Those who think crowdfunding is about money are missing the point.
For the uninitiated, crowdfunding is — loosely — putting an idea on the table and politely asking the world if it would like to help make the idea a reality. If a project resonates, its needs are met through a culmination of small, individual contributions. And thus can it come to fruition.
It’s a magical formula. Democratisation of support forces an honest assessment by the project founder of what he or she wants to do, because true motives will resonate most strongly, while the ill-considered and insipid will fail. The fundraising process creates impetus and urgency by pushing a promise to deliver into the public sphere. And backers come together into a community, not only providing the resources for carrying it out, but evangelising the results too.
But why do random strangers put their own money towards these projects, given that the only tangible return they’ll often get is a simple token of appreciation?
This question would make for a fascinating sociological study. I can at least relate my own experience as an occasional backer:
When I first funded a couple of projects, I did so because I thought the ideas were cool. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the DVD or postcard or book I’d eventually receive (though it’d be a nice surprise through the letterbox months later). Basically, I just wanted to help.
I imagine the same motivation drives many funders. Being helpful is rewarding. The act of giving is intrinsically pleasurable. Empirical evidence shows that we derive more satisfaction from spending money on others than from spending it on ourselves.
So crowdfunding doesn’t just empower people with good ideas and help disentangle them from the mess of ‘business’ — it also allows multitudinous project backers to express their innate altruism. Win-win.
Now, while I’ve yet to try crowdfunding my own ideas, a new project has just been launched that I want to tell you about.
A couple of years back I was hosted by a lovely couple in Munich. As usual, I’d got in touch through Couchsurfing, the hospitality exchange network I’ve used for over half a decade to find couches from the Arctic Circle to Ulaan Bataar and everywhere between.
Including me, Jessy and Bernd have had over a hundred travellers kip on their couch in Bavaria. Now Jessy, a design graduate, wants to put that passion into a storytelling project that takes its very inspiration from that Couchsurfing ethic. In her words:
SOFA is about capturing inspiring experiences through storytelling, in a digital format. It’s a magazine about and for people who want to see the world from a new perspective, to get a deep understanding about other cultures. We draw our inspiration from Couchsurfing, a social network that helps travelers meet locals, have real conversations and make friends for life.
I’m putting this story out on my blog for two simple reasons: first, as a traveller I’m totally behind what Couchsurfing represents and would love to see the idea spread; second, I love the idea of more people doing stuff they really care about.
Thanks to crowdfunding, we together can make Jessy’s project happen. And that, I reckon, is a most brilliant thing.
If you’re of the same mind, consider making SOFA your first backed project (with as little as a fiver), and sharing it with your networks. I’m looking forward to issue one already.