2,527 crowdsourcing and crowdfunding sites
Crowdfunding is used to raise money for all sorts of projects, from the weird to the wonderful. This week, a couple used crowdfunding to bring new life into the world. The IndieGoGo Baby project (in which a Florida-based couple raised money for IVF treatment) brought to mind a case last year when a couple from Minneapolis sought the help of an online crowd to decide whether to abort their baby or not. Here’s a closer look at both of these baby stories.
Back in June, Jessica and Sean Haley decided to use IndieGoGo to try to raise funds for fertility treatment that they needed to have a baby. The “Help the Haleys Have a Baby” campaign managed to raise an astonishing $8,050 after news of the couple’s bid spread on Facebook and Twitter. The campaign was launched on June 15 with Jessica’s poignant words, “Today is my 28th birthday. If given one wish, I’d wish to be a Mom.”
Within hours, the donations started to pour in. The Haleys surpassed their $5,000 goal, raising $8,050 from 132 donors. On July 26, Jessica began a course of treatment that led to confirmation of Jessica’s pregnancy on September 2.
The delighted couple posted a long update on their IndieGoGo project page on October 3 with an emotional and heartfelt thank you message to all their supporters. They provided a detailed account of their experiences and posted a number of photos and videos (all of which are available on their page's gallery).
TO ABORT OR NOT TO ABORT – THAT IS THE QUESTION
Back in September 2010, Pete and Alisha Arnold created a website to access the power of the crowd to help them make a decision as to whether or not to abort their baby. Understandably, the case attracted a lot of attention, much of it negative. Alisha was fired from her job at the TempWorks software company, which even forbid all other employees from maintaining online friendships with her on sites like Facebook. The outrage continued with a host of news reports on the couple, and people levelled various accusations against them ranging from creating a tacky pro-life stunt to using the debate as a way of getting media coverage.
The couple’s Birth or Not website contains blog entries from both of them titled “He Said” and “She Said” plus a link to the Polldaddy page they used for the vote. There were more than two million votes — with 77% of the voters in favour of the abortion option — and more than 4,400 comments on the page. Abortion is a contentious issue; if the couple were using this project as a way of stimulating debate on the subject, they’ve certainly achieved their aim.
The backstory here reveals that the couple may not be as callous as they might seem on the surface. Alisha had already undergone two planned pregnancies that ended in miscarriage and she was unsure whether she was emotionally and physically able to go through the whole process again only to suffer another heartbreaking miscarriage. With Pete wanting to proceed with the pregnancy and Alisha having misgivings, the couple decided to enlist the help of the crowd in making their decision. It has to be made clear here that this couple did not let the crowd decide for them — they used the crowd not just to vote, but to provide advice and guidance in the form of comments.
On the couple’s Birth or Not website there is a section on Voter Fraud and the Top 500 Fraudsters have their IP addresses and votes listed. More searching online led to the discovery that Pete Arnold is a right-wing blogger and part-time producer of the Race to the Right radio show in St. Cloud. It’s also been reported that he changed the definition of “pro-choice” in a Daily Kos Wikipedia entry. It does look as if there was an underlying agenda to this whole episode. Further digging online turned up allegations that the couple bought their domain name before the pregnancy and that Pete Arnold admitted that they “put the website online knowing they never intended to seek an abortion.” The story gained attention everywhere, from print to online to broadcasting media.
On December 7, 2010, the couple posted to let the world know that they would be keeping the baby. The blog comes to an abrupt end on May 2, 2011 with a post by Pete from the hospital where Alisha was having contractions. Lack of any further news and updates does seem to corroborate the claims that this was a stunt.
The controversy that raged around the Arnolds is counterbalanced with the joy generated by the story about the Haley’s crowdfunded baby. Jessica Haley’s statement that she had to overcome her reluctance to post such personal issues online in a bid to raise the funds needed for the IVF treatment is a far cry from the furore generated by the Arnolds. On an upbeat note, it seems that the Haleys have provided inspiration for other couples; there’s another baby project on the IndieGoGo website at the moment: Baby Williams. This one is to raise money to pay birthing center costs by Nick and Delondra Williams who have no health insurance. It’s in its early days: the couple has only raised $255 of the $4,000 goal so far.
All of these cases provide food for thought, but one thing is certain: we’re going to see many more creative uses of both crowdsourcing and crowdfunding in the future.