December 2, 2011

StartSomeGood: Grow your social impact

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social impact

Expanding online fundraising options for change-makers of all shapes and sizes

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, community organizations, social entrepreneurs, change-makers, activists, organizers.

Guest post by Tom Dawkins
Co-founder, StartSomeGood

The last half-decade has given rise to many exciting advances in the area of online giving and community building. The Obama for America campaign was powered by an unprecedented flood of small donations. Kiva made microfinance something we could all participate in, and Global Giving connected us to development projects around the world.

A variety of platforms, including Causes, Razoo and Jolkona, now allow nonprofits to leverage the power of social networks to aid in their fundraising goals. But not all nonprofits, or even most. Without an U.S.-based 501(c)(3) charity registration, an organization cannot use most of these sites. And while a newer group of “crowdfunding” (we prefer the term peerfunding) websites, including Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, allow fundraising by all kinds of groups, charities, nonprofits, for-profits and unincorporated organizations, none of these are focused on social impact projects. In fact, as stated in its guidelines, Kickstarter specifically prohibits “charity or cause fundraising.”

So despite the seemingly diverse fundraising opportunities now available, a huge number of potential social change-makers as well as for-profit social enterprises, pre-tax deductible nonprofit startups and unincorporated community groups (for example the Occupy movement) are not well-serviced by by those offerings. To address this gap and inspire more people to get involved in creating social impact, we launched StartSomeGood eight months ago.

The social impact solution

We are moving social change fundraising beyond the boundaries of tax-deductible organizations.

StartSomeGood provides a platform for all social impact initiatives, whether incorporated as a nonprofit or for profit, or not yet incorporated at all, to grow a community of supporters to help fuel their growth and impact.

We are moving social change fundraising beyond the boundaries of tax-deductible organizations and moving peer-funding beyond the creative projects it is most associated with. By allowing all types of social impact initiatives to promote themselves alongside each other, inspiring and mobilizing their communities to make change happen, we hope to speed up the process of social innovation and cultivate a new generation of change-makers.

How it works

StartSomeGood is not simply a clone of existing crowdfunding sites but a unique model designed to suit the needs of social entrepreneurs. Rather than the “all-or-nothing” model ala Kickstarter or “keep what you raise” model of IndieGoGo, StartSomeGood employs a “tipping point” model that better communicates the context of the project’s fundraising needs. Individual entrepreneurs determine the tipping point for their campaign, anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of the total campaign goal. It is only if the campaign reaches this tipping point that pledges are processed.

The architecture of the site also balances fundraising campaigns with organizational profile pages, providing a more stable fundraising home for growing social enterprises and organizations that want to run multiple campaigns over time. Here’s a comparison we put together of some of the leading peerfunding sites.

Inspiring people to give

We believe that the “nonprofit sector” is less important than the “social good sector” — that great world-changing ideas can come from anywhere and that socially minded for-profits can be as effective at bringing about change as traditional nonprofits. We know that important work is being done by unincorporated groups and social change free-agents. We want to break down the silos that say only a specific type of incorporated institution in one country on earth are given access to sophisticated online fundraising tools. We want to dispel the myth that being tax-deductible is the most important driver of giving behavior because, truth be told, below a certain threshold it simply doesn’t matter.

What are important drivers of giving behavior? Great stories, inspiring visions for a better world, a personal connection to an issue and relationships with people affected or involved are just some of the elements we know inspire people to contribute to a social good initiative. These elements are powerful, irrespective of tax status. More important by far are the ideas, inspiration and credibility of the entrepreneur doing the asking.

This is why we prefer calling what we do peer-funding rather than crowdfunding. “Crowd” implies an anonymous, atomized group of individuals. But this is not who will support your project. Your supporters will be your existing networks and the wider cultural and geographic communities connected to your initiative. We prefer to think of these people as collaborators, or peers, in making change happen.

If you are passionate about an issue facing your community, have a unique vision to share and the commitment to implement it, we would love to hear from you. StartSomeGood might be the toolkit you have been looking for to raise the funds you need and get started.

Tom Dawkins is co-founder of StartSomeGood. He was previously the founder and CEO of the award-winning Australian nonprofit Vibewire Youth Media and the first social media director at Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. He is also mayor of the Black Rock City Farmers Market. You can follow him on Twitter at @tomjd or StartSomeGood at @StartSomeGood. Also check out his San Francisco street art blog.

What social fundraising means for your nonprofit (Socialbrite)

Social fundraising tools: Our top 5 picks (Socialbrite)

Fundly: Tap into your supporters’ social networks (Socialbrite)

Rally: Raise money for your favorite cause (Socialbrite)

HelpAttack!: Unleash the charitable power of social media (Socialbrite)

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