Is crowdfunding the new frontier for charitable donations?

Students and faculty at the University of Toronto created the crowdfunding campaign 'Pie a Prof, Educate a Child' that aimed to help War Child Canada provide children fleeing the civil was in Syria with access to support and education. Screengrab/Giveffect

TORONTO – A new crowdfunding movement is asking Canadians to use every day acts of kindness to raise money for charity.

The ‘Giving Tuesday Challenge‘ asks people to choose a cause, create a crowdfunding campaign and encourage family and friends to donate money in exchange for an ‘act of kindness’ from the individual.

“We wanted to create an initiative that was easy to do, that spread a little love in people’s communities and raises money for charity at the same time,” said Sabrina Nicosia, the campaign’s executive director.

The campaign serves as a run-up to Giving Tuesday which takes place on Dec. 2, the day after Cyber Monday. The national day of philanthropy acts as the opening day of the giving seasons where charities, companies and individuals are encouraged to join together to “share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.”

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Crowdfunding is a method of raising funds online by getting a “crowd” to donate in small amounts towards a larger dollar goal. The process skips a step by avoiding charities, and gets money directly from a donor to the person being helped.

According to a recent report, in 2012 alone, 30 per cent of the $5.2 billion raised via crowdfunding globally went toward social causes.

“Passionate individuals are increasingly turning to crowdsourcing as opposed to traditional fundraising to support charitable causes near to their hearts,” said Anisa Mirza, CEO and co-founder of Giveffect, a Toronto-based donation platform built exclusively for nonprofits and charities and serves registered organizations across Canada, U.S. and the U.K.  “Crowdfunding changes the perception of the donor, transforming him or her from being seen as a mere wallet to being seen as an advocate for the cause or an extension of the charity.”

Earlier this year, professor Paul Kingston and Semra Sevi, a Masters student in Political Science at the University of Toronto, created the crowdfunding campaign ‘Pie a Prof, Educate a Child’ that aimed to help War Child Canada provide children fleeing the civil war in Syria with access to support and education.

The concept was simple: Six senior professors signed up as participants. Those that raised the most money were safe, while the remaining professors were pied in the face by their students.

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In two weeks, the campaign raised over $10,000.

This summer, Zack Brown jokingly sought $10 from a crowdfunding website to pay for his first attempt at making potato salad. His campaign went viral and he raised more than $55,000. The Ohio man used the funds to partner with the Columbus Foundation to start an endowment that will aid area charities that fight hunger and homelessness.

READ MORE: Man who raised $55K is throwing potato salad party

So why is crowdfunding effective?

For starters, said Mirza, it is entertaining.

“Unlike most dated leading fundraising software, crowdfunding platforms are built for the ‘iPad generation’ with lots of social gamification features,” she said.  “The ability to involve your community, launch and brand campaigns as you wish and the ability to offer perks makes crowdfunding a fun event in itself.”

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More importantly, Mirza said crowdfunding isn’t about asking people for money.

“Rather, it is an opportunity to invite someone to take part in an awesome journey in achieving something radical. It’s exhilarating, it’s empowering and—most importantly—it works.”

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