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Crowdfunding to study or learn is a very new concept; Aruna Raman who tried it out shares all her learnings with you.
In true ‘little drops of water’ mode, crowdfunding has taken over the fancy of many as a true “virtual raffle book” method of cobbling together funds for dream projects. Dreams stored away at mind-nooks can come to life – a shower-singer takes centrestage, a can-do-everything garden rake can find enthusiasts who open up purses, and suddenly, many people who each give a little provide propeller fuel to many ideas.
In addition, crowdfunding is an efficient and, if done right, swift way to generate appeal and interest for social projects and campaigns. Crowdfunding also helps validate proof of concept for new products and services, earns first customers, and builds a “circle of trust.”
While most crowdfunding appeals come with the need to fund a product or service, or raise funds for social causes, I used it to access two opportunities – the first, a chance to attend a two-week training program in social impact and investment at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) in Monterey, California, and the other, a paper presentation on social innovation and entrepreneurship in New Zealand.
Both were unlikely “dead ringer” candidates for crowdfunding. As my opportunities didn’t present immediate and tangible value to potential contributors, I had to hone my approaches and communication strategies accordingly.
I chose “all you can keep” platforms rather than “all or none” platforms for both campaigns. Indiegogo and BitGiving, the two platforms I used, are “all you can keep” – you get to keep what you raise (after transaction fee deduction). In “all or none” platforms such as Kickstarter, if you don’t raise your targeted amount, your contributions are returned to the respective contributors. I chose the former, because I was happy to raise any significant amount that would reduce my personal investment. If you are happy with any money you raise and don’t welcome the anxiety of the “all or none,” choose your platform accordingly.
In both situations, I approached my crowdfunding challenges with the enthusiasm of a bashful bride. In addition, I also had an inherent lassitude for social media, a potent tool in the crowdfunding process. While these were initial challenges, I managed to make enough course corrections to to rake up a respectable sum in both campaigns.
Plot: Raise funds to help pay for participation in Frontier Market Scouts, at MIIS
I ran this campaign for two months – from November 2014 till January 2015. I chose Indiegogo because I didn’t have a significant enough Indian network to capitalize on at the time.
Since I work as a consultant with an American university, and had lived in the US before, I thought that I could activate my networks to channel enough traffic, and inspire enough purses to open. I had an ask of $5000, and raised about $1,700, which helped pay for my airfare to the US, and rent for two weeks.
So, the reader might ask – why wasn’t I able to travel the full distance? In answer, I would like to share some pointers, based on what I learnt:
This first campaign certainly helped alleviate some financial burden, and also taught me lessons that I carried into Act 2.
Plot: Raise funds to help pay for participation in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference at Massey University, New Zealand
Battle-scarred from my first experience, I was reluctant to mount a campaign. However, daunted by the high costs of attending the conference, and encouraged by the staff of Bitgiving, the Indian crowdfunding website that I chose as my vehicle, I decided to forge ahead.
I was guided by two pieces of learning:
So, here’s how I went about it:
At this point, I am not sure that I am ready for a third innings. However, I have come to realize that crowdfunding for individual-driven initiatives is the equivalent of weaving handloom fabric – every warp and weft, carefully woven, makes a difference in crafting the wholesomeness and identity of who you are, and how others recognize and support that identity.
Top concept image of seeking funds via Shutterstock
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