Crowdfunding: What is it and how can it help?

What is crowd-sourced funding?

Crowd-sourced funding, or crowdfunding, is a new way for individuals or organizations to raise money online. There are different websites that offer crowdfunding services, each of which typically request a percentage of the money raised. Here’s how it works: someone posts a campaign to the website and individuals that support it can donate funds directly. Usually, the users need to give benchmark rewards to those that donated based on the donation amount. The concept has taken the Internet by storm in recent years as new websites and campaigns continue to grow.

While the Internet and agriculture may seem worlds apart, there are many farmers and agricultural innovators that have successfully raised tens, hundreds, even thousands of dollars through these crowdfunding sites. Take, for example, the Mano Farm in Ojai, California. The farmers posted their campaign to Kickstarter in an attempt to raise money to offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to low-income families. 46 individuals donated to the cause to help the farmers raise $10,000 for their campaign. Other farmers have been successful in raising money to build new infrastructure, develop new innovative tools, implement more sustainable practices and even save a farm from foreclosure.

Platforms:

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is one of the most well known crowd-sourced funding platforms today. Individuals post their campaigns through an optional video submission, pictures and a written story detailing their cause. The project requires a set timeline and funding goal. If the goal is not reached, the individual is not permitted to keep any of the money raised. If the goal is surpassed in the given amount of time, the individual is able to keep the extra funds to put toward the cause. Just in 2013 over $480 million was pledged toward campaigns on the site.

Farm Aid’s sister website, HOMEGROWN.org, is a curator on Kickstarter. As a curator, campaigns working to make innovative or sustainable strides in food or farming are carefully chosen and added to the HOMEGROWN Kickstarter page.

Indie GoGo

Indie GoGo is another popular crowdfunding site very similar to Kickstarter. It is different in that even if someone does not meet his or her goal, that individual is still able to keep all of the funds raised. It is free to sign up and create a campaign on Indie GoGo, but the percentage that the site keeps is dependent upon whether or not the initial goal is reached. There are no guidelines as to what a person’s campaign can be for, so anyone can raise money for their cause.

GoFundMe

GoFundMe is another crowdfunding site that allows a user to create a campaign for virtually any cause, even medical bills or livestock expenses. The site helps a user promote the campaign through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter for more widespread exposure. Like IndieGoGo, users can keep all of the donations even if the goal is not met. A percentage of the funds raised is automatically deducted from the donations, but the percentage remains the same even if the user does not meet the initial campaign goal.

RocketHub

RocketHub is another very similar model in that users can create campaigns surrounding nearly any project topic. Users are able to keep the funds they raise even if it does not meet a goal. The site is partnered by A&E, creating unique media exposure opportunities for users. Depending on the project, there is even the opportunity for A&E to fund campaigns.

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