Crowdfunding – the cleanest compromise to support your cause?

by Greg.Winfield

You’ve got a clear sense of what you will and won’t tolerate. You know the change you want to create, you just need help to make it happen. So where do you turn first?

For most early-stage organisations wanting to influence the way the world works, the first thought is grants. A generous donation from a wealthy benefactor could give you the no-strings-attached support you need to expand your reach and amplify your message. Is it that easy though?


The right kind of social change
Your first challenge is that the friendly organisation with money that you’re approaching might not be entirely without agenda. Are they enabling you to create the change you want to see, or is your work enabling them to be seen to be creating a change? This is not to suggest that all those willing to fund you have a creepy ulterior motive, but just that your cause alone might not be their sole concern.


The right kind of message
Once you’re happy that your broad causes are aligned, the second challenge is your message. Deep down your funder might fully agree with the slightly (or very!) controversial things you’re saying, but are they going to allow you to say them? Complete freedom of speech may not come as standard with your shiny new funding relationship. Funders of all sizes have people to keep happy, and what you say might make it more difficult for them to do that.


The right kind of money
Your causes are aligned, your messaging is uncensored. Almost there. Save one big ethical dilemma - where has the money come from? You, your co-campaigners and all of your supporters are committed to certain values, so if the money to enable your cause comes from a source wildly at odds with those values, is it ok to take it? Some would say an outright no – you don’t want that association regardless of what it could do to help. Others would say yes – you are doing a positive thing and this counteracts the previous negative from which the money has been raised. Could you be somewhere in between? How far back do you go? When it comes to money, how clean is clean?


Calling on the crowd

Crowdfunding has been billed as the answer to a lot of these dilemmas. It removes the hierarches, the media muzzle, the ulterior motives and the tainted money. It gives the opportunity for the wider community to show support for, and enable, the causes close to their heart. There are huge opportunities within it to build your support base, leverage its skills rather than just its money, and respond to its requests rather than the requests of a third party. Sure, there are challenges around whether it is as effective in primarily poorer communities, and even whether the money coming from individual donors carries the same ‘history’ that challenged your ethical framework. It seems that in reality there will always be compromise in how you fund your work, but that appealing to the people might just provide the most compelling case.



Throughout this week we will be blogging on what we’re learning, thinking and doing on the People’s Accelerator. You can stay up to date via @YFAccelerator and the hashtag #wishweek