Given that Innovocracy is headquartered in Rochester (NY), I watched with particular interest as a local story involving crowdfunding became an international sensation over the past week. By now most of us are familiar with Karen Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor who was mercilessly taunted by a group of middle schoolers on the last day of school. One of the kids filmed the encounter and soon the appalling video had gone viral. The video caused swift outrage, as well as an outpouring of sympathy and admiration for Klein.
A complete stranger in Canada by the name of Max Siderov decided to set up a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com to raise $5,000 so that Klein could go on a well-deserved vacation. Within days hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations had come in, and by yesterday the total got up to a startling $661,000.
This story is of course about a lot more than crowdfunding, but that element of it is also remarkable and telling. In particular, there seem to be at least three lessons relative to crowdfunding, and these would be worthwhile to keep in mind for those considering the submission of their projects to Innovocracy.
First, Klein’s story provides further confirmation, among many other indicators, that the breadth and magnitude of crowdfunding is expanding rapidly. What began as a way to fund creative projects is now finding ever-wider applications in the realms of charity, social action, entrepreneurship and innovation. Further, as more and more people utilize crowdfunding, the network effect will continue to grow, perhaps exponentially. Over time it is likely that crowdfunding activity will be a central way in which many people will publicly and privately express who they are and what they care about. This will greatly empower those individual contributors, and provide an unparalleled opportunity to those who can convince others of the merit of their ideas.
Second, while what happened to Klein was terrible, it was actually seeing what happened to Klein that really caused this news story and the resulting crowdfunding campaign to grow so large. Of course few videos can achieve the raw emotional impact that the Karen Klein video has, but a well-presented video can make a huge impact on a crowdfunding campaign. While there have been a number of articles recently arguing that every person should learn how to program a computer, an argument could be made that most people, and especially those seeking crowdfunding dollars, could also greatly benefit by learning to create well thought-out and poignant videos. While the written description of your project is important, it will often be that video that really ends up swaying the decision, so effort on getting it done well is time well spent.
Third, Klein’s story also reinforces that what most often moves people to take action is a genuine emotional connection to the cause or goal behind the project. Many of us really appreciate great science or new ideas, but we are passionate at a whole other level when it comes to doing something significant about the problems we most care about. This is why we at Innovocracy continue to believe that projects in areas like healthcare, sustainability, poverty alleviation (via, for instance, extreme affordability) and early education are the kinds that will do best on our platform. Further, this also means that the key to successfully using the Innovocracy platform will not only lie in explaining why your innovation is scientifically superior but in being able to clearly and compellingly explain why your project can make a dent in creating a better world.
From the way you express the problem you are trying to solve, to the video and text you use to describe your solution, you must remember that it is passion and not just science that will more often enable you to achieve your crowdfunding goal.