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October 7, 2015 All about crowdfunding

You can crowdfund a capybara’s shoulder surgery (who knew that it was spelt so weird?), a replacement for this guy’s stolen camera, or to save The Book Truck.

You can crowdfund a brewery, a Canadian pigfarm, or the Harry Potter Alliance 10th Anniversary Fundraiser.

You can crowdfund the world’s most advanced bra, an anthology of queer historical fiction, or a play about poo.

As I’m learning, you can crowdfund anything. The number of crowdfunding platforms cropping up is almost as huge and diverse and the number of campaigns running through them; here is just a small fraction of the websites I found:

Indiegogo, Pozible, Peerbackers, Kickstarter, Rockethub, Angelist, Start Some Good, GoFundMe, Crowdrise, Crowdfunder, Crowdfunding, Crowdfundit. Each of them has their own angle, like MoolaHoop which exclusively supports women with small businesses, and the sites can be loosely divided between those supporting personal need, charities or entrepreneurs.

Crowdfunding isn’t just for small, quirky projects; construction of a crowdfunded skyscraper in Colombia has just wrapped up, Amanda Palmer created controversy with her crowdfunded album tour, and Unbound Books in the UK is a publishing house where every one of their books is paid for by donations.

As their website says, “For the first time, you will be able to hold in your hands a book that wouldn’t have existed without you”. Pretty flattering.

Crowdfunding is getting to be big business. GoFundMe has raised over a billion dollars in a year for its various campaigns, and many people are establishing business and large-scale technological projects out of the public pocket.

So many people are piling on the Bandwagon (which may be the name of my new crowdfunding website), that people are crowdfunding just to pay for their backpacking holidays. And the incredible thing is, people are paying.

Which raises the question: what exactly is the difference between this and begging? Why is this girl given several hundred dollars to send her to Australia, when many of us won’t give a dollar to someone on the street? It’s an ethical quandary.

Still, the benefits of crowdfunding are incredible. The people who donate have an immediate connection with causes they care about, and campaigners without financial advantages can go ahead and make stuff like this glass you can’t knock over.

Kate Cole
is a journalist, content producer, and graduate of the University of Sydney