Vancouver-created app helps raise millions through social networks
By Sachi Wickramasinghe
A Vancouver company is pioneering a new technology for raising money through social media.
As hundreds of charities compete for donation dollars, ConnectionPoint Systems Inc. is using a Facebook app called FundRazr to show people how to effectively leverage their online social networks to raise money for everything from lacrosse teams to international social-justice campaigns .
The app, the brainchild of founder and CEO Daryl Hatton, has already helped people raise $15 million for 30,000 campaigns since it launched in 2010.
“What we do is allow people to easily create an online campaign and then share it across their social network – their family and friends – and securely collect donations for projects and causes,” explained Bret Conkin, vice-president of marketing at FundRazr.
The campaigns range in scale from personal memorials that raise a few hundred dollars to Julian Assange’s nearly $300,000 Wikileaks legal defence fund.
What sets FundRazr apart from the competition is the company’s partnership with industry giants PayPal and Facebook.
FundRazr enables users to create a campaign by logging into the app through Facebook and then building a compelling multimedia story around their project. They can then set a fundraising goal and share their campaign through their online social networks.
The donations are securely collected via PayPal, while Facebook, which is constantly inventing new ways to enhance sharing among networks, boosts the campaign through people’s digitally connected lives.
“The starting point is visibility amongst users’ friends and family but the multiplier is this: Once Joe likes, tweets, shares your campaign, that visibility is shared amongst his social network who are not supporters currently,” explains Conkin, whose company has been featured by Facebook because of its innovative use of the social-media site’s technology for helping users connect.
Fundraising in a networked world
FundRazr’s ability to empower individuals to effectively raise money relies on a surprisingly simple and traditional concept: passing the hat. People have always turned to those closest to them like family and friends for help in times of need. In other words, “passing the hat” has now become “crowdfunding.”
An industry survey has revealed that 452 crowdfunding platforms raised nearly $1.5 billion in 2011 alone. Forbes magazine predicts that crowdfunding, in its myriad of different forms, will explode by 2013.
“Money has become one of the easiest things to get out of people because it’s just another click, just a simple transaction,” says Brian Reich, the author of Shift and Reset, a book that outlines fundraising in the new, networked world.
“When you’re fundraising, you’re not actually looking for the direct ask in most cases. You’re looking for the credible, trusted person who can make the ask for you. That is the nature of high-dollar fundraising.”
That is precisely the key to FundRazr’s success. It takes the headache out of asking for and collecting money while sharing your campaign with the people who are most likely to support your cause – your friends and family.
“With technology, high-dollar fundraising is now at scale. A global scale. I am much more likely to give to someone I know than to an organization that asks me, end of story,” Reich explained.
Last year, a professional video-gamer called Athene was dismayed by the fall-out of the “Kony 2012” campaign.
He approached FundRazr with an idea to raise a million dollars for Save the Children.
The caveat? He wanted to leverage his 500,000-strong online following of video gamers to raise the money for him.
FundRazr built a custom social-media driven campaign, called Operation ShareCraft, which turned the fundraising experience into a game. It pitted gamers against each other to see who could individually raise the most money towards the campaign.
The campaign successfully reached its goal in just 80 days, after securing a matching donation from DC Comics.
While Athene’s online celebrity status certainly helped put the bucks in the bank, it’s not the only recipe for success on FundRazr. A small but dedicated community with a compelling story can change lives, too.
When a group of bartenders, servers and chefs from Gastown found out that a Downtown Eastside boxing gym was under the threat of closure, they were determined to save it.
The gym had long served as a safe haven for disadvantaged youth in the area who received guidance and mentorship from their coaches both in and out of the ring.
The workers formed the Aprons for Gloves Boxing Association and turned to FundRazr to help them create a cohesive campaign called Restaurant Rumble.
Aprons for Gloves has raised $130,000 with the help of friends, family, customers and the local Gastown business community and are currently working to secure a new spot for the gym.
Education: the next fundraising frontier
When Facebook reached the milestone of one billion users on Oct. 4, 2012, it chose to highlight FundRazr as a developer taking social fundraising to the next level.
As the technology continues to evolve, FundRazr is exploring new ventures. This includes a possible partnership with the University of British Columbia to use FundRazr as a payment method for students to crowdfund their education.
Reich has an ultimately hopeful message: in our modern, connected world, anything is possible.
“We know that if we can get people with shared interests together in one place we have the potential to do things to change the world on a scale we’ve never imagined before.”