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Crowdfunding: The next thing in charitable giving?

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In an age of financial meltdown, where fortunes have dwindled or even disappeared overnight, raising money can be challenging. Churches that support missionaries in the field, charitable organizations which feed and educate orphans around the world and disaster relief efforts, must compete with each other for donations. And this is for an individual givers remaining dollars after their own needs are met and the government has taken its cut. What’s an organization to do? They can seek help beyond their core group of givers through an innovative Internet activity known as “crowdfunding.”

According to the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia crowdfunding is “the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.” What this means is, instead of depending on a few sizeable donations an organization can reach its goal by receiving smaller donations from a large number of contributors. To accomplish this several parties must get involved: 1) the organization needing funds; 2) individual donors (a.k.a. the crowd); and, 3) the company that puts the two together.

It appears that the first recorded effort of a crowdfunding project happened in the 19th century. Through his newspaper, Joseph Pulitzer asked Americans to help because the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty ran out of money for the Statue’s pedestal. In just six months he received over $100,000.00. Most of it came from donations of $1 or less. Moving into the 20th century, in 1997 fans underwrote the British rock group Marillion’s U.S. tour by raising $60,000 through an Internet campaign. And in the 21st century ArtistShare, a U.S. based company, became known as the pioneering crowd-financing platform.

An example of how crowdfunding works is Operation Work Hero. Through the company Crowdrise, which markets itself as “an innovative, cost-effective online fundraising website for individual fundraisers, non-profit fundraising and event fundraising,” a campaign is underway to raise funds that will assist veterans in central Florida to find jobs. The effort is sponsored by Brevard Workforce, whose finances for this assistance were reduced when the government had to initiate budget cuts. Their goal is to raise $8,000.00 by Jan. 9, 2014. Since Nov. 18, they have raised 44% of those funds. The projects teams and a video can be viewed here.

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