Please note: This month’s thing involves money. To be clear, we are not requiring you to spend any; unless you want to. That’s up to you.
In these days of tight library budgets, sometimes you have a great idea but you don’t have the funds to implement it. If you find yourself in this situation, have you considered trying to crowdfund your idea?
What is crowdfunding?
According to Wikipedia “crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. One early-stage equity expert described it as “the practice of raising funds from two or more people over the internet towards a common Service, Project, Product, Investment, Cause, and Experience or SPPICE.” The crowdfunding model is fueled by three types of actors: the project initiator who proposes the idea and/or project to be funded; individuals or groups who support the idea; and a moderating organization (the “platform”) that brings the parties together to launch the idea.”
Simply put, you have an idea, and you ask others to contribute funds to make that idea come to fruition. I’ve provided several examples of crowdfunded projects, both current and completed, near the end of this post.
Generally crowfunding works like this:
- Come up with the idea. Let’s say it’s to bring an author into the library for a program and all told it will cost $3000.
- Choose the crowdfunding platform on which you’re going to raise the money. (Some platforms don’t allow certain types of fundraising and/or fundraisers. More on this later.)
- Write up your idea along with what the end result will be, how much you’re asking for, what are the risks to the contributors, the end date for your fundraising effort, and (depending on the platform,) what the reward(s) will be for the contributors. (A free ticket to the event would be a reward example for this type of project or maybe a meet & greet with the author for a high-dollar contributor.)
- Promote your idea.
- When the end date arrives, collect your funds minus the platform’s fees and implement your idea. (On some platforms if you don’t achieve your funding goal, you don’t get any of the money. On others, you get whatever amount was contributed.)
If you’re more of an infographic person, click on the one of the right for the full-sized version. It is Kickstarter-centric, but accurate for most of the current platforms.
There are dozens of crowdfunding platforms available and more are being created regularly. To keep focus I’ll be briefly introducing you to three of the larger and more popular ones.
Kickstarter is pretty much the grandfather of the platforms. Everything from art books, to albums, to feature films have been funded here. On Kickstarter, if you don’t achieve your funding goal, you don’t get any of the money and you’re pretty much expected to offer something in exchange for contributions based on the amount contributed. Also, “Kickstarter does not allow projects to fundraise for charity or offer financial incentives.” Because of this I have heard of libraries having their projects being declined by Kickstarter.
Indiegogo is the next largest of the platforms and seems to be a bit more open than Kickstarter on who can create projects and the types of projects that can be created. For example, Kickstarter generally wants a “something that can be shared” to come out of a project whereas here you could ask for funds to take a trip by yourself. From what I’ve read, Indigogo is more library friendly.
GoFundMe focuses more on crowdfunding individuals and charitable organizations that are just looking for a new was to do fundraising. They have plans for “Personal Campaigns,” “Charity Fundraising,” and “All-or-Nothing” campaigns. Years ago when I collected money to fund a honeymoon I used a travel agent. If I was to do that again today I’d probably use GoFundMe instead.
Pros & Cons
Pros & cons of crowdfunding can be looked at from two perspectives, from that of those looking to receive the funds and from those doing the funding.
For those that are looking to raise funds this can be a great way to advertise your project on a more global scale. For example, I’ve contributed to library projects for libraries in other states. Had they just advertised locally, they would not have had me as a contributor. On the down side, this can be a lot of work and depending on the platform you choose, it may all be for naught. Also, be sure to check with your governing body (city council for example,) about any fundraising rules you may not be aware of.
From the funder’s perspective the up side is that you can have the great feeling knowing that you directly helped someone achieve their goal and in most cases get one for yourself. As a contributor I personally have received a number of books and movies either earlier than the general commercial release, or as part of a limited edition run that was only available to contributors. On tho down-side however, whenever I contribute I am taking a chance that the item I’m funding will actually appear. If you read the fine print, in most cases the platform will not make a guarantee that the funds will be used as intended. Though so far I have received just about everything I’ve funded, a few projects have gone under and not delivered.
Here’s a few examples of library & librarians that have used crowdfunding:
- Fayetteville Fab Lab
- Library Box 2.0
- Bring the Hulk to the Northlake Public Library
- Library Ranger Badges
And here are several projects that Commission staff have personally participated in:
- C is for Cthulhu: The Lovecraft Alphabet Board Book (Michael)
- Sidekick – Pebble Dock (Michael)
- The H.P. Lovecraft Bronze Bust Project (Michael)
- We’re putting a TARDIS into orbit – Really! (Michael)
- The Game of Books: Reward Your Imagination (Diane)
- The Milky Way Breastfeeding Film: Every Mother has a Story (Emily)
- Igor Stravinsky’s Les Noces (The Wedding) (Scott)
- Co-produce Mike Pride’s DRUMMER’s CORPSE – EPIC DRUMS-MUSIC! (Scott)
- Take some time and check out the three crowdfunding platforms we’ve linked to. Check out things like their rules and fees, and be sure to browse through both current and past projects for things that would either interest you personally or might be an example of what you’re library could do.
- Blog about your experience. Be sure to talk about:
- How could crowdfunding be used in your library? Give us an example of a project that you’d like to do in the library. (You do not need to actually do it.)
- Which platform would you choose and why? What would be involved in implementing your crowdfunding idea?
- As an individual, did you find any projects that you would consider funding? Which one(s) and why or why not?
(Full disclosure: This lesson is based on an early draft of a chapter on Crowdfunding for a book I’m currently working on.)