Crowdsourcing impact . . .

Today’s, Sunday’s, diary entry is a somewhat longer-than-usual meditation on contemporary strategies towards raising funds for good causes . . .

It’s intriguing, what people care about. Or what they say they care about. I had thought that the Dalek controversy was quite, and mostly only, a great conversational starter, since everybody’s talking about it, although you do have to be careful not to let a ‘but. . . . ‘ enter the conversation. There are ‘buts’ like there are in any dispute (and especially over planning, and especially over matters dealing with the county council and ‘exorbitant fees’) and yet it can be wise to avoid throwing petrol on a discussion imbued with such passion, by avoiding a salient ‘but . . . ‘

But, and that’s a but on a different tangent, but passionate local people are putting their money where their mouth is, and the crowdsourcing campaign to pay any expenses relating to the challenges to the Allendale Dalek, ie fees received unexpectedly from the Planning Department, has paid the county’s invoice (some £700) about twice over (ie, £1400) within about twenty-four hours. So that leaves lots left over for legal and experts’ fees, I should guess. And the publicity machine continues.

Meanwhile, I’m moved to reminisce about other local ‘crowdsourcing’ campaigns, of which the most salient was Jo Dixon’s organised effort quietly to source sufficient funds to get the Dale Hotel into its new development phase, and how brilliant that was. There’s also been a quiet effort to help the Higher Ground folks get their enterprise going, and I’m sure the local support has been so encouraging there. Other groups avail themselves, and incredibly successfully too, of lottery and other grant sources, all of which ultimately derive from public money — ‘crowdsourcing’ with an administrative filter to ensure financial probity.

An older, but no less effective ‘crowdsourcing’ strategy is to hold coffee mornings, to sell raffle tickets, staff a stall at the May Fair, hold a concert, organise a jumble sale . . . in general make your organisation available to receive community aka ‘crowd’ support. These are old-style efforts, but we disparage them at our peril if we think that only contemporary crowdsourcing funding online is the way forward. It seems that online crowdsourcing depends on immediacy, viral ascendancy, the excitement of the moment, and once the initial impetus is over, these efforts can founder, stagnate, and fail to reach their target.

This is why crowdsourcing groups like Kickstarter, for example, supply careful campaign strategies to their clients asking for funding, and studiously warn about ennui in the middle of the campaign. When you hold a coffee morning to help the church boiler fund, on the other hand, you know you’re going to generate some £100-200 in funds, and then in another month you’ll come back and do it all over again. The stalemate doesn’t happen as long as the organisers stay reasonably focussed.

I’ve been looking at the online crowdsourcing fees, as well, over the past months, and they’re rather surprising. The GoFundMe crowdsourcing enterprise, for example, advertising itself as ‘Free Fundraising’, puts up a default of at least a £1 ‘tip’ to themselves for every donation that you might think of paying to the supplicant. On smaller donations you can change the ‘tip’ to £2 or ‘other’. The ‘tip’ default amount automatically changes depending on the total amount so far in the kitty, as well as on an individual’s contribution, and incorporates a sliding scale. Only when you’ve clicked ‘other’ can you drop the ‘suggested tip’ amount to £0.00 and be sure that your donated tenner or whatever is not going to cost you extra. Seems slightly devious, pretending to have no fees but sneaking in a charge on the donor, but reasonably transparent, I guess. Only let’s say the average person’s donation is £10 (I’ve seen lots of £20, some fivers). To reach £1400 that’s a net ‘tip’ of £140 to GoFundMe itself unless most donors demurred on paying the ‘tip’ (unlikely, I’d suggest). Hmmm, seems like a great sort of racket to be in, when you’re dealing with donors’ passions.

Other crowdsourcing enterprises like Kickstarter charge a percentage fee upfront to the funding applicant, on any donations, so you have to pitch your ambition to include their fee from the outset. You might need £2500, but you’d better aim for £3000 or you’ll be surprised at achieving your ‘campaign target’ and ending up with £2000 only. Umm, are we really quite aware that these ‘crowdsourcing for free’ campaigns actually carve their 10-15% out of the charitable donations, one way or another?

All of these researches are made in the way of trying to figure out how best to finance the proposed ‘book of the blog’, or ‘blook’, which this diary may eventually turn into. It strikes me that by the end of the year, there won’t be a viral ascendancy to pull things along, nor any immediacy, public outcry, or a great outpouring of public empathy for any volume, unless I die at an extremely opportune time, which I sincerely hope not to (look, any of us can die at any moment, it’s a fact of life, so I’m not being morbid). It will just be a book, a kind of memento of 2019, a time capsule of the year here in Allendale.

So any campaign to fund the publishing, which when the books are printed and sold could possibly garner a few thousand pounds for charitable efforts, would likely be longer-term than shorter. While an online crowdsourcing campaign might give some idea as to the demand, at a cost not far off 10% of total donations no matter where you go for your crowdsourcing platform, actual publishing of the ‘blook’ would make the product that much more visible and hence, potentially more saleable. Still, undeniably, the great thing about online crowdsourcing campaigns is that they can actually work brilliantly, and as long as the donor knows about the rake-off to the crowdsourcing platform, they can be honest. It could all be an intriguing time by the end of this exercise, deciding how best to go forward, recognising that the process will have been at least as important as the end result.

So I’ll bear these things in mind, but meanwhile, best to keep on cranking out interesting stuff, if I can! The snow is falling now, so I must get myself up to the Allenheads Ski Run to try to find a likely story there. Lately the little library is building up nicely thanks to contributions from different organisations, which will help for sure to fill any gaps that might happen in the near future.

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