More can happen in crowdfunding than just pools of money.
This website presents a new model of all-or-nothing crowdfunding. It was put together by a founder of the first all-or-nothing crowdfunding website, which paved the road for Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Called Fundable.com (2005-2009), it provided archetypal projects that formed the basis of various websites on the web today. It led to the word, crowdfunding.
Here, Noctivagous’ founder explains how increasing the depth of backers’ participation in crowdfunding projects will expand the range of what crowdfunding is, and it will also improve the usefulness of the crowdfunding industry.
1. Today, only money is the focus of crowdfunding projects.
On all-or-nothing crowdfunding websites, your participation in a project is currently restricted to the money you decide to pledge. You can pledge money— this is all that you or anyone else is allowed to do if you wish to interact with a project. You can play no other role, as an observing backer.
After your pledge is made, you must wait for the project organizer to make use of the project’s pot of money to complete the stated objective. This always takes place in a process independent of you, although you may receive some news updates on the progress of the project. When all work is finished, the project organizer issues a final report to you (often mailing you a product). This means that your role in crowdfunding is extremely limited: your value to a project never exists apart from your wallet and your role as a supporter stops at the moment you finish entering your credit card information. Why does this matter? You, along with many other people, may have more to offer a project organizer than your money. There are many backers who can offer indispensable help during the execution of a project, or they can end up as recruited, part-time assistants. As a backer, you may also wish to be involved in a deeper way in a project that you especially like, if the project organizer is interested. Right now there are no online mechanisms for that type of interaction to occur. There are also many cases where a project organizer needs something essential and non-monetary that you can provide. An audience of supporters can often be utilized for carrying out important tasks or procuring material resources for a crowdfunding project, but this is never done today in a formal manner.
2. When you get involved in a crowdfunding project in a deeper way, you and other supporters may become a crucial factor in its success.
As it stands, right now you do play a role in the execution of a project when you pledge money; instead of that person pitching his product to an investor or corporation, he can put it in front of the Internet public, in a video, and the funding of the product will occur based on your pledge and that of others. In some cases, the product being sold would rarely appeal to any investor, only crowdfunding backers, and so it is even more the case that your pledge makes the product happen.
But if you, as a backer, especially like a particular project, wouldn’t it be nice if you had the option to help out the people behind it in the process of their design, testing, and fulfillment stages? For some people, the answer is no, but for others the answer is a definite yes because getting to be part of a project’s success is already the major reason they pledge money in crowdfunding in the first place. Helping a project occur is what provides many people an entertaining experience because they know that without their pledge the project could not otherwise secure support, especially from typical investors.
Despite moral support already existing in a typical audience of backers, if the project organizer ever wanted material or physical help from backers like you and could benefit greatly from your expertise, there is currently no way for him to accept your assistance on today’s crowdfunding websites. Even though you or someone else from his audience of supporters might actually be able to fulfill a crucial need that eliminates major financial costs or obstacles in the project’s execution, it is only your money that is allowed right now on a crowdfunding page.
Some resources the project organizer needs to acquire could probably be procured directly from backers instead of spending money or contracting costly labor or rentals. Interested professionals and experts can provide low-cost rates for projects they admire. Additionally, you, as a backer, may be able to play the role of a useful associate for the project organizer for the duration of the project’s execution, making sure that pitfalls are avoided. As of today, there is no designated spot for this type of interaction on a crowdfunding project’s web page.
As stated, if you would like to have a bigger role in a certain project, at the current time your only option is to pledge a larger-than-average amount of money. Then, you may receive a special reward, a public acknowledgement, or a better deal on the product being produced. This is far from permitting you to lend a hand in the execution of a product or even allowing you to design some feature of the product, as an experienced outsider. If you are a graphic designer, why can’t you design the website for a certain crowdfunding project in exchange for its final product? If you are a film editor, why can’t you sign up to edit film footage shot by a director or cinematographer and even get paid from the collected money? If you are a sound engineer or music producer, shouldn’t you be able to sign up for the production of a person’s album, either charitably or for profit? Aren’t there many such roles in a lot of projects that go unrealized, when there were actually plenty of ready participants that were present within “the crowd”?
In the new model of crowdfunding, you will have real-world opportunities to participate in the execution stage of a project and get something in return, should the project organizer find you to be of use. In some cases, you may not need to pledge money to a crowdfunding project to participate in it— your online work (or in-person work if you are in the same region as the project organizer) may be considered even more desireable by the project organizer than your money. There are many such logistical circumstances that project organizers face, all the time. You could, as a bystander, who signed up to act as a backup helper, be the person who prevents a project from stalling or not fulfilling orders, in much the same way that Tesla enthusiasts in 2018 volunteered to deliver cars for the corporation when it was short on help in certain regions. It’s just that in this case, you could help crowdfunding projects from time to time, along with others. If it is a local project in your area, you could send unused material resources that you happen to own or offer your own time and labor to help something important occur in the project’s execution. Community projects can prosper with added, physical community help. The addition of corresponding interactive components on crowdfunding project pages can make crowdfunding more meaningful, worldwide, enabling the Web to do more than just accumulate piles of money for people, who then spend all of their time trying to make the best use of it. Finally, family members or friends who are short on money can offer something other than what is in their bank account; they may have some asset just as useful for a person, or they can show up in the real world to take care of some project tasks.
3. New functionality for crowdfunding is divided into two categories: labor resources and material resources.
Since we have established that there are ways to participate in crowdfunding apart from just pledging money, it makes sense to add two new progress bars to a crowdfunding page that represent the two most common forms of real-world contributions currently unimplemented for crowdfunding backers. The first additional progress bar provides you the opportunity to physically mail or deliver (in person) material items to the project organizer that he will no longer need to buy if someone sends it; you may have something on hand that he needs and you can get compensated with his end-product by mailing or delivering that required resource. Then, this item (listed just beneath the material resources progress bar to which it belongs) is checked off and your contribution makes the progress bar advance. In addition to physical objects, the project organizer can also request non-physical resources, such as website server space. A person who can provide a resource like that can eliminate the need for the organizer to research various sources before buying it. Rental contracts do not need to be sought out and signed when a supporter has committed to providing the rental underneath the material resources progress bar, directly. For those who have organized projects before, they already know that this kind of help can be an immense time-saver.
The second additional progress bar provides you, the backer, the opportunity to sign up for work positions. You may play the role of an advisor, a manual laborer (if the project is to unfold in the real world), a designer, a composer, or a programmer. If the project is software, this progress bar could recruit as many as a dozen programmers to work on a piece of free software. Simultaneously, the project page can collect funds for needed technical resources the programmers will use. If the crowdfunding project exists to make a short film production take place in your area, you and other backers can sign up to act as help on the film set on a free weekend. Experienced filmmakers in the area can sign up make someone’s film much better by signing up for an executive producer position. There are a myriad of situations in which outside labor and help can play essential roles, on a large number of projects.
These two additional progress bars are meant to enhance the dynamic of crowdfunding by bringing out deeper participation from “the crowd.” Previously-unseen types of projects will emerge and be available for you to browse on crowdfunding websites because a broader dimension of participation has been implemented. These new types of projects will have varying ratios of outside help to internal personnel making them possible, with some projects asking for only a few outside workers or material items. The two additional progress bars also permit the formation of crowdfunding projects that arise entirely because of what the new functionality enables— large, established groups can now coordinate complex participation, with material resource and labor commitments from their already-existing membership, and thereby take advantage of the Internet’s capacity to organize communications and achieve group consensus, across a small or large geographic area.
4. Project organizers will vary in their desire to integrate backers’ participation in the execution of a project.
The goals that people have in crowdfunding vary greatly. Accordingly, in the new model of crowdfunding, there are different degrees of participation from a target audience that a project organizer might elect. Some project organizers might want outside help to be central to their project’s success while others might only ask for some medium-sized material and labor contributions from supporters. There is a wide range of configurations that a project organizer can choose from when integrating backers within a crowdfunding project. Below are example descriptions of light to deep scenarios where outside supporters are integrated into the project. It is important to note that “outside supporters” may not always be new faces, but can be known individuals or persons from a local community.
Light Backer Participation - In this scenario, a project organizer is benefiting from the two new progress bars but uses them supplementarily. Backers provide supplementary support with their material and labor resources, but are not crucial. Most of the project’s resources can be acquired without backers, using the collected money, and nothing of the project will fail without the backers committing to labor or material contributions. Backers may be present intermittently during the project’s execution or be on hand in the case there is need for backup assistance. Ownership is unambiguously in the hands of the project organizer.
Medium Backer Participation - In this scenario, backers provide critical support at certain times, but are not active during all of the project’s execution. Direction and ownership of the project is still strongly in the hands of the project organizer.
Deep Backer Participation - Backers and project organizer work closely together for the duration of the project’s execution, but coordination of all tasks and essential matters is handled by project organizer. Ownership is felt by all to be in the hands of the project organizer, ultimately, but influence by backers can be strong.
This type of project is 60% to 80% dependent on crowd participation. The initial design of the project and its purpose is set up by the project organizer, who can tap various community participants to complete it. Two examples:
Comprehensive Backer Participation - backers and an elected project organizer work closely together. Ownership is felt by all to be in the hands of the backers and organizer in tandem, but the project organizer plays the role of primary coordinator and public servant.
This type of project will likely arise from an already-existing community and can serve to realize a long-term goal that the community or organization has had for a long time. In this case, the project organizer acts as coordinator and is not receiving the money and resources for personal or company profit purposes, but instead for the whole of the community’s effort or its organization. An example:
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