karma bank. If you've made deposits in your life to a lot of people and built great relationships and done good things for people, crowdfunding will let you make a withdrawal from your karma bank."

With files from Daybreak South

To listen the segment, click on the link labelled Crowdfunding etiquette: the do's and don'ts of asking for money online