Monday, 26 September 2011

Community Projects Turn to Crowdfunding for Help

Guest Contributor, Sue Lancaster

With the introduction of the Big Society the UK government has turned to communities to solve problems in their neighbourhood, by encouraging a more local approach to social action, social enterprise and responsibility.  In reality however obtaining funding to support community based initiatives have become more competative due to the proverbial tightening of the nations belt. This year has seen the launch of two crowdfunding platforms which communities can use to help fund community based projects.   

Buzzbnk uses an online platform which connects potential financial backers to a range of social ventures and projects. Funds can be raised for not only community projects, but business start-up ideas or projects.
Users can browse through projects, choose the ones they want to support by pledging money, time or both while inviting their own social networks and communities to join them in supporting those ventures. In return they receive benefits and can participate in social loans to upcoming social enterprises. - Theresa Burton, Buzzbnk co-founder and Chief Executive.
Buzzbnk considers itself to be different from other fundraising platforms as backers are given greater flexibility on how they can support the project.  The system not only encourages support from those wanting to make traditional style donations, but provides the opportunity for willing backers to receiving goods or services in return for providing project capital, or contributing to social loans.

Launched in January 2011 Buzzbnk offered a new crowd-funding model for social enterprise ventures, pledging to help finance 80 social change initiatives through 2011. The Chairman and co founder Michael Norton has predicted that this innovative approach could attract a million backers by 2015.
The latest platform launched this month to offer opportunities for crowdfunding community projects is the Scottish-based website SoLoCo.
We want to make it easier to raise funds, and in time make it easier for organisations to be become less reliant on the ‘traditional’ funding bodies. We also want to help improve the visibility of our communities and all the amazing work happening on the ground every day. - Katy Burnham, Co-founder.
The website – which is run by a social enterprise of the same name – aims  to obtain small donations from high volumes of people within a short space of time.  SoLoCo is built on a successful model used for arts projects and political campaigns, such as Barack Obama’s US presidential campaign in 2008. SoLoCo encourages registrations on the site from any community project, social enterprise or charity in the UK that benefit communities (please note costs apply).

With the need for people to look locally for help and support it will be interesting to see if crowdfunding will provide a way in which local communities and charities can break free of traditional funding methods and Government hand-outs to become self sufficient in funding their own community initiatives.

Image Credit; Alan Stanton

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