For most, donating to a crowdfunder is a way to back a beloved artist, or help a friend with extortionate medical bills. But what happens when things go wrong?by Penny Andrews / August 20, 2019 / Leave a comment
What links Chris Williamson, Tommy Robinson, Jolyon Maugham and the man who threw a milkshake at Nigel Farage? Not Brexit—it’s raising money online.
Once mainly seen when your friend wanted to raise funds to go to Edinburgh fringe, crowdfunding has moved from the creative industries out into the wider world, where it’s being used by people of all political backgrounds, from Americans paying for medical bills to Remainers wanting to fund a legal challenge against No Deal. Some offer particular rewards: special rehearsals or artwork, or a thank you in a book. For others, the sense of participating in something grassroots is its own motivator.
Crowdfunding is an umbrella name for funding a project or venture via small donations from a large number of people—whether it is via a dedicated platform or just sharing with followers somewhere donations can be sent, such as a Paypal account. Some dedicated platforms allow any kind of fundraising, like GoFundMe. Others are dedicated to charitable fundraising (JustGiving), legal costs (Crowdjustice), producing writing and other forms of culture (Patreon) or supporting entrepreneurs (Indiegogo, Kickstarter). This year, crowdfunding has a transactional value in the UK of £68.7m, representing over 14 per cent growth year on year.
Journalists, authors, artists, LGBTQ+ people, environmental rights groups and more are taking the 1000 true fans concept—the idea that you only really need a select group of people who will buy anything you produce to succeed—and monetising their following online. Academics and journalists writing about the noughties internet were excited about the possibilities of participatory culture, and even though the sort of people who now become celebrities, famous musicians, influencers and politicians are mostly the same as they ever were, it is easier than ever to find and support your community online.
We can help online pals on the other side of the world with their obscenely high surgery bills, and help bands we love to make another album. We can also chuck our friends online a tenner when they’re struggling. I personally benefited from this support from my followers when an accident meant I couldn’t work for months and simultaneously lost my clothes, coat and bags to the paramedics’ scissors. Now I wonder: Does that make me a grifter, exploiting my friends…