Being a crowd funder
When I was teaching fundraising, I often used to say that you can only understand fundraising if you also give with your own money. And it was by becoming a crowdfunder that I become convinced that here was a technique which could be used to generate funds for worthwhile causes.
I’m a member of The Funding Network, which is a largish group of people who meet from time to time to hear people pitch their projects and ask for support (a sort of Dragons Den for social ventures). At one of these meetings, Franny Armstrong made a pitch for support for her project, and then asked if she could tell people about her next idea, which would be a film on global warming.
Franny asked for 100 people to give her £500 each in return for .05% of the net income from the film she would make, and she would use this first £50,000 to develop the concept. She said that if her film was as successful as Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, then we might get £12,500 or so back for our £500 investment; if it was a successful as her last film, perhaps only £12.50 or so! The idea of doing good, but at the same time investing in something which might generate some sort of actual return, stimulated various different parts of my brain, and I immediately said yes.
Whilst she was developing her ideas and then making her film, Franny kept in touch through lively emails which charted her progress and reported the unexpected things that turned up in her film-making and her life. And if she needed any help, she’d just ask for it. And some of her crowd of supporters, now several hundred, would offer to give it, and usually they would do this enthusiastically.
When the film came out, Franny organised a film-making weekend, and her crowd helped her organise the world’s biggest-ever a solar powered premiere and get lots of publicity. We felt proud at having helped her, having helped create an award-winning film, and having done just a little bit to promote action against global warming.
But the surprise was a payment of £18 which appeared in my bank account in December 2009, with the promise of much more to come as the film begins to generate income. There is even the possibility that we could all get our money back (and perhaps do even better than that).
You can learn more about the crowdfunding and Franny’s film at: http://spannerfilms.net/how_to_crowd_fund_your_film.
Alongside this I invested in Kiva, which is crowdfunded microfinance, www.kiva.org. I became a part-owner for a time of Ebbsfleet United Football Club at www.myfootballclub.co.uk and I backed a band at www.sellaband.com (after first hearing about how recordings could be crowdfunded on the BBC World Service).
I liked the idea of crowdfunding. It was for me. Could it be something for lots and lots of people?
Well over the past two years, there has been a spate of start ups of crowdfunding websites. As we have been developing Buzzbnk, others have been developing similar approaches to raising money for everything from films to fashion, and even investigative journalism.
We’re specifically here to fund social ventures which create public benefit; we have some special features which are able to offer a wider variety of returns to backers than other crowdfunding websites. And we really feel that we can make the idea work… although only time and a lot of hard effort by us and all our “pioneer ventures” who are using the Buzzbnk website to raise money will tell.
So, if you’re interested in the idea of crowdfunding, then back one or more ventures that you like. For you as it was for me, it could become a wonderful way of doing good things with your money!
Michael Norton OBE, Chairman and Co-founder of Buzzbnk