Have you ever heard of crowdfunding? It’s a new way to jump-start a film, a book, a game, a musical album, a social initiative, or even a way to cover medical bills. It uses social media to act out the old adages “many hands make light work” or “little things can add up to a lot”.
Basically, you crowdfund something by creating a webpage that describes who you are, your plan or project, and how much money you need to fund it. You circulate it by email or social media, and hope your friends circulate it further. Each person seeing the page has the option to put in some funds to support the project, and if enough contribute, the threshold is met and the project happens. In the recent past I have made small donations to help fund a political arts campaign, a film about a famous skeptic, an animated TV series about a Canadian superhero, a new board game, a Canadian horror-comedy movie, and the most (in)famous of all, the Rob Ford “Crackstarter” campaign. (I figured that my $10 would either help expose a serious transgression by an elected official, or else go to a good cause, as ended up happening).
So not only have I learned about crowdfunding, I’ve been a part of it; each of those projects met their funding goals and is going ahead. This is part of the power of crowdfunding: not only does it allow many people to participate in funding a good cause, it also frees up projects from having to find a deep-pocketed “angel” investor or corporate backer or face never getting started.
I’ve learned about other forms of crowdfunding, like people who ask friends to donate toward a medical bill, or a special wedding, or some other more personal need. The idea goes beyond conventional start-ups and becomes something like the Mennonite tradition of barn raising, where the whole community comes together to help someone in need. Except it’s not a physical community, but a virtual one.
Recently, I was personally invited to a special leadership opportunity: to be trained in Chicago by Vice President Al Gore to make Climate Reality presentations in my own community. But there is a twist: although the training is free, I have to pay for my travel, accommodations, dinners and other expenses myself.
So I decided to take it one step further, and try crowdfunding from the other side. I set up a page to raise the full cost, and so far I’m past half way there! This means I’ll be able to put in the many hours of intensive training, then do many presentations in our community (for which I cannot charge a fee), but I won’t have to empty my wallet to do so. If you, too, are interested in helping me, you can visit http://gogetfunding.com/project/erich-s-climate-leader-training to learn more and be part of my “crowd”. And watch this column for more Climate Reality leadership.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner "Tapping into crowd-funding to cover costs"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.