Exploring Crowdfunding

This month’s tech challenge from Nebraska Learns 2.0 is another winner, at least for me. (If you don’t know this site, check it out: http://nlcblogs.nebraska.gov/nelearns/ . You’ll also love Michael Sauer’s Travelin’ Librarian blog at http://travelinlibrarian.info/ .) I only knew about crowdfunding in a very general, abstract way until starting this exercise. Now I’m hooked – not so much on using it to raise money (though I do now have some ideas for our library!) but definitely on using it to help fund other people’s projects.

I spent a couple of afternoons exploring the three major sites that the assignment lists. All three are easy to navigate, though Indiegogo feels more formal and maybe a bit clunkier than the other two. I love the tone of the KickStarter site and was surprised by the huge range of projects on GoFundMe. Actually, the range of projects on all the sites surprised me – and delighted me. The next time I hear someone complaining about a supposed lack of creativity (or sheer NERVE) anywhere, I’m sending them straight to these sites!

How the Sites Work
All three sites’ rules seem fairly straightforward, and each site offers thorough how-to information. If I were going to post a campaign, I’d first be sure to (1) check all the current rules and how-to materials again very thoroughly, (2) check with an accountant about tax consequences, (3) do a really thorough comparison of similar projects that were and weren’t funded. I’d also take much care developing the campaign materials, because they have so much to do with what is and isn’t funded.

All three sites charge for their services. All KickStarter campaigns are “all or nothing” and if you reach your goal you currently pay a 5% fee plus 3-5% processing. GoFundMe charges a 5% fee on the funds raised plus 3% processing unless you opt for an “all or nothing” campaign; then there are no fees. Indiegogo charges a 9.0% fee with 5.0% back if you reach your goal, plus 3-5% processing, plus money wire fees. Indiegogo gives non-profits a 25% fee discount and also charges no fee on funds collected if you choose an “all or nothing” campaign; Indiegogo may charge fees in all cases for processing and money wires (I found contradictory information).

None of the sites charge donors anything and all three return donors’ funds for unsuccessful “all or nothing” campaigns. The sites vary on setting time limits for fund-raising efforts.

KickStarter allows a maximum of 60 days and recommends 30 days as more successful; you get the funds only after the deadline of a successful campaign. GoFundMe lets campaigns run indefinitely and lets you withdraw funds as you wish anytime unless you choose “all or nothing,” which does require an end date and lets you withdraw funds only after that date.

Indiegogo strongly advises allowing less than 47 days for a campaign and also advises setting financial goals for large projects in stages, as separate campaigns, but does not set maximums. “All or nothing” campaign funds can’t be withdrawn until after the campaign ends; you receive income from other types of campaigns as the money comes in, depending on how you choose to handle it.

Campaign Examples
I spent another afternoon exploring the examples in the assignment. This was great fun, especially the examples of projects NLC staff helped fund.

From the general examples, my favorite was “Library Box 2.0” on KickStarter, which had a $3,000 goal but raised over ten times that amount, $33,119. I would have helped fund this project because it’s aimed at circumventing censorship and surveillance. It’s a “Walking digital library” – hardware and software (Open Source) you can carry with you, and any wifi device can access it, even if there’s no internet connection.

Library Ranger Badges,” also on KickStarter, also far exceeded it’s $7,000 goal by raising $33,298. This campaign seems like a way to sell things to raise money for general library purposes; that is, the perks are the project and probably yielded a large profit. The two examples from Indiegogo did not meet their goals. “Fayetteville Fab Lab” raised $13,670 of its $20,000 goal, but it already had $260,000 in grant/award funds. “Bring the Hulk to the Northlake Public Library” raised only $4,262 of $30,000 goal, but someone donated the statue so they didn’t need as much money to finish the project.

Several of the campaigns NLC staff personally participated in are also campaigns I like. They’re all KickStarter campaigns.

My absolute favorite, “We’re putting a TARDIS into orbit – Really!” raised $88,880, 2.33 times its $33,000 goal. I LOVE Doctor Who and would have loved the perks. “C is for Cthulhu: The Lovecraft Alphabet Board Book” raised $26,106, over three times its $8,000 goal, to produce a board book featuring Lovecraft-themed illustrations for the letters of the alphabet. “The Milky Way Breastfeeding Film: Every Mother has a Story” also exceeded its $118,000 goal by raising $122,407.

The Game of Books: Reward Your Imagination” exceeded its $102,364 goal with $109,970 pledged. The projects sounds wonderful and I would like to get a game for our library, but none of the links on the site work, and searching only brings up links to the fundraising page. What’s happened to the game? Is it going to become available? Or was the project a scam?

What Now?
My problem isn’t going to be finding projects I’d like to try to fund but finding the time and staff and energy to tackle the work before and during and after the campaign.

Valparaiso needs a bigger, better library building. We’re short on space for meeting, programming, and the collection – we have only 1,000 feet in total. But should we try to remodel the building so we can use the second floor? Or build something new and, if so, where? Should it be just for the library or for a Community Center that would include the library, Village offices, Senior Center, meeting rooms, kid/teen activity space, a pool? Should we start by raising funds for community development planning? Architectural plans? We’d need contact information for folks FROM the area, now living elsewhere, as well as area residents. If I can talk community leaders into supporting the idea, Indiegogo might be the best site for it, probably starting with funding the research/planning phase.

Even starting campaigns for small projects take time, but far less than researching and planning a building. KickStarter seems ideal for projects like a history of Valparaiso, or setting up a digital photo/film creating/editing/publishing workshop in the library for local teens, or making puppet show sets and puppets for Story Time, or publishing special editions of a newspaper or magazine by local kids/teens.

Personally, I may use GoFundMe or KickStarter to fund publication of the complete works of my deceased friend Linnea Johnson and to indefinitely support the website her partner and I have launched in her memory. And I wonder, should I think about money for us visit to my son next year, when he and his wife have moved to Costa Rica? Hmmmm.



3 thoughts on “Exploring Crowdfunding

    1. mariafromval Post author

      Thanks for the feedback. I missed hearing from you the past couple of months. Do you know what happened to the game after it was purchased?



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