Sunday, May 31, 2015

Crowd-Funding Fever

I often used to wonder what it was that drove the fundraisers of the world to devote all their time and energy towards seeing a project gather momentum. Being one of those people never interested me although I was always slightly bemused at the range of things people would fundraiser for. Needless to say I have eaten at my fair share of sausage sizzles all in the name of raising money for my kids various school fundraising ventures ... but there are only so many sausages a person can eat.
I never really questioned giving money here and there - always assuming my meagre donation would add to the sum total in some meaningful way. I certainly have also found it difficult to coax money out of people for fundraising - except for when the "reward" of chocolate bars in those school fundraisers started popping up which never sat well with me because it just felt wrong to have my kids selling chocolate for one thing, and secondly why should people require the promise of something other than the warm-fuzzy of having generously donated? 

Enter crowd-funding.

 The most recent wave of rewards for donating has come in the form of crowd-funding to raise money for all manner of things ranging from large community or international projects; new innovations; to people needing medical treatments; and I have even seen crowd-funding for someone needing new teeth. Many crowd-funding platforms offer the option of being able to give a reward in return for a donation; typically this would begin for donations of over $25.
Some fundraising projects offer rewards that grow depending on the amount of the donation but regardless of whether or not a reward is offered, such platforms have changed the way the average person can raise money with a global reach and potential to exceed what may have been raised through a more localised approach. Most crowd-funders will capitalise on the reach of social media, using immediate social networks and relying on sharing to family, friends and business contacts to increase the potential impact. The trick is however, to get noticed! There is a need to connect in order to gain some momentum.
So with all this in mind (remember I didn't "do" fundraising!) I embarked on my own crowd-funding venture last month. The Nepal earthquakes really struck a chord with me. Nepal has been somewhere I have wanted to visit since I was a child capitivated by images of immense snow-covered mountains and stories of Mallory and Irvine.
My large collection of books included images of smiling Nepali in stunning rural settings and I knew this was a country I needed (had) to go to. I never imagined however I would be intensely engulfed in the welfare of a small village in the Kathmandu Valley where the 500 residents were badly affected by the April and May quakes and that my first trip to this country of my dreams, would be to help in some small way. I had always imagined a trip to Nepal would not be of the stock-standard trekking circuit variety and I had been putting the feelers out for teaching positions there last year. This stunning landlocked country between India and China whilst rich in natural resources is poor in the means to unlock or harness them (possibly this is a good thing). They simply do not have the infrastructural means to create a more robust version of themselves without some serious international input. Nepal is known for its gentle people's and stunning scenery amidst the worlds highest mountains and for me it was never a question of if I would help in some way after the quakes; but how.
Crowd-funding requires building a community of interested funders who in some way connect with the project being pitched. No connection, no funds
I have raised $50 in my crowd-funding project which offers no rewards, whilst the fundraiser which offered breakfast raised a reasonable  bundle of notes.
Are we donated out? I embarked on my crowd-funding venture thinking for sure my many Facebook friends would understand my passion and good heart, and donate something ... Anything! I could never have been more wrong. People I thought would donate didn't , and people who I never dreamed would donate did. The one thing that came across loud and clear is probably people don't really give a damn. It's happened; its old news; NEXT!
It's disappointing to think the people who you may be able to rely on to get involved, don't bother and then as rapidly as your crowd-funding fever gained heat, it dissipates and cools off. It's a bit like people who cross the street to avoid you or the elephant in the room or being the Avon lady selling to your friends. The only one excited is you.
It's hard not to become disillusioned by this.Being savvy with where the crowd-funding is pitched is also key; so I have "branched out" to Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+ rather than relying on Facebook where people pass over posts like changing underwear.
I am beginning to realise that getting that "warm-fuzzy feeling" simply isn't enough anymore ... people want rewards. I don't have rewards but maybe I should be sourcing some to convince people to feel they are "getting a good deal" for their donation!
Maybe I should go back to the good old-fashioned sausage sizzle!


  1. It's hard to know what to donate to. One time I got a windfall of money and sent $50 to 4-5 of my favorite NGOs. In the coming months I got more junk mail from every NGO in the US. I knew all my donations went to marketing to get more money and then that money would be used for marketing to get more money. I wrote a blog post about it because I have been concerned about donations being effective.