Paying off debt, the cyber way            BACK       Sign-Up

Jenn Donahue | contributing writer

The frustrating situation of being in debt can be caused by credit cards, car payments or college loans. Trying to pay off that debt
can be even worse. A new method for generating funds has recently been found in the form of cyber- begging.
Cyber-begging, as defined by the Web site, is a mode of fundraising that is carried out through donations over the Internet. The cyber-beggar creates a Web site detailing his or her financial plight in the hopes of attracting donations for his or her cause.

Standing out from the masses

The musical artist known as Shela is the owner of She is currently asking for donations on her Web site to help pay off debt incurred from writing and recording her music. She says at first she was "embarrassed by the thought of begging for money online," but says that she does not consider herself a beggar.

"There are plenty of open-source project Web sites that ask for donations to keep their site running, and they provide services like help and advice," she says.

Her advice, she says, would be for potential musicians who are looking for advice on breaking into the music industry. The Web site also offers an outlet where people can promote their music.

Shela, who lives in Toronto, says it was a mixture of frustration and her experience working with the Internet that led her to the idea of starting her personal fundraising site. As a computer hardware instructor she was "aware of how powerful a tool the Web could be." A tool she hopes will help her music career off the ground.

Funds are donated to Shela either through the mail or Paypal, an online payment service that makes transactions through credit cards. "I have not listed myself as a charity," she says, an action that would require certain registration and guidelines."It is a simple gift. Anyone can give a stranger a gift right?"

A positive outlook

Shela says her feedback has been very positive. "I have been waiting for my first hate e-mail, but it hasn't happened yet."

Has success happened yet? "I am still getting started, but I have gotten $169 U.S. dollars and $100 Canadian," she says. "Over the past few weeks my average daily site traffic has grown 800 percent and I have received seven new donations."

It has also been, according to Shela, a success in another way.

"I've enjoyed the entire process. I'm looking at this project as a huge learning experience, it's simple now, but it will evolve," she says.

An option for students?

Senior Kate MacElroy says if she were badly in debt, she would consider creating a Web site to generate some money.

"If I needed to immediately pay off my student loans, I would start a Web site because if people wanted to donate money to help me pay them off, then I wouldn't think twice about taking it. Being in debt is a lifelong frustration," she says.

Senior Tom Mariano is not convinced. "I don't like taking money from people, even my parents," he says. "I would like even less taking money from people I don't know."

Planning for the future

Shela says she has dreams of making the site bigger and better, eventually adding a "streaming radio station" that would play MP3s submitted by donors and aspiring musicians. Most importantly, she says, she hopes to pay off the debt, which is a huge roadblock on her road to a music career.

"Just the possibility of being free from debt sooner with the help of generous people is enough to keep trying," she says. "At the very least, I will have a Web site with a fair number of people coming back to hear my work, and that is exciting in itself."

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