From how we grow our food, to how we look after older people, the crowdfunding community is reimagining the world we want to live in – and raising the money to make it happen. Having ripped up the fundraising rulebook, the UK’s biggest crowdfunding platform has now set its sights on making public money and grant funds become more effective too
“The innovation of our project owners and their new solutions to solving problems is amazing,” says Phil Geraghty, managing director of Crowdfunder.
Since 2013, the Cornwall-based organisation has worked with more than 80,000 crowdfunding projects, raising raising over £40m for groups and organisations working for social good. With the crowdfunding concept firmly established in the public consciousness as a way to get great ideas off the ground – especially those that benefit the community – crowdfunding could be a way to make public money more accessible and effective too.
“The bottom line is that we want to do more,” says Geraghty. “More projects, more supporters, more partner funds and more ideas happening.”
Crowdfunder is now poised to shake up the grants sector, and is currently running its own crowdfunding campaign to help make this happen.
Some £5.6bn of grants are given out in the UK each year, but the way the cash is distributed is changing fast. By combining smaller donations raised from the public with larger, institutional funding, ‘matched funding’ could be a way for society to collaborate and bring about positive change. National and local government, trusts and foundations, businesses, universities and schools have already tried it – awarding funds to crowdfunding projects that match the amounts being raised from their supporters.
This is ‘disruption’ but not in the bullish vein of the likes of Uber and other tech giants. Geraghty is keen to note that this is about working toward clear common aims to make ideas happen. “It’s collaborative disruption,” he says, “where everyone wins. We think that working in this way will allow us to get more funds to the projects that need it, faster.”
It’s collaborative disruption, where everyone wins
This year, Crowdfunder has been working with the government, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Nesta to produce Matching the Crowd: the Matched Crowdfunding Report 2017. Released this month the research indicates that matched crowdfunding has remained largely unexplored so far but could have a huge impact.
“The research marks an important moment in the history of crowdfunding,” says Geraghty. “This report suggests that if grant money was distributed via crowdfunding, its impact could be significantly amplified, both in terms of unlocking additional funds and building skills and non-financial support from the community.
“The opportunity is huge and Crowdfunder is perfectly primed to disrupt (in a friendly and collaborative way of course!) the grant-giving sector with a collaborative approach and a shared mission to make great ideas happen.”
The report delves into a nine-month pilot project in which £251,500 in matched funding was provided by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund to 59 arts and heritage-related projects on Crowdfunder.co.uk. Projects, from immersive opera in south London, to the restoration of one of the UK’s most important historic ships, also received support, coaching and workshops from the Crowdfunder team, alongside the support of a crowd of 4,970 backers.
Hasan Bakhshi, executive director of creative economy and data analytics at Nesta, agrees that matched funding is a way to do more with public money. “Nesta has been tracking the crowdfunding sector since 2010, including the growing involvement of institutional funders. This pilot programme has given us unique quantitative evidence that arts and heritage funders can make public money work harder by matched funding.”
Unlocking new support
How does it help? The pilot suggests that matched funding makes projects more likely to succeed and boosts donation size: the average public donation to arts projects increased from £63 to £74 when backed by match funding. It is a way to inject arts and heritage projects with fresh finance too: the pilot largely attracted new supporters, rather than simply drawing from existing philanthropic sources. Some 86 per cent of project backers had never supported the organisations they backed before and a fifth hadn’t supported this kind of project in the past.
And it could be a way to diversify the types of projects that are funded by the likes of Arts Council England, rather than the ‘usual candidates’. Some 42 per cent of successful project owners in the pilot had never applied for funding from either Arts Council England or Heritage Lottery Fund…
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