Crowdfunding For Social Change

For people with limited resources, crowdfunding provides unprecedented opportunities to transform the status quo. Average people can initiate meaningful changes in their communities by reaching out or donating small sums to worthy causes. All crowdfunding models share the premise of collective sponsorship. Both donors and organizers exercise a unique agency over their environment and their future. Instead of fantasizing about a different social framework—one with expanded access to lifesaving medicine, improved treatment of animals or stronger protections for the environment—people can access the resources on their own and take action through a crowdfunding campaign.

Connect With Those Who Share Your Values

Traditionally, those with the most capital have controlled what products get created, how businesses operate, and where our society focuses its talent and intellect. What makes crowdfunding so revolutionary is its ability to counter this narrative. Through the support of those who share your values, you can pursue a project that puts more emphasis on improving society than on making large amounts of money. Donation-based crowdfunding gets funding to people who share your values.

  • Crowdfunding grew by 167% in 2014 alone, according to Crowdsourcing.com's industry report, reaching $16.2 billion raised. Significantly, social causes are the second most popular use of the platform.
  • Fundable.com emphasizes the importance of social media in the success of a crowdfunding campaign; for every order of magnitude increase in Facebook friends (10, 100, 1000) who view a campaign, the likelihood that a campaign will be a success increases rapidly (from 9% to 20% to 40%).
  • Lisa Curtis observes in her opinion piece for Sustainable Brands that, “Crowdfunded businesses are also more likely to be run by women or minorities — two demographics that on average receive half as much funding as businesses run by white men.”

Five Ways the Crowdfunding Model Suits Social Change

  1. Addressing the Need, Drawing Attention to the Cause

    Highlight a specific need within a community

    Unlike traditional charitable giving, crowdfunding tends to benefit one specific project or meet an immediate, tangible need. The short-term nature of the industry often accommodates these types of campaigns because it creates a sense of urgency that helps the fundraiser gain momentum. A typical nonprofit campaign might address the building of facilities or focus on a specific person who needs help from the organization. While for some nonprofits?mdash;and any campaign focusing on long-term financing—crowdfunding may not seem like the ideal fundraising model, but it actually proves a useful tool by raising awareness as well as money. Social media generates buzz, and when a desirable outcome is reached, it provides a microcosmic example of how to address that problem on a larger scale. It also humanizes the issue, making it harder for individuals to forget about.

  2. Person-to-Person Campaigns Address Flawed Systems

    Person-to-person campaigns address the symptoms of a flawed and fragile system.

    Accessing funds for medical expenses is one of the most common reasons families create YouCaring campaigns. People who suffer from cancer or another serious medical condition often find themselves with enormous bills they could never hope to pay on their own. Or their insurance might cover only certain types of treatment, while denying them a newer or more experimental one that could save their life. Insurance coverage varies so widely in this country that an otherwise financially secure family could suddenly reach bankruptcy or simply not be able to afford treatment in the event of a health emergency. Not only does crowdfunding help people receive the life-saving treatment they need, but it also publicizes the shortcomings of our existing institutions. Crowdfunding highlights flaws in our current systems and encourages everyday people to address those flaws.

  3. Crowdfunding for the Cause-Enthusiastic Millennials Generation

    Crowdfunding can be especially rewarding for millenials, who are young and enthusiastic about social causes, but may not know how to help out.

    May of today's twenty-somethings hold high ideals, but they may not know how to act upon them. Often, recent graduates suddenly find themselves in the “real world” where supporting oneself takes precedent over initiating meaningful change in a community. If you find yourself thinking “what do I do now?” during a gap in employment, or if you feel disillusioned with your current career, consider starting a crowdfunding campaign that raises money for an important cause. Starting an organization or addressing a specific social ill on your own can be an empowering experience. It provides a sense of purpose and direction, allows you to begin or resume your career with new energy, and improves your self-image and outlook.

  4. Jampa Latso, A Tibetan Story of Social Change in Action

    Jampa Latso

    Jampo Latso, the Tibetan daughter of subsistence farmers, overcame all odds to receive an education in a country where most girls do not even attend primary school. The first person in her village to attend university, she graduated from the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh this spring. Jampa advocates on behalf of girls' education in Tibet, and she has been invited to speak at a number of conferences and events. Now she's created a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for graduate school in the U.S., where she hopes to learn management skills that will help her create an organization in rural Tibet to develop educational programs for girls. Her story provides an example of just how much a determined individual can overcome in order to improve the lives of others.

  5. Chicago Torture Justice Memorials

    The crowdfunding campaign “Chicago Torture Justice Memorials” aims to address the ugly legacy of Jon Burge's brutality in Southside Chicago, where he tortured nearly 200 criminal suspects for confessions from 1972 to 1991. More than ten Death Row inmates along with others wrongfully convicted of crimes had their sentences overturned, reversed, or remanded in 2002, but the community still has healing to do. The campaign aims to advocate on the victims' behalf by reopening cases that are still contested, monitoring the implementation of a promised reparations package, and building a trauma center where members of the community can seek psychological treatment related to their experiences of police brutality. This fundraising campaign represents a group effort to address a specific problem from within a community. It focuses on healing and moving forward while still acknowledging and respecting the suffering of victims.

Small Actions Create the Momentum for Big Changes

While we’ve covered large-scale examples of people crowdfunding for social change, there are countless small projects that together create a lasting impact. Even if you just want to plant trees in your community, educate kids about environmental issues, or preserve a local building, for example, your actions take on greater significance over time. After reflecting on how your skills can benefit a cause you care about, launch a crowdfunding campaign for social change.