Years ago, raising money was much more difficult. If you had the next big idea, you’d better hope you knew some people in high places or were able to promote yourself easily. The same went for charitable efforts — if people didn’t know about what you were trying to do, you might have missed out on a lot of potential money and donors. Crowdfunding has changed that, however. The has internet made it incredibly easy to get things funded, whether it’s to raise money for medical bills, to support victims of a recent tragedy, or to get the next big thing in production. Now, you can even pledge money to own a stake in a company, so if it goes big, you can potentially get rich yourself. Below are eight of the most useful, resourceful, and downright awesome crowdfunding platforms in existence. Just try not to post your product on Amazon before shipping it to your buyers… it doesn’t often end well.
Kickstarter is perhaps the best known of all the crowdfunding sites. The site itself has launched some popular products that have gone on to be hits, including the Pebble Watch, the Ouya game console, and even a Reading Rainbow reboot. Those looking for funding set a goal and then have a set amount of time to raise the money before their project expires. These entrepreneurs are also expected to entice potential consumers with a slew of rewards for different funding levels. The nice thing about the Kickstarter system is that it’s all-or-nothing: the funder’s credit card isn’t charged until the project meets its goal.
Indiegogo works much like Kickstarter, but what makes it different is that you’re not limited to an all-or-nothing strategy, as it also allows for what it calls “flexible” funding. The site says this works better for projects where any little bit helps, and there’s less of a focus on actual physical products versus initiatives. What’s neat for the funders is Indiegogo’s partnerships with retailers. The site has deals with companies such as Amazon and Brookstone to help them manufacture and bring products to market. Some examples of past successful projects include the Jibo Family Robot, the solar roadways project, and an effort to teach kids how to code.
For those looking to fund things that fall outside the gadget spectrum, GoFundMe has become a popular alternative, one that lets you raise money for social change and advocacy. People have used the site to raise money for families who have lost loved ones or personal property due to tragedy, to support disaster relief efforts and medical research, and even to set up a central place where well-wishers can give a newlywed couple a financial boost after they tie the knot. More than $5 million was raised to support families affected by the recent mass shooting in Orlando, for instance, and nearly $600,000 was donated to support clinical research of synovial sarcoma, a rare but devastating form of cancer.
Going even further toward helping those affected by personal tragedy, crowdfunding site YouCaring has become one of the biggest to support grieving and distressed families and individuals. YouCaring allows the user to set goals, but operates on an “anything helps” system. Anyone can set up a YouCaring page, and the site boasts a handy feature that allows for daily access to funds, which is especially important when medical bills and final expenses seem to roll in on a daily basis. The author of this story even has experience with YouCaring itself and its power: after the sudden passing of my father in April, a family friend helped my family raise more than $2,500 to help cover what would have otherwise been a massive (and unexpected) funeral bill.
Perhaps lesser known than the aforementioned sites is Crowd Supply, which focuses on the more obscure ideas that you might not find other crowdfunding sites. Think of this one as the “hacker’s Kickstarter.” What do we mean by that? Some of the projects you might find on Crowd Supply include a french press made out of a mason jar, or a budged-based stick PC. If you’re looking for an uber-geeky or off-the-beaten path project to support, give Crowd Supply a shot.
Want to play venture capitalist instead of simply funding a project? A site like Crowdfunder might be up your alley. Instead of getting rewards for different funding level, you get a stake in the company itself. Now, this isn’t for the faint of heart, nor those who are light on the pocket. Unlike traditional crowdfunding services, Crowdfunder requires a minimum investment, which can amount thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. That said, if you pick the right project, the reward might be significant — so choose wisely.
Love science? Then why not use a site like Experiment to fund scientific research? Like Kickstarter, this site uses an all-or-nothing funding model. If the project doesn’t meet its funding goals, nobody is charged. You also have a little bit of peace of mind in that all projects must be pre-approved. According to Experiment, anyone can submit a proposal, but before it’s placed on the site for crowdfunding, it’s reviewed to ensure the science is sound and that the project is viable. You’ll also be able to watch the scientific process the whole way, as project heads must make the entire effort completely transparent to backers.
Has it been successful? Apparently — more than 20 scientific papers have already been published in journals as a result of Experiment-backed campaigns.
Finally, if you’re a big fan of non-profits, Chuffed is a crowdfunding site that you’ll definitely enjoy. There’s no fancy gadgets here, just groups working on a variety of social issues that need your help. Like Experiment, anyone can submit their project for crowdfunding purposes, but Chuffed has an interesting way of doing it. The site asks for the pitch to be 50 words or less, and if they like it, they’ll approve it for crowdfunding. This also gives funders some piece of mind. After all, if the project head can describe what they’re doing succinctly, there’s a better chance they’re serious about their effort.