Crowdfunding and Beyond

There was an energy shift and a collective gasp when we revealed our Indiegogo campaign page at our Father’s Day launch party last month. Everyone was super supportive, but there was an essence of doubt in the air. There were several moments throughout the course of our crowdfunding campaign where we each looked at each other and asked “Can we actually do this? Are we really trying to crowdfund $75,000? How did we end up here?”

It was June of 2013, and we were walking around the Portland Pride festival. It started to rain, hard, as it often does during Portland Pride. We ended up under the nearest vendor tent, which happened to be a surrogacy agency. We had previously been intrigued with the possibility of surrogacy as an option to start our family, but we had never figured an agency would be involved. We did some light chatting with the woman representing the agency. We browsed through some of the brochures and realized the rain was not going to let up for a bit. So we spent the next 30 minutes eating Starburst candies and listening to an inspiring story about her and her husband’s journey to start their family through surrogacy. It all sounded so beautiful and intimate. We shared thoughts of singing Paul Simon songs and reading The Little Prince to our baby in the womb of a surrogate. We talked about the special relationship we could form with a potential surrogate and how powerful it could be to start our family this way. And then she mentioned the cost. 

“Uh, a surrogacy journey costs how much?”

We knew that it was pricey and maybe that’s why we never envisioned an agency being involved, but we didn’t know the details. That’s when I started hoping the rain would stop and we could bolt out of there without the awkwardness of having to talk about money. She ended up telling us a variety of ways in which she borrowed, used credit, took out loans, and sold her house in order to complete her journey. She also mentioned that people were starting to be able to fundraise portions of the cost through crowdfunding efforts. This all sounded way too overwhelming. We went home that day holding on to our dream of being a part of a pregnancy and tried to ignore the financial realities of such a dream.

Later that summer we got married. Experiencing that much love and support in one place at the same time made anything in our future seem possible through the power of community. Shortly after our wedding, we met with several local surrogacy agencies. We continued gathering more information and reevaluating our budget for an optimal savings plan. Kirk had just finished graduate school and was starting his private practice; Anthony had been working part-time at a local non-profit.

We spent over a year talking to our friends, family, and various professionals about how we might start our family, while we saved what little we could.

Anthony got a new full-time job and Kirk’s practice began to really pick up. It came to a point where we needed to stop talking and start taking action towards our dream of being dads. This is when we revisited the idea of crowdfunding. We addressed all the pro’s and con’s of crowdfunding and the discomfort that might arise in ourselves and in others. Because money and finances are often a high tense topic for many people, we anticipated that we would encounter a lot of disapproval in addition to support and attention from people beyond our immediate community. We knew that we would have to work through and get clear about our own beliefs and values. At the same time that we began to seriously consider this, it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the headlines about how crowdfunding was rapidly changing the way in which individuals and entrepreneurs alike could raise financial support and awareness for their ideas. Causes and projects were being successfully funded while bypassing traditional lending institutions. In 2014 alone, crowdfunding platforms raised billions of dollars for personal causes. We began seeing it everywhere. People were raising funds for anything from medical costs, solo albums, vacations, education, professional development, legal defense, and yes, even starting a family. We personally gave several hundreds of dollars in small amounts to a variety of crowdfunding projects over the last two years, helping friends and strangers to start their own business, record albums, and more.

Modeling our own campaign after others, we spent several weeks trying to decide what our goal should be. $100,000? $75,000? What was realistic? Should we offer perks? Would our funders expect us to have a baby in the next 12 months? What if we don’t reach our goal? We consulted with Untitled Agency Project, who specialize in kickstarters and crowdfunding campaigns. They advised us to ask for the minimum amount that we would need in order to complete our process. So we crunched some numbers and came up with our goal of $75,000. We chose to do an all-or-nothing campaign because we had no idea how successful we would be. We felt uncomfortable with the idea of accepting a small portion of the fundraising without being able to move forward with our surrogacy journey.

Yes, we set a pretty lofty goal. In retrospect, there are many things that we would have done differently. One of them would be setting our crowdfunding goal much lower.

We were also super committed to the idea of a Father’s Day launch. So instead of pushing our launch day back, we catapulted ourselves into a crowdfunding campaign without being as prepared as we would have liked to have been. With that said, it is jaw-dropping that we were able to raise over $17,000.

We realize now that in combination with our own savings, ending the campaign with what we did raise would have enabled us to complete the medical portion of our process which includes: pre-cycle testing, fertility treatment for our egg donor, the egg retrieval procedure, and embryo creation.

We had 163 supporters help us to raise $17,191. There are no words to express the amount of gratitude that we have for everyone who contributed to and shared our campaign. We feel cradled by your encouraging words and cheers. 

In this last month we’ve been laser focused on our fundraising goal. But, we never forgot that our true goal is to become dads. This is still our goal. And this is just the beginning. We recently revisited with a financial counselor at Oregon Reproductive Medicine. We are mapping out a solid plan for our next steps forward. There will surely be opportunities to support us in the future. Thank you all so much for continuing to follow along and share our story with others! Stay tuned for more updates as our journey towards fatherhood continues.