[Update July 6, 2012: Add Razoo to the list.]
Fundraising is being crowdsourced.
What It Means
The word "Crowdsourcing" combines "crowd" with "outsourcing." It describes the distribution of a task or process among a large, indeterminate group – such as members of the general public. Ordinarily, the task might otherwise be handled by employees, or people engaged officially as part of an organization.
Crowdsourcing doesn't necessarily happen online, but the internet makes crowdsourcing much easier. This is true of many kinds of work, including raising funds to support a cause or organization.
Why It Matters
With individuals and small organizations able to design, promote, and fundraise (or borrow money) for their projects, educational fundraising will inevitably be affected. The list below shows a sampling of the current online crowsourced funding landscape.
Some of the sites listed here support education, some support other (occasionally specific) kinds of activity. This isn't meant to be a complete list, just a way for Alumni Futures readers to see the scope of the sector, and the rate at which it's growing; almost all these sites were established within the last two years.
We need to understand how these sites and services mimic educational institutions' internal processes, and how they differ. Then can we determine whether to
- ignore the trend and continue as we are already doing;
- work with 3rd party providers and buy into the process;
- learn from these examples and build our own versions internally.
Here are 21 current examples of crowdsourced funding sites, in no particular order.
DonorsChoose – Public school teachers post projects online, and funders choose a project and contribute any amount. Donors are (optionally) connected to the teacher and other donors.
PetriDish – "World famous researchers" post scientific research projects & expeditions, which are funded if a project reaches its financial goal.
Sciflies – Another micro-donation funding site supporting scientific research projects, across "medical, environmental, engineering" and other fields.
USeed – The University of Delaware site that funds student-led projects via crowdsourced funding.
MiddSTART – Middlebury College site soliciting funds for students to "explore their interests through creative, entrepreneurial, and innovative projects." Alumni and friends can "combine a number of gifts to support a project that particularly appeals to them."
Takeashine – "Takeashine is an online crowdfunding platform for underprivileged students who risk missing out on higher education because they cannot meet their college costs."
RaisingSocial – More crowdsourced funding for schools. "Donors are able to become friends with other donors. Donors are able to see what causes their friends are interested in and can donate to those causes as well."
Business, Non-Profit, Personal, and Other Sectors:
Kickstarter - Funding site that uses an all-or-nothing model. "Projects must be fully funded or no money changes hands."
Razoo – "Search for and donate to 1 million officially registered non-profit organizations."
Indiegogo – "...a crowdfunding platform where people who want to raise money can create fundraising campaigns to tell their story and get the word out."
Rockethub.org – An online "boot camp" that purports to train people in the practice of crowdsourced fundraising.
GiveForward – "GiveForward pages empower friends and family to send love and financial support to patients as they navigate a medical crisis."
Mobcaster – A crowdfunding platform crossed with an online television channel, for "original, independent, audience-supported television shows."
8-Bit Funding – Crowdsourced fundraising for gaming-related projects: video games, board games, card games and more.
HelpersUnite – Combines "creative and entrepreneurial crowdfunding and event ticket sales with charitable giving" to "raise funding, increase awareness, and create an audience for that special event..."
GreenUnite – A site "focused on helping to launch important products, technology and content dedicated to creating a more sustainable world."
Crowdtilt – "Pool money with your friends or your community for an objective/event/fundraiser you care about. It could be for a vacation home rental in Hawaii or raising money for a charitable event in your region."
Emphas.is – "An online platform where photojournalists can submit projects for crowdfunding by the public."
Prosper – Peer-to-peer lending, where borrowers list an amount and purpose, and investors make fixed monthly payments to projects they want to fund.
Kiva – On the best-known of micro-lending platforms, lenders "combat poverty...by making small loans to borrowers around the world," providing "fair access to affordable capital for people to improve their own lives."
If nothing else, this partial list will help you picture the variety of sites supporting decentralized funding across many sectors.
Is "crowdfunding" the future of annual giving and student support in education?
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