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Cashing in the Crowd

Sara Glaz

It’s the quintessential dilemma of the fundraising world: How can we raise a lot of money? While this question has led solicitors in the direction of bigger galas and more extreme contests, could the answer lie in one simple word — crowdfunding?

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

When a father and son duo from Australia wanted to raise money to produce a specialty beehive, they decided to try an online fundraising campaign. They didn’t raise the expected $70,000 they hoped for. Instead, they broke the $10 million mark. The Coolest Cooler had a similar goal. They set up a campaign in 2014 in hopes of raising $50,000 for their portable 60-quart cooler that contained a blender and Bluetooth speaker, among other features. Their campaign, which promised a cooler for every $165 contribution (the cooler would eventually retail at $299) ended up raising more than $13 million. While the idea of collecting donations to fund a project is an age-old idea, “crowdfunding”  — collecting many small contributions using an online fundraising platform — has taken off in popularity over the past five to ten years. Crowdfunding websites are online platforms, places where an individual or organization can easily create a webpage and then begin soliciting donations for their crowdfunding campaign. Upon visiting the campaign webpage, donors are usually met with a short riveting video along with details about the campaign. There’s also up-to-date information about how much the organization has already raised as well as the names of contributors and how much they gave (although some people prefer to stay anonymous). Since the birth of online crowdfunding with ArtistShare in 2003, scores of websites, including Indiegogo, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe, have popped up all over the Internet, each trying to fulfill a specific niche: start-ups looking for seed capital, individuals in need of funding for everything from medical expenses to artistic ventures, and nonprofits raising money for projects like after-school programs. If you have a need, it seems, there’s a crowdfunding platform to suit your goals. Why are projects and organizations able to succeed at bringing in lots of money using crowdfunding? One reason: momentum.

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