I have long loved the concept of Crowdsourcing to enable underfunded areas of society to be able to continue to produce works. The Arts in particular come to mind. Certainly in Australia young film makers would often not get an opportunity to produce works without it. In fact I’m an avid supporter of many a venture, having backed films, tech gadgets and medical devices etc (Oh my did anyone see the “button” seeking funding lately – talk about first world tech wanna have 🙂 )
I recognise that this might be a post which raises various emotions also.
Only for enterprise?
The move towards crowdfunding for personal items has been recent. Where it is aimed at helping someone to achieve a specific aim out of their reach such as medical treatment, an experience for a child with disabilities, to turn a life around and create employment or to produce something which gives back to others I think is commendable.
This is different again to crowd sourcing to launch a business venture where value and profits should be returned. Should it only be for business ventures? No, as outlined above it can be a way to completely change a life around and add so much back into society. [In full disclosure there is an aspect of my own business, in regards to cybersafety education which we are considering looking for support for. The reasons we are considering this is that we do not want to become a charity or non profit and compete for grants in an already crowded space, but we also are passionate about creating change in the world and without access to grants or support from large corporations it gets increasingly difficult.]
We all know that from small seeds big trees can grow, and an independent social enterprise can sometimes have more freedom than a charity particularly as they are not so bound by regulations as charites who have large government grants are, and have the flexibility to move quickly with changes.
Could it affect a business reputation?
What made me consider writing this was that lately I have seen quite a few entrepreneurs and business people crowdsourcing to travel, attend conferences and the like. There is something about this which made me feel uneasy, yet at the same time I thought, if people want to fund them – then why not. In fact I did support one because I like them – which probably triggered this entire thought process! But it’s the bigger picture that gets me.
As we turn to these sources for income many questions arise. For me, a successful business person should not need to ask for further funds to attend what will no doubt be a tax deduction in the first place. It began to make me wonder about the effect of this on one’s reputation. Might this reflect badly upon their perception by others as a successful operator? I do acknowledge however that often donations are made by family and friends. I guess it depends where and how the campaign is promoted to a large degree. I think there can be a disengagement or disconnect when on one hand funds are sought and yet the same business may be promoting large ticket items for sale.
Pressure on charities and other non profits
Then the questions became deeper – could successful people seeking additional success through crowdfunding for personal use mean that people supporting them will not make the same charitable donations that they have in the past? After all there are only so many dollars one donates. Will this place further pressure on charities? Add to the mix the trend I am seeing in governments where funding is cut for services and entities turn to crowdsourcing to be able to continue to be viable. Will they also find it harder to complete with business people and entrepreneurs for the same dollar? In Australia there are already quite substantial regulations around the use of crowdsourcing in regards to legal and tax obligations and I assume this is the case for most developed nations. I assume this will tighten as more people seek to use crowdfunding and perhaps we will see more campaigns structured as loans?
“Isn’t it just being greedy”?
Despite my reservations I do feel that if people will fund someone for a house or car or travel then, well they have made their own choice about that and it’s important that we do have freedoms. But the bigger ethical picture just sticks in my craw – if they don’t really need it, isn’t it just being greedy?
What is your take? Where are we heading with this?