Crowdfunding is a way of raising finance by asking a large number of people each for a small amount of money. Until recently, financing a business, project or venture involved asking a few people for large sums of money. Crowdfunding switches this idea around, using the internet to talk to thousands – if not millions – of potential funders. Typically, those seeking funds will set up a profile of their project on a website such as those run by our members. They can then use social media, alongside traditional networks of friends, family and work aquaintances, to raise money. There are three different types of crowdfunding: donation, debt and equity.

Donation/Reward crowdfunding

People invest simply because they believe in the cause. Rewards can be offered (often called reward crowdfunding), such as acknowledgements on an album cover, tickets to an event, regular news updates, free gifts and so on. Returns are considered intangible. Donors have a social or personal motivation for putting their money in and expect nothing back, except perhaps to feel good about helping the project. UK Sites include: www.banktothefuture.com www.buzzbnk.org www.crowdbnk.com www.crowdfunder.co.uk www.gambitious.com www.peoplefund.it www.pleasefund.us www.sponsorcraft.com

Debt crowdfunding

Investors receive their money back with interest. Also called peer-to-peer (p2p) lending, it allows for the lending of money while bypassing traditional banks. Returns are financial, but investors also have the benefit of having contributed to the success of an idea they believe in. In the case of microfinance, where very small sums of money are leant to the very poor, most often in developing countries, no interest is paid on the loan and the lender is rewarded by doing social good. Sites include: www.abundancegeneration.com www.banktothefuture.com www.buzzbnk.org www.trillionfund.com

Equity crowdfunding

People invest in an opportunity in exchange for equity. Money is exchanged for a shares, or a small stake in the business, project or venture. As with other types of shares, apart from community shares, if it is successful the value goes up. If not, the value goes down. Sites include: www.banktothefuture.com www.crowdbnk.com www.crowdcube.com www.ethex.org.uk www.gambitious.com www.microgenius.org.uk www.crowdmission.com www.seedrs.com www.sharein.com

A little bit of history

The first online crowdfunded project is thought to have occured in 1997. Rock band Marillion were unable to afford to tour after the release of their seventh album so American fans used the then fledgling internet to raise $60,000 so they could play in the US. Although the band wasn’t involved in the first round of fundraising, they have since used the same techniques to successfully fund the production of their following three albums. Other creative projects soon followed suit, such as films and journalism, and the first crowdfunding website appeared in 2001. In 2012, there were over 500 crowdfunding platforms online, and February of that year saw the first crowdfunded project raise over £1,000,000.