Crowdfunding for Social Causes: Disasters Bring Together a Natural Union of Crowds and Fundraising

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By NCFA Canada | Sunny Shao | Posted on July 16, 2013

Over the past months, there have been a number of unexpected natural disasters and other devastating events that have affected large communities, such as the Boston marathon bombings and the Alberta floods. As horrible as both events were, there seems to be an emerging trend of social fundraising campaigns that have mobilized faster than ever before, a large part of this driven by crowdfunding and crowdsourcing campaigns that have spread virally through social media.

Initial estimates from BMO Capital Markets insurance analyst Tom MacKinnon suggest total damages to homes, businesses, vehicles and other private property are likely to run between $3 billion and $5 billion, much more than the $1 billion initially pledged for flood relief by the Premier. Amid the disaster, however; the flood has revealed Calgary’s spirit of networked humanity as Calgarians leverage social media to help spread emergency alerts, coordinate volunteer cleanup efforts, and crowdsource solutions to all sorts of flood-related problems.

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The Alberta Arts Flood Rebuild campaign on InvestYYC.com has raised more than $125,000 in about a week.

“We know crowdfunding is very beneficial to social causes, and it’s great to see our product helping our own community by powering InvestYYC”, says Brock Murray of JOI Media, makers of the Katipult white label crowdfunding software.  One particular example of this is the Alberta Arts Flood Rebuild campaign, which has raised more than $125,000 in about a week. In addition to financial contributions, Murray adds that “crowdfunding campaigns of this nature also generate significant exposure to those affected by the flood through social media channels. I was not personally in Calgary during the floods, but I was kept updated in real-time through my social media streams and felt like I saw the devastation first hand.”

What also differentiates this particular crowdfunding campaign from many other social cause projects is the community-driven efforts to involve large corporations in the cause. Among these, big players such as Suncor Energy have stepped up by contributing $50,000 and also matching all individual donations up to $50,000.

Other Canadian crowdfunding platforms have recognized the need to help those who want to contribute to the Alberta floods and are providing assistance in creating Alberta flood relief campaigns, such as Cookie Jarr’s comprehensive list of affected communities or Fundrazr’s initiatives to help animals affected by the flood. "Our observation is that people feel empowered to be able to start crowdfunding campaigns where they know that the funds will go directly to their family or friends in these tragedies.  While there are many great charities like the Red Cross that will help, this democratization of fundraising is very compelling," noted Daryl Hatton, CEO of Fundrazr, Canada’s most established crowdfunding website.

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YYC Flood Relief for Shannon, a current campaign on Fundrazr.com.

Crowdfunding campaigns directed at natural disasters differentiate from existing organizations who are dedicated to disaster relief such as the Red Cross and fundraising concerts such as Alberta Flood Aid, because they are started by individuals and communities who want to see their contributions go directly to a specific cause or purpose. They also differ from other campaigns in that they are inherently viral to begin with, due to a large support base that ranges from several individuals to entire communities who are affected. According to Massolution’s Crowdfunding Industry Report 2012, social causes were the most popular category of all crowdfunding projects worldwide, representing 27.4% of the total $2.7 billion of global crowdfunding activity. If these recent examples are any indication of what’s to come, social cause crowdfunding campaigns are indeed on the rise.

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