At microgiving.com, anyone can raise money for a creative project, worthy cause or to help pay bills
Say you want to release your debut album but need funding for CDs and marketing materials.
Suppose you're unemployed, broke and need a little cash to pay your rent.
Maybe you want to raise money to help end genocide.
There's a website that can help. The brainchild of Palm Beach County multimillionaire John Ferber, the MicroGiving Foundation links donors to creative projects, start-up businesses, worthy causes and people in need.
People who need money post their project, cause or business idea on http://www.microgiving.com along with how much money they need to raise. They typically offer donors a small token in return: a promise to pay it forward, a copy of a CD, a special thank-you note.
And then they wait for the money to roll in.
"We're sleeping and it's raising money," said Boca Raton High School teacher Sharona Kay. Students in her Holocaust class started a nonprofit organization in 2007 that sells colorful triangles in memory of Holocaust victims and uses the money to support global anti-genocide programs.
The group posted a profile and video on MicroGiving a couple of months ago and has raised more than $3,000.
MicroGiving.com is part of a growing phenomenon called crowdfunding, in which people with similar interests pool their money online to support a specific project or cause.
Ferber, who will be one of the featured millionaires on ABC's new reality show "Secret Milionaire" calls it the digital version of passing the hat.
A number of crowdfunding websites have popped up in the recent years. Each specializes in a particular area.
KickStarter, for instance, allows creative types to post their projects — a film, an art exhibit, an invention.
Kiva allows donors to provide microloans to poor people around the world to start businesses. At Donors Choose, people contribute to education projects in needy classrooms.
Ferber's initial idea for MicroGiving was to directly connect donors with people in dire straits.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Ferber, 37, donated money to a major U.S. charity but it wasn't satisfying to him, and it wasn't feasible for him to travel to New Orleans.
"I wanted to do more," he said. "I wanted to help people directly."
It was the same frustration he felt when his sister-in-law died of cystic fibrosis. He gave to charity, but he wondered: Where is this money going? Who am I helping?
Then in 2006, Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Bangladeshi economist developed the concept of microfinancing, providing loans to poor entrepreneurs who can't get traditional bank loans.
"I had a eureka of an idea," Ferber said. "Instead of a loan, it's a gift."
He decided to create a website.
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