Tuesday, June 22, 2010

HOW TO: Crowdsource Funds for Causes, Creativity and Startups

Selling candy bars or applying for a bank loan is so 20th century. Now, there are more ways than ever to raise money thanks the to Internet. A huge market of do-it-yourself crowdsourcing websites has made fundraising easier and more effective.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a techie to access all of these great resources. Even the most adamant technophobe can get online and start raising money. Below, we profile some of the most useful ways to raise money for your charity or creative project.

If celebrities don’t have to bake brownies or stand outside of grocery stores, why should the rest of us? That’s precisely why Edward Norton and Shauna Robertson started Crowdrise, a personal foundation platform that allows users to raise money and organize volunteer efforts.

Each Crowdrise template gives everyday philanthropists a hub to showcase their charity, do social media outreach, display photos, and update contributors on the project’s progress. Crowdrise also features a recurring payment system, team pages (good for marathons), and personalized URLS. To incentivize active membership, Crowdrise gives away prizes to the most active members.

Crowdrise still keeps a sense of humor. It’s tagline is “If you don’t give back, no one will like you,” and the website is peppered with chuckles, such as Will Farrell holding a bottle of “Sexy Tan” sun screen. Norton explained at last the recent Mashable Media Summit that this was a deliberate attempt to move beyond the dry and utilitarian modes of traditional fundraising.

Crowdrise has other, star-studded alternatives. Citizen Effect, another celebrity-endorsed crowdsourcing fundraiser focuses on a few select charities. DonorsChoose.org is built for K-12 educators, and recently experimented with group-buying innovator Groupon. Honorable mentions go to GiveForward.org, givezooks and SocialWish.com.

Kickstarter specializes in helping aspiring creatives fund small scale projects, usually between $500 – $20,000. To incentivize contributions, each project offers a tiered reward system. For example, $20 donated to an indie movie may get a donor an autographed copy of the movie. $5,000 could get that donor listed in the opening credits as an “executive producer.”

Kickstarter campaigns can be a fascinating mix of online savvy and old-fashioned door-to-door salesmanship. Take Jesse Genet, a 22-year-old Southern Californian with an industrial manufacturing degree and the hope that she could revolutionize the fashion printing business. To raise over $12,000, Genet offered deep discounts on chic wallets and purses to Kickstarter contributors and promoted her wares at popular meetups for LA locals. Genet almost missed her financial goal but, through a flurry of frantic Facebook status updates, barely pushed herself over the top.

Kickstarter is currently in beta, and is screening all proposals.

Kickstarter alternatives include, IndieGoGo and Invested.in. Pledge Music and Sellaband are similar services for musicians, and Spot.us is for investigative journalists.

Given the entrepreneurial spirit of the web, crowdfunding websites for startups should be everywhere. However, equity is generally heavily regulated by federal governments and can include everything from disclosure requirements to minimum wealth for investors. Additionally, each country has its own regulatory laws, further complicating the issue. In response, entrepreneurial crowdfunders have started to look outside the box.

In order to entice serious investors, crowdfunding website GrowVC created a social networking platform for investors and entrepreneurs to find and communicate with one another. For those who want invest more than the $1,200 limit of their particular community fund, GrowVC encourages members to conduct negotiations outside their website. GrowVC receives no money from investments made or facilitated outside of the community fund.

“Generally, unless you were friends with the founders [of websites such as Google (Google) of Facebook], or a wealthy sophisticated investor networked in the VC community, those opportunities would never be made available to you — GrowVC changes that, all you need to do is be there,” wrote CINTEP director, Nick Christy, in an e-mail. His company has taken full advantage of online crowdsourcing opportunities.

Additionally, GrowVC founder Valto Loikannen maintains that the community fund acts as a kind of spotlight for successful companies. “The community fund acts as an ‘activator’ for bigger investments, similar to the ‘Like’ function in blogs,” Loikannen wrote.

Profounder offers another option for startup crowdfunding. While the site hasn’t officially been launched, clients will be able to submit pitches, invite friends, conduct transactions online, and manage their investor community online (including repayments, rewards, and regular updates). Founded by Kiva co-founder
Jessica Jackley, and with a strong suite of advisers, such as LinkedIn (LinkedIn) chairman Reid Hoffman and Prosper CEO Chris Larsen, it looks like Profounder is set to take on the startup crowdfunding market sometime this fall.
To Learn More Click Here
Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment