Crowdfunding? What it is and Why You Should Care

This article will  outline the basics of Crowdfunding, defining what it is, how crowdfunding campaigns generally operate, and why you should care.

Crowdfunding is a method of raising monetary funds for almost any cause through alternative channels. Typically based online, crowdfunding campaigns seek to finance projects through a high volume of smaller donations, hence Crowd. There is really no limit to what types of projects can be funded; start-up salsa companies to a pedestrian bridge in an urban center are equally valid pursuits. There are several principles that apply to every campaign.

Select a Model of Campaign

Why are people donating? What is the draw or motive? Different types of campaigns will be seeking different types of donors, and it is important to envision your crowd to determine what will motivate them to donate.

Reward-Based

These campaigns offer some sort of reward for donating, often with a greater reward for a greater donation. Be it a free jar of salsa or your name publicly displayed on the new bridge, these donors receive some sort of scaled reward for their generosity.

Donation-Based

These campaigns generally see success by engaging a crowd or community who all support an underlying cause. Rewards can be an additional option to further entice donations, but the vast majority believes in what you are doing, whether starting a foundation or financially supporting someone with an illness. The community comes together to support the cause.

Connecting the Crowd to the Cause

In both situations and all the grey areas in between, social networks are vital to spreading the word and connecting people to the campaign. Social media outlets can be utilized to gain an audience and find followers outside of your normal network and geographic area. In addition, word of mouth is important. Utilize your network to connect to friends and friends-of-friends and so on.

Challenges and Considerations

Consider your crowd carefully and tailor your campaign to meet their interests, needs, and means.

Think realistically about who your crowd is. Those who show up in support may not be those whom you originally envisioned. Your crowd always will start close to home and with 1st degree connections.

OK, so why do I care?

Crowdfunding offers opportunities to raise money for any project, venture or idea without the difficulty of finding a sole donor or taking out a loan. This flexibility opens the doors for many people to pursue business or community ideas that may not otherwise have the means to do so. Use your imagination! An incredible variety of projects have been successfully funded and brought to life through this process. Dust off your old dream book and find something to pursue!

Resources

The resources listed below may help jog some ideas, or allow you to find inspiration and answers to various questions.

www.crowdsourcing.org – this is a website specific to the emerging crowdfunding industry. A great place to start.

www.kickstarter.com – The largest online-based crowdfunding platform. Check out some live campaigns to see what works and what works even better. Get a feel for how you want to shape and communicate your campaign.

http://www.aia.org/aiaucmp/groups/aia/documents/pdf/aiab097668.pdf – This links to a research report published by the American Institute of Architects and covers examples and methodology through which crowdfunding may be applied to architecture.

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