What is it?
Crowdfunding is about persuading individuals to each give you a small donation: $10, $50, $100, maybe more. Once you get thousands of donors, you have some serious cash on hand.
This has all become possible in recent years thanks to a proliferation of websites that allow nonprofits, artists, musicians and yes, businesses to raise money. This is the social media version of fundraising.
There are more than 600 crowdfunding platforms around the world, with fundraising reaching billions of dollars annually, according to the research firm Massolution.
How it works?
The most common type of crowdfunding fundraising is using sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo variety, where donations are sought in return for special rewards. That could mean free product or even a chance to be involved in designing the product or service.
It is also possible to use crowdfunding to assemble loans and royalty financing. The site LendingClub, for example, allows members to directly invest in and borrow from each other, with the claim that eliminating the banking middleman means “both sides can win” in the transactions. Royalty financing sites appear to be more rare, but the idea is to link business owners with investors who lend money for a guaranteed percentage of revenues for whatever the business is selling.
Crowdfunding provides another strategy for startups or early stage companies ready to take it to the next level — such as rolling out a product or service. Before, a business owner was subject to the caprices of individual angel investors or bank loan officers. Now it is possible to pitch a business plan to the masses.
A successful crowdfunding round not only provides your business with needed cash, but creates a base of customers who feel as though they have a stake in the business’ success.
If you don’t have an engaging story to tell, then your crowdfunding bid could be a flop. Sites such as Kickstarter don’t collect money until a fundraising goal is reached, so that’s still a lot of wasted time that could have been spent doing other things to grow the business.
It could be even worse if you meet your goal but then realize you underestimated how much money you needed. A business risks getting sued if it promises customers products or perks in return for donations, and then fails to deliver.
There is also an argument to be made that angel investors and even bank officers provide more than just money. They provide entrepreneurs with needed advice. Business owners miss out on such mentorship when they ignore traditional investors and turn to the crowd.
The potential of crowdfunding is really limitless from funding a potato salad meal to raising money for a food truck in Myanmar – but only if you get your basics right.