I was recently in Australia to attend two weddings and three speaking events in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Thank you to Vibewire, The School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia and The Australia Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) for hosting me.
The great thing about these events was the chance, after three years out of the country, to reconnect with the social entrepreneurship sector in Australia and, especially, to meet so many inspiring changemakers. There’s a real energy around social entrepreneurship in Australia, fueled by SSE Australia, TACSI and other groups like the Australian Social Innovation Exchange (ASIX), none of which were operational when I left in 2008.
But it takes more than great peak organizations to fuel a movement – it takes passionate and committed individuals prepared to devote themselves to the hard work of making things better. I met many of those on my trip, their eyes sparking with ideas, their minds ablaze with possibility, their energy engaging and connecting. As is always the case after I have the opportunity to spend time with social entrepreneurs, they made me feel better about the future.
At the crowdfunding panel at Hub Melbourne I was very proud to share the stage with two organizations I admire: Australia creativity crowdfunding platform Pozible and the Melbourne chapter of the Awesome Foundation.
There was a clear interest in crowdfunding from the attendees at the events, as is always the case with anything funding-related, and I thought it would be worth capturing here some of the main questions I got and my responses to them.
• Is crowdfunding new? Not really, although the term is quite new. Crowdfunding has been here for a very long time, it simply describes the act of gathering funding from a larger group of people in relatively smaller amounts to fund projects. People collecting money in mall’s are crowdfunding, but what’s new is first the technology to do this efficiently, second the widespread confident to contribute money online and most recently the addition of game mechanics such as all-or-nothing deadlines.
• Is crowdfunding the right word for what’s happening? I don’t think so. “Crowd” seems to imply some anonymous mass just waiting to shower you with money, and that’s not generally what happens. What’s more common is platforms like Pozible and StartSomeGood provide you with great tools to reach out and attract support from a community you’ve already created. Ie. Your peers.
• Why are there restrictions on who can fundraise on Pozible and StartSomeGood? This question came on the heels of questions about how Pozible and StartSomeGood were planning to build a community looking to support great projects, helping projects find new supporters beyond their existing networks. These are two halves of the same coin: by placing boundaries around our community, defining what our intention and focus is, we are more likely to create a community of at least somewhat like-minded individuals who are more likely to be interested in your project, whether it’s social impact (StartSomeGood) or creative (Pozible). Or Awesome, of course (Awesome Foundation).
• What about ongoing funding? This already exists of course, you can put a paypal donate button on your site and there, potentially, is your ongoing funding. But in practice this is hard and people like donating to specific things, and respond well to deadlines and goals. However once we’re more established the idea of allowing non-project-specific donations on Venture pages is an interesting one.
• What makes people give? First and foremost, being asked. You can’t be too shy to ask. The number 1 reason people don’t give to charity is because no one ever asked them. People who know you will, often, be interested in supporting your project. Ask your family, friends, work colleagues, old school mates. But while being asked is almost a necessary pre-condition to giving what gets people off the fence is an inspiring vision (not just focusing on the problem but proposing a solution), a specific ask (how much do you need and what for), the sense of being part of something and, in the case of us and Pozible, exciting and unique rewards.
• How do you ask? Simply tweeting and Facebook status updating about your campaign is not an effective ask. You can tweet something ten times and still 75% of your followers may not have seen it. Write emails. Pick up the phone. Get people to an event. Make sure they know your campaign exists and why you need their help, or you won’t get the support you deserve.
Thank you to everyone who came out to one of the events and special shout-outs to those who made it to the after-drinks in Melbourne and Adelaide, you know who you are.
Until next time!