April 8, 2015 9:02 pm

Proliferation of crowdfunding campaigns could hurt registered charities


TORONTO – On crowdfunding sites, like kickstarter.com or indiegogo.com, you can find people asking for money to help start a business, to pay for trips or even to pay off personal debt.

But some experts say important charities are finding it difficult to compete for donations among more questionable causes.

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“Some people call it the new virtual begging,” said Diane Pacom, a sociology professor at the University of Ottawa.

Pacom says people respond to, and legitimately help, when there is a story they connect with, like the outpouring of support for the family of Elijah Marsh, the little boy who died in the bitter cold this past February.

READ MORE: Ontario boy, 8, needs help getting to soap box race championship in Ohio

According to Pacom, helping directly through the crowdfunding model gives people instant satisfaction, making it hard for traditional charities to compete, because their causes are broader and longer term.

“Obviously it’s very challenging for them and I have done some research on the topic, and I saw people from traditional organizations panic a bit,” said Pacom.

She believes what is happening with crowdfunding is a reflection of what is happening with society, and that people are feeling free to ask for donations for themselves because there is a sense of entitlement.

Members of the band “Stinkbox” were inspired to try crowdfunding because they saw so many other unique campaigns succeed.

A mix of Folk and Punk music, they are starting to enjoy a modest success with a cross-country tour planned for the summer. But there’s a hitch. They need a band bus to get to their gigs and have jumped on the crowdfunding bandwagon with a goal of $2,300 dollars.

READ MORE: The changing nature of charity: Plugging in to the digital age

“We felt this would probably be the best way we could ask our fans for something,” said band member, Bryan Wood.

They don’t see an online appeal as all that different from busking, pointing out many people just want to be entertained.

“And they will look at it in that way, like they are entertained for a second, I’ll give this guy $20 for his story,” said band member Katt Budd.

They believe by providing music, it is a fair trade. They also give people who donate band merchandise, like T-shirts.

Several people have already made donations to their campaign.

With all the money raised through the sites, traditional charities are taking notice and are starting to get in the game.

“It can possibly be a new tool in the tool box,” said Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, which represents registered charities across the country.

MacDonald said it is important for people who are donating online to be educated and do some research to make sure the cause they are giving to is legitimate.


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