Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Crowdfunding and philanthropy

A colleague at The Monitor Institute pointed me to this "research" on crowdfunding. Some of it just blew my mind.

(Photo from

If these numbers are even close to correct, "social causes" (undefined in the "research") accounted for 38% of 2012 crowdfunding, which totalled $2.7 billion in 2012. That puts global social cause crowdfunding last year at $1,026,000,000. And this undefined category of "social cause" doesn't include the performing arts, film, music, or environmental projects. This is notable since a review of categories of funding on Kickstarter noted that dance projects were the most successful.

With the strong caveat that this isn't academic research, it's self-interested marketing "research,"  that's a lot of money.

I am interested in learning more about:
  1. Where does institutional philanthropy fit in around these crowdfunded dollars? Are foundations funding projects before they raise money from the crowd, and then helping them raise those funds?
  2. Are foundations tracking crowdfunding campaigns in the proposals they receive from nonprofits?  What trends are they seeing? How are they thinking about this information as a signal about fundraising trends? Idea-testing trends?
  3. If there are foundations interested in sharing their data on question #2 above, I'd love to coordinate research on this at the Stanford Digital Civil Society Lab, possibly in partnership with the new crowdfunding lab at UC Berkeley. Contact me.
  4. I know of at least three start up consulting firms aimed at helping people run successful social good crowdfunding campaigns. There are probably 300 if not 3000 such firms. What do we know - what should we be tracking - about the emerging ecosystem around social cause crowdfunding?
  5. I expect crowdfunding campaigns will play an increasing role in raising funds for disasters such as the Philippine typhoon. Who/where will those data be tracked?
  6. My upcoming Blueprint 2014 (available December 4 at predicts a major crowdfunding scandal in 2014. So I'll be watching.
Here are two blog posts from the Knight Foundation on crowd funding and their grantees. Here's a post about the Geraldine R Dodge Foundation and Kickstarter. Please send me other examples of foundations and crowdfunding.

Here's the full infographic of the research findings. The report is available for sale.



Unknown said...

Hi Lucy,
Erin Barnes, Nathaniel James, and I did a session at the 2013 Family Philanthropy conference partly inspired by the 2012 crowdfunding report. The session provided one set of responses to the intersection between traditional foundations/DAFs and crowdfunding. Blog post and downloads at
- Tony Macklin

Bradford Smith said...

Another trend-spotting post Lucy. This is part of the Brave New World of Good I was exploring on the Foundation Center's Philantopic blog and we need more transparency (read reliable data) to follow the money and assess the impact of online giving. Fascinating to think that the study you have cited about the evolving phenomenon of citizen philanthropy and online giving costs $495 to download. Moreover it is as far from open data as you can get--a heavily copyrighted, all rights reserved, .pdf document. Looks like somebody out there has a business model!

Stephanie said...

Thank you for your post! I am pretty sure that we will see more examples of foundations that try to link their grants to successes at crowdfunding platforms. We have a recent example in Germany: The Aventis Foundation cooperated with startnext. The funding budget of the programme "Kulturmut" was 200.000 euros. For more details:
As you can imagine, the debate regarding this approach was pretty controversial. All the best, Stephanie

Unknown said...

crowdfunding campaign are only as successful as the buzz (i.e. marketing) created and maintained around them.

Unknown said...

I need a good crowdfunding services provider. Can any one please suggest