Give a little, get a little
May 20, 2009 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Crowd surf, crowd sourcing, crowd funding? Like being supported by an ocean of people, or collaboration from around the world, crowd funding gets projects financial backing from the people. It's not new, as it has been the method for funding charities and political campaigns for a very long time, but it is a novel attempt at getting funds for other projects. Some people have placed their hopes in crowdfunding as a way to save journalism, while other companies are looking to get micropayment-scale public investments in fashion by offering investors the potential for a cut of future profits. The more typical return is physical goods, like getting the t-shirt you help sponsor [via mefi projects], or a limited edition version of the album. There's another site long these lines, but more free-form in structure: Kickstarter, crowdfunding for people who make stuff. [via mefi projects] The fundees can set a fundraising goal, deadline, and a set of rewards for backers. If the goal's reached by the deadline, then everyone's charged and backers get their goodies. If not, nobody's charged. The previously discussed 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, Kind of Bloop was funded this way.
posted by filthy light thief (7 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
What I find interesting about the essay at the "save journalism" link (which points to an essay on, is that America's various public broadcasting organizations have been operating on this model for decades, and relying on it increasingly as all their means of institutional funding (federal backing, local establishment backing (eg, the university hosting the studios and offices), and even charitable foundation giving) have been cut.

Our local public radio stations have been putting increasing emphasis on large gifts in their contribution drives, but the real money potential has to be in the thousands of people who can only afford something in the $5-50 bracket. That apparently isn't even enough for a coffee mug or keychain fob any more, so the only contribution amounts being talked up any more are in the $100-plus range.
posted by ardgedee at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2009

That apparently isn't even enough for a coffee mug or keychain fob any more, so the only contribution amounts being talked up any more are in the $100-plus range.

Interesting: Howard Dean's average donation size was just under $80 for his 2004 election run. The small donations don't seem like much, but they can allow anyone to become involved. As for the coffee mugs and key chains: they're not looking at getting back the cost for the product and shipping, but assuming people already want to donate, and wish to increase donations with physical gifts. I donated something like $120 to a local public radio station and got a tote bag that I could have bought for $30, but I like the station.

In this perspective, I like that Kickstarter allows the people behind the project set their own gift levels, ranging from $5 for digital downloads to $3,500 for a private film screening at your home.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:43 AM on May 20, 2009

I like the Kickstarter concept (although it's hardly new even in the internet realm) but linking it with public broadcasting's image is a bad idea. I donated once to my local NPR station--never again. I probably got enough dead trees and phone calls from them to cover 10x the amount I donated. What a waste of money.
posted by DU at 9:52 AM on May 20, 2009

I think Kickstarter is a good idea too. I donated to the Kind of Bloop project and the whole process of signing up and paying through Amazon was very smooth. The one negative aspect is that there's a big trust issue involved, because with way that the site is set up it would be relatively easy for random people to hype some project, pull in a lot of donations, and then abandon it without actually following through.

Those sorts of things are already a problem with places like eBay and Craigslist, and it seems like big one-time projects would be even easier to use for scamming than a lot of individual smaller transactions. I'm sure that most of the people donating consider the gitfs to be gauranteed the way that any legally binding transaction is, so it would be nice if there was more of a safety net around making sure that projects that reach their monetary goals actually end up producing the expected results.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:05 AM on May 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here is a funding page for Marcy Wheeler, who has been doing deep digging into the US torture program at her blog emptywheel. Her work has been picked up by national papers later. She is not a full time reporter and FireDogLake is trying to raise enough money to pay her a salary and hire a researcher.
posted by shothotbot at 12:12 PM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

My theatre company is currently using Fundable to raise money for our upcoming show. It seems to be working well mainly as a medium for friends and family from other parts of the country to throw a little money our way. Fundable touts Misnomer Dance company as a success story. Kickstarter seems better simply because it's free for everyone involved.
posted by Uncle at 1:08 PM on May 20, 2009

Another time-honored means of raising funds is to offer people a chance to win an item, or a cut of the funds raised, in exchange for a small donation. You can even get multiple chances for making multiples of the donations!
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2009

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