student loan debt, she panicked. Given that she had an entry-level office
manager job that didn’t pay much, Space knew that it was going to be tough
to pay back that debt on her own.
But instead of deferring her payments—or not paying them at all, like many
grads end up doing—she started a crowdfund, which is the practice of funding a
project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a vast pool of people
“In total, I received $13,000 from strangers around the world,” she says. And
although that amount only made a small dent toward paying off her debt, it had
a big impact on her career trajectory—the experience inspired Space and three
friends to start Zero Bound, a company that helps students
and graduates crowdfund their own student loan debt in
exchange for community volunteering.
Space has not one but two lofty goals with Zero Bound. “We hope to use the
trend of crowdfunding to not only help a generation pay off their debt, but
also increase volunteerism among an age bracket that actually volunteers the
least,” she says. “And, to that end, I believe that crowdfunding can be a
largely beneficial way to raise the funds to make that happen.”
Crowdfunding: It’s Viral … and Personal
Space isn’t alone in her thinking. Since 2011, crowdfunding efforts have more
than tripled, and current campaigns are projected to raise more than $5.1
billion worldwide in 2013.
But what started out as a way to enable businesses and individuals to raise
money for creative endeavors without relying on such traditional financing
sources as banks—take the indie Veronica Mars Movie Project, which raised over
$5 million on Kickstarter in just 30 days—has morphed into a means for literally
anyone to ask for money … for literally anything.
“Crowdfunding is definitely branching out into multiple areas, including
personal causes,” says Ellen Sperling, cofounder of crowdfunding site YouveGotFunds.com. And, by personal, we’re talking about everything from surgeries to honeymoons. Why, you ask? “It’s
partly because the costs for many of these regular items have skyrocketed,” she
says. “Medical fees are through the roof, and even if you have health
insurance, they don’t always cover certain medications and procedures, like
The same applies to financing higher education. “Why would college students
want to graduate owing $150,000-plus in loans,” Sperling says, “if they have
family, friends and possibly community members who can help, enabling them to
start their careers in a better place?”
Take James and Adena Reimer, a Canadian couple who started a
campaign on FundAnything.com when James, who’d been battling cystic fibrosis and bromchiolitis obliterans, needed a second lung transplant. They were hoping to raise $10,000 to “pay for medical bills that weren’t being covered by my home province,” says James, 29. “We also had other
expenses, like plane tickets to fly my mom out to help, and emergency taxi
trips to the hospital.”
They ended up raising a whopping $43,000—and were overcome with the
outpouring of support. “If it wasn’t for crowdfunding, we’d probably have to
take out a loan or beg family members,” says James. “It was a huge
Couples are also
turning to crowdfunding to help make their dreams of having
kids come true. Nate
and Christy Kujawa of Spokane, Wash., had been trying
to get pregnant for about four years with no success. After multiple
doctor visits, Christy received a devastating double diagnosis of
psoriatic arthritis and Crohn’s disease—and then Nate learned that he had
multiple sclerosis. Physicians told them that they had a 2% chance of
conceiving naturally, but a 95% chance with IVF.
The only problem? It’s an expensive solution.
So they turned to the Internet. “I got the idea from a client of mine,” says
Christy, 31. “We were talking about how expensive [IVF] was, and she suggested I
[start a crowdfund]. I actually knew a few people who had done funding for
cancer treatment, and to help replace things due to a house fire, but no one
specifically for IVF.” To date, the Kujawas have already raised one quarter of
their $12,000 goal—and they say that the response has been overwhelming.
A Hand Up or a Handout?
Most people cringe at the thought of asking for financial
support, and tend to proceed with caution when asking friends or family
for money—even for worthy causes. So what makes doing it online so much
“It’s a lot less uncomfortable to ask someone to check out your campaign than
to put your hand out,” says Wyman. “And for life events, such as a wedding,
look at it this way: It’s similar to registering for gifts at a store, except
now the couple can ‘register’ for something that’s more meaningful than china.
And unlike just giving cash, guests know that their contributions are going
toward a couple’s real goal.”
“People just want to help others. It’s a strong emotion that
drives the crowdfunding industry as a whole.”
According to Sperling, crowdfunding isn’t just benefiting those raising the
funds, either—it’s giving everyone a chance to give back. “Sometimes people just
want to help others,” she says. “It’s a strong emotion that drives the
crowdfunding industry as a whole.”
Crowdfunding 101: A Primer for Success Before you jump on a crowdfunding bandwagon yourself, Wyman says that there are a few things you should know when it comes to creating a
1. Set a Realistic Financial Goal. If potential contributors
don’t think that you’ll be able to reach your goal, they’ll think twice about
contributing to your campaign.
2. Craft a Smart Elevator Pitch. You should be able to
explain your cause in two to three concise sentences. And before you share that
pitch with potential donors, practice it on your friends and family.
3. Be Your Best Marketing Team.
Tell everyone you know that you’ve launched a campaign, and invite them to
visit. And be sure to consistently update the campaign, so there’s a
reason for people to keep on visiting your site.
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