It was the morning of New Year's Eve. Rent was due. In one more day, I would be three months behind. Three days before, the landlord’s property manager (I call her The Enforcer) sent out a summons for me to appear in small claims court in a week for the two months' rent past due, which totaled $1,100. I barely had $400 in the bank. I tried to negotiate a compromise but the Enforcer didn't budge.
I've written for several publications since getting laid off from the Raleigh News & Observer in 2011, but these freelance gigs haven't kept me financially secure. I actually tweeted, "Yeah, I give up." I deleted the tweet not long after and decided to try one final option: Indiegogo. I had heard of the crowdfunding site, which features campaigns for TV and film projects as well as people needing help to get back on their feet.
So, my idea was to launch a campaign telling people I was about to get evicted and I was requesting donations. My goal was $900 in a week. I forgot that I have a lot of friends, many friends that I’ve known for years. I've also developed relationships with people via Twitter, Facebook and even interviews for stories. These people were the first donors to came out the gate. Before the first hour was up, I had made $400. I had reached my goal two hours later, and by the end of day one had garnered more than $2,000.
But the donations kept coming.
My friends have other friends who jumped on-board after they got the word out. Media blogger Jim Romenesko picked up the story, encouraging more people to pitch in. By day two, I had made $4,000. I wrote a post on my Tumblr blog telling people they can stop sending money, but they didn't stop. Other sites picked up on it. I appeared on the local news. I started to get offers from people, including B&C, to write for them. As I write this, my funding has reached more than $7,000 with 10 hours left on the clock.
So, here I am, the journalist who crowdfunded his rent and then some. The whole experience has humbled and overwhelmed me to the point where I still have a difficult time processing it all. As a pessimist, misanthrope and all-around, relentless neurotic who's been through my fair share of tragedy and has gotten used to things not working out, having something this positive and life-affirming happen feels so damn foreign to me. I've been trying to do that thing people exhibit when something wonderful comes into their lives. (I believe that's called joy.) I still need to work on it.
Nevertheless, this whole experience has taught me that the Internet can actually be used for good. (Yeah, it blew my mind too.) I let everyone know about the campaign through my Tumblr blog and my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I reached out to people, and they responded in kind. For a reviled movie blogger who frequently got his troll on and wrote about how fat I looked in my Indiegogo photo (keep in mind that photo was taken three years ago and I’ve lost 80 pounds since then), everyone has been too generous and wonderful for words. From my friends who came to my aid to those anonymous souls who pitched in a few bucks, as well as all the online writers and websites who alerted people to my story, I thank you.
As I plan to settle up with The Enforcer as well as pay off bills, debts and other matters that require financial attention, I'll continue to find steady work. After all, a man can't live on being a social-media sensation alone.
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