Injustices of Life: Crowdfunding Version

Joyful Harvest field trip to a local farm. For some of the kids, it was their first visit ever to a farm. Just some of the many experiences the center brings to Joyful kids.
Joyful Harvest field trip to a local farm. For some of the kids, it was their first visit ever to a farm. Just some of the many experiences the center brings to Joyful kids.

Note: Not paid to write about Joyful Harvest. This is a situation dear to me, even though I do not live in Maine. To see a friend in pain, to hear about how the children will lose a safe haven if Joyful Harvest closed down….doesn’t this also bring pain to your heart?

Crowdfunding: it seems to have opened doors for so many. Projects getting funded left and right….dreams coming true.

But, should ALL dreams get funded? Even the ones that don’t contribute to society?

I’ll admit: back in August, I ran my own crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. I wanted to raise money for TAOpivot so I could pay for an intern and ease some of my financial burdens with running the company. I chose the flexible funding option; most of the money I raised was through my loved ones. I did not reach my funding goal, though.

In hindsight, I see that I did not have a strong enough campaign or message to compel strangers to contribute. However, as I watched which campaigns got featured on the front page, I also grew bitter. How come campaigns for making zombie figurines were getting overfunded and mine, a worthy social pursuit, was not?

My friend Shay, aka Black Girl in Maine, recently put up a campaign on Indiegogo to help her nonprofit organization, Joyful Harvest Center, to stay afloat. Joyful Harvest is a safe haven for children from low-income families in the Biddeford area of Maine. I hurt seeing how few people contributed to the fund; I hurt even more seeing how the center could potentially close its doors by the end of June due to lack of funding.

And again, I am reminded of why, many times, crowdfunding is a way to fund everyone’s dreams, but some dreams seem “more important” to the public than others.┬áPeople would rather see more useless objects in our society than to fund organizations that are trying to improve society/our economy.

And then, these same people wonder why they’re unemployed, or why there is still a high-unemployment rate in the U.S.

Is this how human nature shows its true colors through this new way of funding? Have we, as a society, grown numb to trying to help each other out for worthwhile necessities in life? Have we suddenly decided that funding a statue of a not-so-famous celebrity on a dinosaur’s body is so much more important than helping a nonprofit organization for at-risk youth?

Sure, life is unfair, but if we’re a society built on making the next generation of leaders, why are we turning the other way when it comes to what Joyful Harvest Center is trying to achieve? What other socially-minded ventures are trying to achieve?

(Want to make a financial donation to Joyful Harvest Center?)

 

Comments

  1. James says

    I think what works for crowdfunding is more complex than that. It also seems like a more complex topic than one comment could supply.

    But the way things like Kickstarter and the like are set up, crowdfunding is less about donations and works more like a marketplace. It’s not just fundraising, it’s a way of preselling, and a way of giving value to the people who support the venture.

    Yes, it sucks that they aren’t getting the funds they need. But maybe crowdfunding isn’t the right way to get funds to this type of work.

    • helene says

      What would be a good way though? From my interactions with Shay, they have tried everything else. No local donors stepping up.

      • James says

        If it’s a good cause, and it sounds like it is, then the issue isn’t that they have tried everything, it just feels like they have. Yes, fundraising is hard, but people do it successfully all the time. All I’m saying is that crowdfunding for charity isn’t the right use for the model.

        Here’s one thing they might not have tried. Find someone’s vanity project and have them do a charitable event. Like a corporate cover band, for instance.

        Or how about this: don’t think of crowdfunding as a way to get money, think of it as a marketplace and tailor your campaign as a business or exchange of some kind. Make something unique that they can’t get somewhere else.

        Look around at how other campaigns are structured. What are they offering that isn’t just the end product. Look at the things offered by campaigns like Amanda Palmer or 99% Invisible. Much of their funding went towards something other than the album or the show. It went towards the ‘rewards’ (which is the wrong word for it, but kind of works). They weren’t offering tokens and tote bags. They offered once-in-a-lifetime things that people would want as well. That’s a marketplace.

        So how can Joyful Harvest offer something unique, if that’s the route they want to take?

        • says

          Good points that you make James. We are a small agency with only 3 paid staffers, we face a lack of resources in our fundraising efforts. Our focus is to serve kids and families. As a result, as the head of the agency, I wear all the hats and it hard to get support. Most non-profits that can raise significant sums of money also have staffing and budget dedicated to those purposes.

          In our case we are located in a town of 20K where most of the people are dealing with financial scarcity and thus don’t have the means to give. Yet creating donors/givers from outside the area is difficult yet for agencies in smaller and more rural areas it is hardly unique. It’s a lot easier to raise money in Brooklyn for poor kids than in Maine.

          We decided to do a crowdfunding campaign because I personally had many friends recommend it but having done it, I think it is harder to raise money for a charity unless it is a one time give like with the Boston Marathon bombing victims.

    • says

      As the Executive Director of Joyful Harvest I would agree that crowdfunding simply isn’t a good vehicle for us. Maine is a smaller and rural state, I would venture to say that many people here are not savvy about such things. As a result getting buy-in from people in the state is hard because so many are not online and it’s harder to get buy-in from people who aren’t in the area. Also crowdfunding requires a lot of work to constantly promote projects and with just a paid staff of 3, it’s not the best use of resources.

      I think you bring up a good point, too many people are quick to say go online and raise money but my own experience is that it seems limited in who raises money. People support projects that resonate with them and where it’s an investment that they feel deeply about.

  2. says

    Hi there!
    My name is Natasha and I’m from StartSomeGood.com – a crowdfunding platform specifically focused on social impact projects.

    I’m sorry to hear that Joyful Harvest’s campaign hasn’t taken off. I’ve had a look into your organisation and it seems like a very worthy cause!

    Working with StartSomeGood I’ve seen all types of social impact projects, similar to Joyful Harvest, successfully use the crowdfunding model to raise funds- from startup social enterprises to established organisations.

    I absolutely agree with you Helene – not every project is right for crowdfunding. However, with the right support and guidance I think that inspiring projects, such as Joyful Harvest, do have the opportunity for success with crowdfunding. We are dedicated to supporting the projects that go up on our site and we work directly with out projects to ensure that they have the best chances of success so I’ll share my advice for Joyful Harvest, in the case that they ever want to run a campaign in future.

    Not every project has the luxury of a big team with many people to assist with promotions. But I’ve seen projects with a single team member succeed with campaigns of over $35,000. Their secret is their precampaign preparation.

    The more time you take to prepare, the less work your campaign will be while it is live.

    Precampaign preparation involves identifying your project’s story and the communities that will respond to this story. You mentioned that the local community is not being overly supportive, but there are other stories that your organisation can tell to reach those beyond the immediate geographic community in Maine, such as the story of supporting youth. Check out this blog post for more info on identifying your story:
    http://startsomegood.tumblr.com/post/37839287370/the-six-stories-of-social-change-fundraising

    Identifying these stories give you a great idea of who to reach out to in your promotion strategy.

    Promotion strategy preparation is crucial and will save you a LOT of time once the campaign goes lives. This article is FANTASTIC for guidance on how to plan the promotion for your campaign to ensure that it is not all consuming once the campaign goes live: http://crowdfundenergy.com/hacking-kickstarter-how-to-raise-100000-in-10-days/

    Considering that you said your community was not so crowdfunding/tech savvy, you might also want to consider holding offline events using laptops or ipads where people can pledge on the spot. This is one tactic that Jennifer Windrum used during her campaign, Sock Monkeys Against Cancer which raised over $35,000. You can check out her campaign here: http://startsomegood.com/Help/Stories#bring_smac_sock_monkeys_against_cancer_to_life

    Of course there is much more advice that I can give you! If you do ever consider running a crowdfunding campaign again (which would definitely be worth a go in due time!), I’d love you to consider StartSomeGood. We are dedicated to supporting ventures like yours and we understand what it takes for social impact projects to succeed without the ‘product’ focus of other campaigns.

    Hope this helps!!
    If you have any questions send them my way :)
    natasha@startsomegood.com

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