Innovative approach for projects, organizations, entrepreneurs, and startups to raise money for their causes from multiple individual donors or investors. Four models of crowdfunding exist: donations; reward; lending; and equity.
Kew words: crowd-investing; P2P lending; Equity-based crowdfunding; alternative finance
Crowdfunding is a collective effort of individuals who pool their resources to support initiatives promoted by other people or organizations. Using social networks and the viral nature of online communication, individuals and companies have raised billions of dollars in debt, equity, and donations over the past decade. Crowdfunding emerged from innovation in technologies that made it possible for businesses, NGOs and individuals to secure funding with no or limited intermediation. The market has grown in developed countries, partially as a response to the credit crunch resulting from the 2008 financial crisis. Thanks to a rapid and unprecedented expansion of Internet and mobile access, it soon expanded to developing countries.
Crowdfunding has grown rapidly from a Silicon Valley social experiment to a multi-billion dollar industry- from US$1 billion in 2011 to US$34 billion in 2015. It also expanded from financing charities into enterprise financing and quickly overtook angel investing to become one of the largest sources of financing for SMEs, second only to venture capital. The industry is expected to reach an annual volume of US$100 billion by 2025 and becoming the leading financial channel for SMEs. Crowdfunding in developing countries raised US$430 million in 2015, with India, the Philippines, and Nepal in the top three.
Four different models of crowdfunding have emerged:
- Donations-based: The crowdfunder donates funds without expecting any return. Donations are typically used to support disaster relief, famine, education programmes, etc. JustGiving and GoFundMe are among the largest donations-based platforms. Globally, over US$2.85 billion in donations were raised in 2015.
- Rewards-based: The crowdfunder transfers funds with the expectation of a reward, which may be in the form of a token gift or an early/exclusive release of a product or service offered by the startup company. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are among the most successful crowdfunding platforms built on rewards-based model of crowdfunding. Since its launch in 2009 through April 2017, more than 123,000 projects have been funded through Kickstarter with nearly US$3 billion pledged. All-or-nothing (AON) campaigns require a project to hit 100 percent of its funding target. If the target is not achieved, funds are returned. Keep it all or flexible funding (KIA) campaigns instead allow the project sponsor to keep the amounts raised. AON campaigns have more backers and raise a higher amount of funds compared with KIAs: an assessment of the campaigns run in the years 2011–2013 via Indiegogo found that AON projects’ average funding goal was US$31,397 compared with US$20,478 for KIAs; 34 percent of AON campaigns reached their goal, compared with 17 percent of KIAs .
- Lending-based or Peer-to-Peer (P2P): the fastest growing type of crowdfunding has a 73 percent market share. The crowdfunder lends money to individuals or companies in return for interest. While there are platforms exclusively targeting socially-oriented lending, the majority operate as commercial platforms in direct competition with other financial intermediaries. KIVA is providing small loans (from US$100-US$100,000) to farmers, NGOs and SMEs that make positive impact and has already provided more than US$1 billion in small loans.
- Equity-based crowdfunding: The crowdfunder purchases equity in a company. Equity is a new, yet rapidly growing, model in crowdfunding with over US$2.5 billion invested in 2015. Equity-based crowdfunding could reach up to US$36 billion by 2020 and eventually surpass venture capital by value (Massolution). Equity-based crowdfunding remains highly dependent upon supportive regulatory frameworks, which often restrict equity investment to professional investors.
A successful crowdfunding campaign may draw on a platform with a wide audience, such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Kiva, or GoFundMe. New platforms may also be established under certain circumstances. There are numerous resources on crowdfunding, including blogs, books, networks, and training, including guides on running campaigns from Indiegogo, Fundable, Kickstarter, Crowdfunding Guides, and Shopify.
Potential in monetary terms (revenues, realignment or cost-savings)
Crowdfunding has grown substantially, from US$1 billion in 2011 to US$34 billion in 2015 (Massolution). P2P lending (US$25 billion), donation (US$2.9), rewards (US$2.7 billion) and equity crowdfunding (US$2.5 billion) make up most of the market. These amounts are already comparable with venture capital, which is investing an average of US$30 billion each year. The market may surpass the US$100 billion threshold before the World Bank’s 2025 estimate. Donation and reward crowdfunding have historically taken the largest share of the market and were only recently surpassed by P2P lending. Equity-based and lending-based crowdfunding platforms are expanding at the most rapid rate, in the UK at nearly 300 percent in 2015 (NESTA). The shares of the different crowdfunding models are different between developing and developed countries: in 2015 43 percent of crowdfunding in developing countries was classified as donation, 38 percent as lending, 11 percent as equity, and 7 percent as reward (Allied Crowds).
Crowdfunders invest mostly in business and entrepreneurship (40 percent), social causes (20 percent), films and performing arts (12 percent), and real estate (6 percent). In addition to the above, specialized platforms have also emerged, targeting subsectors like agriculture, retail, food, and housing and services (UNEP). Environmental projects are at the periphery; while platforms like Indiegogo and Kiva have started to enlist green projects, they remain a minority. An exception is renewable energy with an estimated €200 million in crowdfunding transactions that is facilitated by 25 specialized platforms.
The different crowdfunding models and platforms’ own strategies have produced a broad range of results in the amount of resources mobilized. Kiva, which serves small entrepreneurs through a network of microfinance organizations, has facilitated the disbursement of 1,6 million loans to the tune of US$1 billion as of October 2017. Of the Kiva borrowers, 749,149 have come from least developed countries, 81 percent being women. Kickstarter has allocated over US$815 million from 4.9 million backers to nearly 50,000 projects. To date, the most successful project was the video game “Star Citizen”, which collected more than US$145 million. In Nepal, where a devastating earthquake killed over 8,500 and affected 5.6 million people in 2015, US$23 million was raised from individuals sending money to their families, diaspora groups supporting their communities, and other international donors, much of it through crowdfunding.
Each crowdfunding model is tied to different regulatory requirements which may vary substantially between countries. Legal requirements can be cumbersome depending on the model pursued (e.g. equity based crowdfunding is most demanding), the crowdfunding platform location, the project sponsor or beneficiary, and if it entails an international transaction.
The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance identifies four main regulatory regimes:
Some countries have more favourable legislation—e.g. the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and the USA. Regulatory reforms are advancing and more countries have updated their regulatory framework to facilitate crowdfunding. The UK and Sweden have already completed more than one round of reforms. A short summary of existing regulations is provided:
Since crowdfunding platforms may operate across borders, international provisions also apply, particularly in relation to money laundering and the fight against terrorism. The largest platforms—Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and RocketHub—have become fully compliant with international anti-money laundering laws.
Credible crowdfunding systems require more than enabling legislation. Their success also relies on supportive ecosystems and other enabling factors. These include forward-looking regulations that balance the need for investor protection with capital formation; effective technological solutions that include reliable broadband Internet or mobile data networks; and supportive institutions that offer training, mentoring, and other services to beneficiaries and investees.
Minimum investment required and running costs
Running costs incurred by beneficiaries/investees to run crowdfunding campaigns can be separated into direct fees paid to the platform used and marketing costs:
In what context it is more appropriate
When launching a crowdfunding project, it is important to understand what the project objectives are and who the target audience is. Different models of crowdfunding are best suited for different types of projects:
innovative fintech solution, crowdfunding can channel significant private financing to development. More importantly, crowdfunding is not only about securing more or better funding, but is a means to raise awareness, initiate debate, and build social capital. Organizations have benefited from crowdfunding to engage supporters, investors, and donors.
Crowdfunding can alleviate human suffering by connecting people in need with donors, volunteers, or philanthropy. Charities and development organizations have used crowdfunding extensively to raise grants, both for their development projects and their institutional resources. There is evidence crowdfunding can leverage philanthropic giving: according to NESTA, for donations and reward–based crowdfunding, only 23 percent and 21 percent respectively stated the money they donated or pledged would otherwise be used for charitable giving. According to NESTA, 29 percent of backers on donation–based crowdfunding platforms had given advice and feedback to campaigns and 27 percent had offered to help or volunteer with the project. Moreover, companies have also started to match donations made by employees with corporate funds.
Crowdfunding can stimulate innovation and jobs. By improving and facilitating access to finance to SMEs, it can support job creation. A good example being Kiva. NESTA has attempted to measure the impact of crowdfunding. Three quarters of those who participated in reward or equity–based crowdfunding reported that they were successful in launching a new product or service. Seventy percent of SME borrowers have seen their turnover grow, and 63 percent have recorded growth in profit. A third of those who raised funds via P2P business lending or invoice trading have reported that they would have been “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to get funding elsewhere. Seventy–nine percent of businesses had attempted to get a bank loan before turning to P2P business lending, with only 22 percent being offered finance.
Crowdfunders like to see regular progress reports on the platform or social media, not only because they may have a personal stake, but because they also genuinely care about the product/project. This demand has pushed for better monitoring practices. On the beneficiary/investee side by nurturing connections with backers, they were able to create trust-based relationships, a unique asset for future resource mobilization.
While rewards and donation-based crowdfunding platforms are effective fundraising tools for NGOs, there is great potential to leverage debt and equity crowdfunding for bankable projects and SMEs. Development, public authorities, philanthropies and other donors can leverage grants to facilitate the transfer of billions of dollars worth of crowd investments towards projects with measurable social and environmental impact. Funding from public institutions or large philanthropic organizations can be matched with crowdfunding to leverage resources, participation and results. For example, the UK Government has used the crowdfunding platform Funding Circle to provide co-lending to British SMEs. The UK’s Department for International Development has matched funding for crowdfunded projects in developing countries to reduce investors’ risk. Similarly a public programme from Denmark is exploring how crowdfunding can be used to support and select start-ups: in the scheme companies that have raised funds from a reward-based platform can seek a matching grant between €67,000-€207,497.
The following considerations could improve the social and environmental impact of crowdfunding:
- Guidebooks from Indiegogo, Fundable, Kickstarter, Crowdfunding Guides, and Shopify.
- Crowdfunding’s potential for the developing world
- Allied Crowds’ Alternative Finance Reports
- Nesta Crowdfunding Research Reports
- Crowdfunding Hub European Research
- Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance
- Crowdfunding Academy
- Dos & Don'ts of Crowdfunding for Development
- ‘CrowdingIn’ Platform Browser
- Ecuador (Green Crowds)
- Indonesia (Article), Indonesia (Kitabisa)
- Croatia (Indiegogo)
- Tajikistan (Article), Tajikistan (Indiegogo)