Have a great program but no way to fund it? Crowdfunding could be the answer. Social media is changing how we do business in more ways than one. The old way of doing business meant funding programs by applying for grants, hosting charity runs or selling candy to raise money. Traditional ways of tapping into established pools of money, getting the community involved, and raising awareness. Crowdfunding taps into the power of social networking, which means you can cast a much wider net to raise funds much more quickly and efficiently.
What is crowdfunding? Crowdfunding “is a practice of securing funds by asking a crowd of people to support and donate a specific amount of money for the development of a cause, idea or project”. For more specifics, here’s a great article. You put out a request, via social media, for funds for a specific project. Say you want to to fund a rescue tube at your local unguarded beach. Or you’d like to provide swimming lessons on scholarship for 10 kids at your local pool next summer. How about funding a preschool water safety program in your community? You find one of the many sites that organizes crowdfunding, follow the steps, promote it through your social media channels, and with any luck, you reach your goal in no time at all!
It’s not just small programs though, mobile giving, via text messages, raised $30m in 10 days after the Haiti earthquake disaster. The effort was organized by Mobile Giving Foundation, but it is a good example of how quickly and effectively social media and creative ways of collecting funds can make a difference.
How can crowdfunding help us end drowning? The beauty of crowdfunding is that it raises awareness at the same time it raises funds. Even better, it can create copycats. Let’s say you are providing swimming lessons for 10 kids. Someone in another state or country thinks, that’s a great idea, we should do that too! Or the rescue tube idea becomes ‘let’s raise funds to send rescue tubes to Sri Lanka or Vietnam’. And every person who reads the request, whether they donate or not, is suddenly aware that some kids can’t afford swimming lessons or some of the countries where the drowning risk is the highest don’t have enough basic rescue aids. And imagine if every single crowdfunding initiative for drowning prevention started with the words ‘One child drowns every minute.’ How long before that statistic goes viral and we suddenly, finally, have achieved global awareness of a global epidemic?
Approach with caution. Just as social marketing* is a fairly new concept and states and governments are struggling to keep up in terms of regulations and legal recognition, crowdfunding is the Wild West. Do your research about taxation and the various operators or you’ll be out of business pronto, but don’t be completely scared off. It’s uncharted territory, but it’s well worth exploring.
Finally, does crowdfunding replace more traditional ways of funding good projects? No, of course not! Grants, foundations, charity runs and bake sales will always have their place, for funding really big projects and for mobilizing and cementing neighborhood bonds for smaller projects, but times are changing, and crowdfunding is a valuable fundraising tool. Evolve or die.
* Social marketing is: harnessing market forces to change behavior for the public good. Basically, it’s applying business disciplines of measuring results, monitoring for sustainability and effectiveness and finding cost-effective approaches to serious public health, safety and social issues. It’s what I do.