Need Money? 7 Crowdfunding Sites to Give You Cash

Photo (cc) by stevendepolo

Want to swim with the dolphins but don’t have the bank account to justify that type of splurge? Or would you prefer to save the dolphins rather than swim with them?

Perhaps you’d like to start a company selling dolphin-shaped hats?

Don’t let your lack of cash stop you. Today, you have many options to ask family, friends and even total strangers for their help in funding your dreams.

Enter the world of crowdfunding.

Whether it’s to fund your small business or get that killer wedding gift, crowdfunding sites exist for virtually every reason. The sites differ on the details, but all work in the same way. You put out a request, and the masses decide whether to donate money to your cause.

Keep reading for a list of notable crowdfunding sites, plus learn some tips on how to up your chances of success.

Kickstarter

Kickstarter, launched back in 2009, may be one of the biggest names in crowdfunding. Project pages are customizable and can include a video and other multimedia elements. Creators can also offer rewards, such as copies of their final project, to backers who donate at certain levels. Payments are processed through Amazon.

Project eligibility: Only projects with a clearly defined conclusion resulting in a creation that can be shared with others may be posted on the site. For example, publishing a book, creating a work of art or developing a video game are all examples of allowed projects. Charitable causes are prohibited.

Partial funding allowed? No, campaigns must be fully funded for creators to withdraw money.

Project duration: One to 60 days, although 30 days or less is recommended.

Fees: 5 percent of amount collected.

Indiegogo

The biggest competition for Kickstarter is probably Indiegogo. The site predates Kickstarter by two years and offers a more flexible platform that includes both flexible and fixed funding options. Nonprofits as well as individuals are welcome to post campaigns, which feature customizable pages that support multimedia elements. Perks can be offered to backers, and payments can be made via PayPal or with a credit card.

Project eligibility: Anything goes – as long as it’s not illegal!

Partial funding allowed? Yes, for campaigns selecting the flexible funding option.

Project duration: Up to 60 days, although campaigns of 40 days or less are encouraged.

Fees: For fixed campaigns, 4 percent of the amount collected plus a PayPal fee of about 3 percent. For flexible campaigns, 4 percent for fully funded campaigns and 9 percent for partially funded campaigns. Flexible campaigns are also subject to a 3 percent credit card fee or a 3 percent PayPal fee. Verified nonprofits get a 25 percent discount on their Indiegogo fees but pay a slightly higher payment-processing fee of 4 percent.

Fundly

Fundly advertises itself as a user-friendly way to tell a story and connect with donors. Users get a project page with options to write bloglike updates and receive reader comments. In addition, Fundly has a mobile app and a variety of tools that, in theory, make it easy to share on social media or manage email campaigns.

Project eligibility: Like Indiegogo, virtually anything goes on Fundly. The site has 15 categories that cover everything from kids and family to politics and public office to trips and adventures.

Partial funding allowed? Yes.

Project duration: Fundly does not appear to put a limit on a campaign’s length, although managers must select an end date.

Fees: A 4.9 percent fee for donations up to $50,000 plus a 3 percent credit card processing fee. Smaller fees apply to donations greater than $50,000.

Crowdfunder

While many crowdfunding sites are for personal use, Crowdfunder caters to entrepreneurs and small-business owners who need capital. This is not the site for half-baked ideas. You need to have a good business plan to attract investors, who are going to expect you to turn a profit.

Project eligibility: Only early-age startups and established businesses can raise equity on Crowdfunder. If you have an idea but no business yet, you’re not eligible.

Partial funding allowed? No.

Project duration: In its entrepreneur FAQs, Crowfunder says most campaigns last from 60 to 90 days.

Fees: It’s $299 per month to raise up to $500,000 and $999 a month to raise unlimited funds.

GoFundMe

Although its medical needs category may be most well-known, GoFundMe allows open-ended personal fundraising for almost any reason. The site claims to be the world’s No. 1 fundraising site and boasts of mobile-friendly campaigns and prompt support services.

Project eligibility: Any personal fundraising need is allowed. Common categories include medical expenses, emergency needs and education costs.

Partial funding allowed? Yes.

Project duration: No limitation on project length.

Fees: 5 percent of the amount collected plus a payment processing fee of about 3 percent.

Trevolta

As a niche site, Trevolta is new to the crowdfunding scene and hopes to help adventure travelers raise funds. There is also an option for couples to register for their honeymoon. You don’t get to simply take the money and run. The site sets you up with a travelog to chronicle your journey so your donors can live vicariously through you. Donations are made through PayPal.

Project eligibility: Trips to any location in the world can be posted on Trevolta.

Partial funding allowed? Yes, for campaigns selecting the flexible funding option.

Project duration: The site doesn’t list any limitations on project length.

Fees: For fixed funding goals, 5 percent of the amount collected plus a PayPal fee of about 4 percent. For flexible funding goals, 5 percent of the amount collected if the project is fully funded and 9 percent for those that are partially funded, in addition to PayPal fees.

BoostUp

Finally, we come to BoostUp. Part savings account, part crowdfunding platform, BoostUp offers the chance to get a little help with your long-term goals. First, users must open an account to which they can make deposits (funds are secured at U.S. Bank). Family and friends can contribute to the fund, and brand partners of the program will chip in a little in some cases as well. The brand partners are limited for the time being, but they include Hyundai with a $500 boost toward the purchase of one of its new cars and Amtrak with a 5 percent boost for rail gift certificates.

Project eligibility: BoostUp accounts can be created for a car, house, wedding or trip.

Partial funding allowed? Yes.

Project duration: No limit to the duration of the campaign.

Fees: There are no fees for redeeming savings toward a goal. If a user would like to close and cash out their account, BoostUp charges a $25 fee for balances up to $2,500 and a 2.5 percent fee for higher balances.

How to increase your chance of success

On the face of it, crowdfunding sounds great. You spend a few hours uploading some videos or photos, share your page on your social media sites and wait for the cash to roll in. I mean, if LeVar Burton can raise more than $1 million in 11 hours on Kickstarter, certainly you can find enough people in 30 days to give you $400 to pay for your kid’s driver’s training, right?

However, the reality of crowdfunding is that relatively few campaigns are successful. Kickstarter says about 42 percent of its posted projects succeed. That may not sound like much, but it’s head and shoulders above Indiegogo’s 10 percent success rate, as reported by The Verge. Head to smaller sites like Fundly and Trevolta and you’ll scroll through scores of unfunded projects.

While there is no magic way to ensure success, here are a couple tips to help:

  • Have a compelling story. I know you want to go to Hawaii. Take a number; so does everyone else. What makes your trip special? It could be Nana’s 90th birthday, and you’re taking her back to the spot where her husband proposed. Or maybe your cancer is in remission, and this is your bucket list trip. If you don’t have a legitimate need or a compelling story, stop right here. If that’s the case, you might be better off opening a savings account instead of a crowfunding page.
  • Pick the right funding period. The experts seem to be split on what is the right amount of time for a campaign. Kickstarter and Indiegogo seem to think short and sweet is best, with the websites recommending time frames of 30 and 40 days, respectively. However, the Crowdfunder FAQs suggest 60 to 90 days may be ideal, while this PCWorld article suggests those who want to generate buzz for their idea should go for a longer fundraising campaign.
  • Offer rewards. Many of the major crowdfunding sites let you offer donor rewards or perks. According to Indiegogo, campaigns offering perks raise 143 percent more than those that do not. The $25 funding level appears most popular, although the site says the $100 level tends to account for about 30 percent of a campaign’s total take. Just be sure the perks you offer aren’t too expensive to create or ship.
  • Use a video. Another fun fact from Indiegogo is that campaigns with a video pitch raise 115 percent more than other campaigns. Whenever possible, use video or other multimedia elements to attract and engage donors.
  • Keep it small and keep it personal. A small goal may attract donors who want to be part of a successful campaign. If need be, break your big-picture goal into smaller bites that you can raise funds for one at a time. Entrepreneur reports that having a personal touch is crucial. Reach out to people individually and ask for their help. In addition, actively manage your campaign page by posting updates and responding to comments when applicable.

While there is certainly more that can be said about crowdfunding, this brief overview should get you started in the right direction.

If you already have experience with a crowdfunding campaign, share your tips in the comments below or on our Facebook page. What site did you use? Was it a success? If you could do it again, what would change?

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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