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07 January, 2013

What to do if you receive online donations that exceed your needs

Greta Christina recently had a minor surgery to take care of some cancerous cells that put her in a position that she was unable to "freelance" for a few weeks (whatever the hell that means. No, really, what does she do for a living...).

She asked her bloggers to make an online donation to help her pay for her time off. She received so much that she had to take down the paypal the next day because it far exceeded the amount needed. All of this is fine and golden, but she had originally put out the plea and described how the money would be used. People donated to her paypal based on that information.

What some people who had donated noticed was that Greta mentioned that she might take some of the extra donations and give it to charity.

When people give donations for a certain purpose and the money is not used for that purpose, there is a term for it: fraud. Now, private donations to bloggers via paypal aren't beholden to fraud laws, but colloquially, it's still fraudulent. Greta ended up spending the money on paying her mortgage for months in advance (despite stating she only needed a few weeks off), and recently posted a blog about a pair of shoes she bought for over $200 dollars.

As far as I know, she never gave any of the money to charity. If fact, she writes in a blog response to the controversy that it's mostly gone to groceries and bills.

There is no legal repercussion to this because the donations weren't set up through any accountable non-profit or anything, so what she's done is merely unethical, but she did finally say she'd refund the money if anyone is upset. I hope people do. Many of her fans, because she mentioned she was being targeted by her "usual haters" have gone ahead and parroted the "I wanted you to do with it whatever you wanted" line because they don't want to fall out of good grace, or don't want to admit they were fleeced, or whatever reason there might be, but I hope there are enough out there that can teach her a lesson about being disingenuous to contributors.

She also lists four reasons why the outcry is "ridiculous" that she got from batshit crazy Stephanie Zvan's blog. The simple fact it's from someone as mean, ridiculous, fallacious and evil as Stephanie would say enough, but I'll go ahead and break it down.

 1: A pair of well-made comfortable shoes that will last for years, bought largely to be worn in professional settings, is not an extravagant expenditure. 
Still, that's not what people donated the money to, and that's not where you said the money would go; you said some of it would go to charity and have yet to do that, instead living for months past your recovery period on the kindness of strangers who were under the impression that the excess would be handled ethically.

2: Many people who donated said specifically that they wanted me to use some of the money in fun ways that would give me pleasure. 

That's excellent. I'm glad you have friends like that. But that doesn't change the fact that many people who donated were donating for specific reasons. What you should have done is separate the funds from your friends who wanted you to use some of the money in fun ways that would give you pleasure (did anyone else think vibrator when they read that? Strange friends...). Full disclosure is not required for these kinds of private donations, but in the interest of ethics, it would have put much less of a stain on the whole thing if you had explained this from the beginning.

3: In any case, when you donate money to someone, you don’t get to dictate how they spend it. 

Wow. That statement speaks for itself.

4: When men spend money on clothing, it’s seen as a legitimate expense; when women spend money on clothing, it’s seen as frivolous fashion.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. This is NOT about your gender. It's not even about the shoes, entirely. You paid your mortgage as well. You had a minor medical issue that laid you up for a few weeks and you asked for help for that period of time, not for months and months. If you were  a man, and you had bought Jordons with that same money, you would have had the same backlash. You're trying to turn this into a "persecution of women" to take the heat off you for doing something that was unethical and disingenuous.

What you could do is apologize instead of manufacture some sexist conspiracy against women having shoes. Really. Be a big girl, say sorry, donate to a charity and be done with it already. The humility expressed would go much farther to silence your "usual haters."


  1. INCREDIBLY bad form. It shows a lack of awareness to post about the purchase. However, it also shows that she probably didn't think there was actually anything wrong with it. The problem is, now that some people are pointing out that, yeah, it was at the very least tacky, and the worst ravingly unethical, she's set her $300 heels into the pavement and will admit no such thing, under any circumstances.

    Never ever admitting a mistake, lapse of judgement, or misunderstanding does not make a person more credible. Making it a gender issue in this case is much more like screaming "BURMA!" in the midst of an argument.

    Also related, I wish people who want to be taken seriously would stop using terms like "haters." Every time I read it, I imagine them popping their gum and rolling their eyes like petulant teenagers. (I guess it's good they've at least graduated from "doodyheads.")

  2. I don't care how well made or whatever those shoes were, $200 for a pair of shoes is extravagant. I wouldn't even consider paying that much for any clothing or such. I can understand having cash flow issues -- shit happens, but I'd be paying that money back or passing it along to charity or something. If she can buy $200 shoes then she doesn't need charity. Defending it is just shameless, especially with the lame sexism excuse. Spending that money on anything other than living expenses while she was recovering or medical expenses related to her surgery is absolutely unethical and she should be ashamed of herself. A hysterectomy is not minor, it's major surgery with a 4-6 week recovery period. But "several" months of mortgage payments is not warranted. She used her fans.

  3. It should be pretty simple to calculate an average monthly income prior to surgery, compare it to the average while ill, make up the difference with the donations and give the rest back or donate it.

    The sad thing is, she's now using the criticism to make herself even more money, getting her fan base riled up by painting this as an attack.

    Greta Christina was one of the bloggers I had more respect for over at FtB, but this has put her at Zvan-level disgust. I have three little words for the both of them: You repel me.

  4. Nice write up. I agree with a good number of points.
    The question is that of ethics and Greta's opinion of her own readers.
    I've searched high and low for any mention of any charity org that was the recipient of The overflow of funds.
    That will be my next question to her.
    I have been arguing with Greta's supporters over on Ophelia's blog.
    What a rort.

  5. I didn't realize you were on the 'pit', yay!
    I blogged the same points plus a few more.
    If you want an hour of audio entertainment you can listen to the "Dumbed Down Atheist" doing a podcast which includes reading out my blog post on this matter. Very funny indeed.
    Sorry for the highjack.

    1. Hey, no problem. Shameless self-promote all you want! I'll even add you to my blogroll.