It's not a loan. And it's definitely unconventional.
Chris Payne of Rancho Cucamonga has joined a growing number of those asking folks online to help fund their dreams.
For Payne, that dream means tapping into the online community to raise $45,000 toward a new home for him and his family. For others, it could mean efforts to raise millions of dollars to benefit victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The concept is known as crowdfunding.
"It's kind of like you're asking for a handout, but I thought, you know, everybody hates the banks nowadays anyway," said Payne, who is a new products supervisor for a body jewelry company.
He's posted his hopes for a home on gofundme.com.
The website is among a crop of Internet spots dedicated to connecting people with anyone willing to finance their ideas.
Some want cash for a business startup. Others are raising money for school trips. Documentaries. Emergency relief.
"It seems like this crowdfunding thing is taking off, and people are looking out for each other," Payne said.
His GoFundMe page explains his family's situation. A photo of his wife, Angela, and daughter, Cameron, are included.
The lease on their apartment is up on May 31. Payne says they could move to another apartment or rent a house, but they want a place to call their own. With a yard for their dogs. And a garden.
Payne and his family have some money saved. But their credit isn't the best. Gone are the days of easy lending. They're considering a mobile home. Anything to stay in the area they love.
The family has raised more than $1,000. They also donate to other GoFundMe causes.
"We'll keep this going and hopefully it will come out good in the end," Payne said. "So far, everybody thinks it's a pretty good idea. "
'You need a great idea'
Mike Celestino and his Los Angeles-based What Happens Next production company used kickstarter.com to raise more than $21,000 for a documentary on the controversies that arise from stand-up comedy.
"That's Not Funny" already features interviews with several comedians. Celestino and partner Robert Garren are looking to land the likes of Ricky Gervais and Daniel Tosh.
Celestino hopes to raise $50,000 for the project. The campaign ends May 10.
He cautioned that crowdfunding is not an easy avenue to success.
"It's really, really crucial to get the word out as much as possible," Celestino said. "People aren't just sitting on Kickstarter all day. You really have to draw people's attention. It's a 24-hour promo machine. Kickstarter has a lot of attention now and it's a great place to get funding, but you need a great idea for people to get behind. "
Kickstarter is unlike GoFundMe in that people must raise the entirety of the dollar amount sought in order to receive funding. GoFundMe gives folks the option to receive whatever money is donated.
GoFundMe charges 5 percent on transactions, and processing fees are added. Kickstarter charges a 5 percent fee on successful campaigns. Payment processing fees are added on top.
Kickstarter focuses on creative endeavors. GoFundMe allows for a variety of projects and goals.
"While GoFundMe may not have the volume of Kickstarter, we really serve different market segments," said Brad Damphousse, co-founder and CEO of the company, in an email.
"Since GoFundMe is focused on helping people raise money for personal causes and life events, we support campaigns that are simply not allowed on Kickstarter. GoFundMe is the crowdfunding site for the rest of us. "
Damphousse said that in 2008 he had the idea that it should be easy and fun for people to raise money online for things that matter to them most.
"Even though things like PayPal and online banking were popular in 2008, there still wasn't a great way to bring people together to support a personal cause like we see today with GoFundMe," he said.
Users of the site in March raised nearly $8 million for their projects, and the company expects this year's total payment volume to exceed $150 million, he said.
Kickstarter boasts on its website that it has seen more than 3.7 million people pledge over $548 million toward more than 38,000 creative projects since its launch in 2009.
Company executives were unavailable for comment.
Regulating the crowd
Crowdfunding is indeed a way to receive validation for a concept, said Patrick Henry, an assistant professor at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC's Marshall School of Business.
But there are pitfalls.
The next wave, Henry said, will be crowdfunding through micro-equity investors, who each hold a financial stake in the effort. That may turn venture capitalists away from endeavors divided among so many interests.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is working on regulations that deal with fraud, investment restrictions and other issues related to equity crowdfunding. Investors have been waiting on the new laws since Congress passed the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) a year ago.
But crowdfunding may slow one's drive to seek major players for financial backing.
"There's a concern that someone who receives that crowdfunding type of investment would be less interested in the next level of professional investors, but clearly it is a viable way for early-stage companies," Henry said.
'You're not alone'
For many, crowdfunding will remain a way to show one's love for a family member or friend. Or to be on the receiving end of kindness.
Crowdfunding websites have seen pledges so far to raise more than $2 million for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
In Rancho Cucamonga, Justin Velarde's family is using GoFundMe to help pay the costs of a memorial service for his father. Dan Velarde lost his battle with lung cancer on March 13.
He left behind Justin, his sister and their mother.
"It would mean a lot because the only wish he wanted was to be cremated and put out to sea, and it's pretty pricey to do that and be able to have people go on the boat with us," Justin Velarde said. "We're going to do it on his birthday, which is in June. It would signify a lot. "
The family has nearly raised the $8,000 they want for a man they describe as a loving father and Christian who would help anyone in need.
Pearl Olmedo attached a note to her $100 donation: "Katie, Justin, & Mia, My prayers and blessings go out to all three of you. Your father and husband will greatly be missed, but your mother and I will always have great memories of him. Love, Pearl "
Justin Velarde said donations have even come from his father's old high school friends.
"We have a lot of supporters and it's good to know you're not alone in the situation, and it goes to show that no matter what happens, people pull together," he said.