Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Highs and Lows of Crowdfunding

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles via
freedigitalphotos.net
By now, pretty much everyone has heard of the Potato Salad Kickstarter. While I can't doubt this guy's genius (seriously, he got people to donate over $55,000 for potato salad), it just irks me a bit.

I'm not a stranger to crowdfunding. I've backed a couple Kickstarters and run campaigns for a variety of non-profit projects via work using Crowdrise.  Crowdfunding at its best is pretty awesome. It's a way for everyday people to get involved in some great projects that otherwise a) might not be funded or b) they might not be able to participate in. Through crowdfunding I get to support my favorite nonprofits, the manufacturing of cool new products, and even a friend in need.

I really like the rise of sites like GoFundMe and GiveForward that enable individuals to receive help with catastrophic circumstances such as astronomical medical bills or ridiculous car bills (as someone who, until very recently, drove junky beaters, I totally get how this is legitimate). I'm not the wealthiest person in the world, but I do have enough to give back occasionally in small ways. While my $10 donation on its own really won't make a difference, a whole slew of $10 donations can make all the difference in the world.

The only downside to these fantastic new opportunities in fundraising is that it's opened the door to pretty much anyone who wants to ask for money for whatever reason they want. Whether it's scams, personal gain or a gag fundraiser for potato salad.  Over the past few months, I've seen requests for countless people asking for money for various picnic side dishes (distracting from real and important causes), people looking for funding for their personal vacations, and even a teenager requesting money to make a mermaid tail (you did read that correctly). Yes, it's the right of the donors to give their money wherever they please and it's their responsibility to check out the people they're giving to, but it still rubs me the wrong way when there are so many great causes out there.

so, yes, there are some duds. Lots of duds. But there are also lots of fantastic projects out there that are definitely worthy of funding. Some of my favorites (current and previous) are listed below:

  • Bring Back Reading Rainbow - Was there any doubt that this would be on the list?
    • I've heard some criticisms that it's not the original form and it doesn't actually provide the program free (it's actually a web and mobile app that is a subscription service). But through the incredible amount of donations provided, they can provide RR to over 7,500 classrooms for free!
  • Smash Cup - The reuseable, collapsible mug for all your liquid carrying needs.
  • Wild Apple Magazine - A "visually inspiring" gluten-free magazine. This project, unfortunately, did not get successful funding, but it was a great project that I was proud to back.
  • Embrace - "The documentary that will inspire global change" by Taryn Brumfitt, a film from Australia about women's body image.
  • GameTube - A software education tool to make coding interesting to children with programmable games, stories and projects. 
  • ARKYD - The space telescope for everyone. Seriously, crowdfunding a telescope! Besides having access to a telescope (!!), they had some awesome rewards and even gave away a free build-your-own paper ARKYD model. Yes, I'm geeking out. 
Anyway, I hope I didn't come off as too much of a Negative Nellie and I even hope that this post encourages those of you who haven't explored crowdfunding before to get involved in one or some of the cool projects you can find across the web and the world these days.
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