Tuesday, October 10, 2017

crowdfunding grants for your project - the shape of things to come or a dystopian future?

I find myself talking a lot about crowdfunding these days - partly because I'm starting to deliver more training and learning programmes around strategic finance and managing accounts, but also because it seems to be a space where more grant makers are moving into...

I've always held that the main benefit you can derive from crowdfunding isn't about the money, but rather proving interest and demand, and building a tribe of supporters. I've also always argued that it's a lot of hard work to make a crowdfunding campaign a success (most fail to reach their targets, or come anywhere close to them...)

Recently though I've started to notice grant making bodies starting to increasingly move in the crowdfunding space - offering 'top up' grants to groups and projects who raise either a minimum amount, or who offer to match the amounts raised in this way (step forward Power to Change Community Shares Booster, Santander's changemakers, el al). And in some ways this makes sense: grant making bodies only have so much cash to go round, and want to make sure that their money makes the most impact where they spend it. So to have a project that shows it has high levels of public and community support from people already donating to it, would seem to be a good indication that it will do very well in having a body of people already wishing to support it and see it succeed.
And there are also calls from various national sector bodies that even if charities don't integrate crowdfunding into their income generating strategies, everyone should try it at least once... 

But... crowdfunding can be a fickle game. It takes a lot of time and skill to be successful at it. It's also a form of popularity contest in trying to get a community to support your project over someone else's. And what about those projects and activities which, while we all agree are worthy and needed, are also those which we might struggle to otherwise offer support to if they started crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding can generate all sorts of benefits and unexpected outcomes. It can also be a large waste of time and effort. But is a space that people and funders are increasingly interested in - and if we haven't tried it, how can we have any credibility when we try and subsequently argue that its not for us?

Like Oscar Wilde (or someone like him) famously may have once said - try everything once, apart from Morris dancing; but I'd say just make sure you go into it with your eyes open and don't believe all of the hype...

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