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Sharing Is Caring: Crowdfunding’s Transformation of Fundraising and the Rise of the Sharing Economy
By
Volume 42, Number 2 - March/April 2018

Indiegogo’s Crusades

For fundraisers looking to try their luck on the same type of platform, Indiegogo focuses primarily on tech and product design and projects related to gadgets and inven tions as well as the arts. Indiegogo emerged in 2007, the year before Kickstarter, and has raised funds for a variety of projects such as the Super Troopers 2 movie, Sondors electric bike, and ONAGofly: the smart nano drone (“Get the Tech That Gets People Talking”;indiegogo.com/about/what-we-do#/funding).

Indiegogo functions in a similar way to Kickstarter in the type of projects it presents to potential donors, but it is relaxed when it comes to meeting funding goals. Indiegogo offers the “flexible” funding goal option in addition to the “fixed,” which allows project creators to keep a portion of the funds they generate from campaigns even if they do not meet their overall funding goal. Like Kickstarter, Indiegogo also offers the donor incentive features along with its campaigns. Indiegogo assists creators beyond fundraising by offering directories of contacts that can assist in production of funded projects as well as analytics on how to successfully fund a project.

Just a quick scroll through its webpages showcases the diverse nature of projects and their impact on the world, including a beekeeper’s invention to simplify harvesting hon ey and a new universal battery pack/charger that the tech industry calls the “ultimate battery pack” (“Indiegogo Success Stories” 2017; learn.indiegogo.com/success). Crowdfunding creates the opportunity for inventors and entrepreneurs to problem-solve by asking for help from their community. Prior to the internet era, this task was difficult and time-consuming to accomplish. The benefits do not stop at convenience: Crowdfunding reconnects individuals on a more personal and altruistic level as well as allowing our communities to help shape the direction of our lives.

Funding Life’s Unexpected Events

Sometimes individuals need cash to get through difficult and transitional times in life: a health scare, a painful legal case, or a sudden death. For the average consumer, these types of events are often unaffordable or financially devas tating. Enter the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. GoFundMe specializes in providing users with an opportunity to raise funds for personal use or humanitarian causes. It is the number one website for crowdfunding, having raised more than $5 billion in campaigns to date (“Why GoFundMe”; gofundme.com/why-gofundme).

Like other crowdfunding platforms, users set up a fund raising goal and build a campaign homepage where potential donors can read about the organization or individual/ family in need and then make a contribution. GoFundMe is one of the only platforms that does not charge users a fee when they donate; additionally, the creators get to keep all of the funds donated, regardless of whether or not an end goal is met. GoFundMe does take 2.9% of each donation and charges a 30-cent credit card fee. Some noteworthy campaigns that have impacted users’ lives and the world around them include funds raised for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting (gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund) and a trip for a member of the U.S. women’s speed skating team to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (“Emily Scott’s Dream Sochi, Russia”; gofundme.com/16d0o4). GoFundMe is a great example of people taking care of each other within their communities to help us all deal with the universal challenges of life.

Regulation Fundamentals

However, with the freedom to create new projects and the ability to bring communities together, come an array of new challenges and responsibilities associated with crowdfunding. Across platforms, there are regulations and standards implemented to weed out fake or controversial projects. Some of these guidelines include banning products of genetically modified organisms; illegal products; and reward tiers offering alcohol, tobacco, drugs or weapons as well as reserving the right to terminate campaigns that the platform deems “too controversial.”

Some campaigns managed to bypass the regulations despite violating them. For every GoFundMe campaign that helps someone raise money for a cause or a truly novel invention proposed, there’s someone like the famous potato salad guy who raised more than $70,000 on Kickstarter to “make potato salad” (“Potato Salad”; July 3–Aug. 2, 2014; kickstarter.com/ projects/zackdangerbrown/potato-salad/faqs). A mockery of a charity campaign or passion project is the least-offensive abuse of crowdfunding. There are countless failed campaigns that border on the absurd to completely inappropriate such as a fund for a police officer who was charged with sexually as saulting eight women (“GoFundMe Drops Page of Oklahoma City Police Officer Accused of Rape,” Sept. 4, 2014; cnn.com/ 2014/09/04/justice/oklahoma-city-police-sexual-assault/index.html). In most cases, the regulations implemented work, and these campaigns are either pulled or severely altered. After raising more than $70,000, the potato salad guy awoke to see his funds had dwindled to $30,000 due to Kickstarter regulations that allow backers to withdraw funds once a project hits its goal (“The Kickstarter Potato Salad Guy Just Lost Nearly $30,000,” July 10, 2014; huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/ 10/potato-salad-kickstarter_n_5573913.html).

The regulations do not always work. A GoFundMe created for the police officer Darren Wilson who shot Michael Brown in a controversial police brutality case in August of 2014 was allowed to remain open and raised more than $200,000 despite users leaving racially charged comments on the campaign page and the controversial nature of the case overall. As much as we would like to get rid of these troublesome campaigns, crowdfunding in its current form could not exist if that were to happen. These campaigns are a product of the free, loosely regulated nature of crowdfunding that encourages innovation; if the culture were to become too regulated, it might alter the entire landscape of internet fund raising. In most cases, the benefits outweigh the negatives surrounding this new way to generate funding. So for now, a healthy level of tolerance will help with the frustration of crowdfunding abuses, and the most extreme cases should be dealt with immediately.





Carly Lamphere is reference librarian for Crowell Public Library. She has already made a post-holiday shopping spree list from all the savings she anticipates this season using her shopping apps! 

 

Comments? Email the editor-in-chief: marydee@xmission.com

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