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After Being Sidetracked by Sandy, Grindhaus Turns to Kickstarter for Funding

After Being Sidetracked by Sandy, Grindhaus Turns to Kickstarter for Funding


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Erin Norris was one step away from opening her dream restaurant until Hurricane Sandy stormed in and ripped it from her hands. Norris’ project, a restaurant in progress called Grindhaus, was set to open in Red Hook, Brooklyn this spring but instead it was left destroyed in the wake of the storm.

Since Sandy swept in, Norris has managed to repair the dining room, salvage the floors, replace the walls, and remove broken electrical wiring. However, she still needs to rebuild the whole kitchen from scratch – a task that was not included in her original budget. Now she has taken an unconventional approach. Since late May, she has rested her hope in a Kickstarter campaign where she’s asked the public to donate a proposed goal of $17,000 to her project.

Although it may seem farfetched, using Kickstarter as a means of restaurant funding has proven successful in the past. There have been success stories in Brooklyn, one in the same neighborhood as Grindhaus. Shortly after Sandy, Red Hook’s most famous bar, the Bait & Tackle, launched a Kickstarter to build a new and improved venue after it was also destroyed. Within a month, the restaurant broke their goal of $20,000 with $30,907 provided by the 227 backers who funded the project. Sandy aside, Kickstarter also worked for Aaron Lefkove in the summer of 2011 when he ran out of options to fund his dream of opening a New England-style clam shack in Brooklyn. He used Kickstarter as a means for funding his restaurant, Littleneck, and ended up with 162 backers and $5,000 more than his goal of $8,000.

So far, Norris’ campaign has 85 backers and a total of $8,885 in funds. However, there are only 18 days left of the project and funds have barely passed the halfway mark to the goal that needs to be met. Grindhaus has not released a menu yet, but it sounds like it will be focused on sausages and other eastern European cuisine. The campaign ends on May 4, so why not chip in and help Norris out!

Skyler Bouchard is a junior writer for the Daily Meal. Follow her on twitter at @skylerbouchard.


Small Crowdfunding Donations Have Large Economic Impact


The average Kickstarter donation is in the $30 dollar range, a relatively small amount for most people to offer up as support to a creator attempting to bring their idea to fruition. But these small donations have had a significant impact on the economy since the platform launched in 2009. Until 2010, most crowdsourcing came from the 'friends and family' pitch at Thanksgiving dinner. Now, it's complete strangers who are changing the game for the creative community. The combination of creativity and community is likely the new formula for success.

I recently heard Kickstarter co-founder and CEO Yancey Strickler speak at Sage Summit and was blown away by his statistics on both the amount of funding that has come from the platform and the large number of jobs it has helped create. It was startling to realize that all these small funding donations, typically in exchange for a promotional t-shirt or a handwritten thank you note, had morphed into actual employment for tens of thousands of people.

I followed up with Strickler to learn more about the numbers that came from a new University of Pennsylvania study on Kickstarter's impact on the creative economy.

  • 300,000+ part time & full time jobs created
  • Every dollar pledged to a successfully funded project resulted in $2.46 in additional revenue for the creator, leading to an estimated $5.3 billion in additional economic activity
  • 8,800 new companies & non-profits created
  • 29,600 full-time jobs
  • For every 1,000 Kickstarter projects that have been brought to life, 190 founders now work alongside 82 full-time employees
  • As of June 2016, an estimated 29,600 new full-time creative careers have stemmed from Kickstarter projects

The numbers from the study even surprised Strickler. He says, "We've always focused on what happens after a launch on Kickstarter, but we had no sense of the scale of things until the Wharton professor's study came out. This exceeded my expectations and gave us a greater sense of context to the work we've been doing."

The study notes that the platform runs the gamut from very small projects to major fundings that have changed the landscape of technology, like Palmer Luckey's Oculus, which brought virtual reality into the mainstream and Eric Migicovsky's Pebble Technology, which pioneered the smartwatch category. To this point, Strickler says:

"This demonstrates that if someone desires it, there is potential for a Kickstarter project to become a successful ongoing endeavor. And if that's not your ambition, it can be a very efficient way to be able to pay the people you work with. That's an important thing in the creative community, where much of what happens in this informal environment is people doing favors for one another but reality is that we all have to pay rent. That's exciting to be able to make that happen."

Strickler knows such struggles firsthand since he was the 'creative type' well before he became an entrepreneur. Prior to co- founding Kickstarter with Perry Chen and Charles Adler, Strickler was a music journalist. He continues, "We think it's important to understand that being an artist or creator is not an all or nothing thing venture, you can do it part time after the kids are in bed, on weekends, or after your day job is over. You are no less valid than someone who has been fortunate enough to make it their full time pursuit."

"We launched Kickstarter as an equalizing force that makes it accessible, with some sort of public validation. Maybe you don't have a big book contract, but you can see that you have 500 people who believe in what you're doing. It's not hard for me to believe a future where this type of validation becomes more important. We hope that this gives people encouragement and inspiration to take a chance on themselves, to be vulnerable and put an idea out there and share something. When this happens, as it has to this degree, there are positive benefits that go way beyond the creator."

Creative independence, where people feel more in control of their destiny by being able to green light their own projects once they've been funded is, Strickler says, "at the heart of what Kickstarter does. The ability of self-determination is important, it's a promise of the web, it has been something that people have long desired. The power of the model and the way it resonates so broadly, it does put a significant amount of power in the hands of individuals. With creative freedom comes responsibility, it's not always the easiest road, but you can be in control of it."

Strickler sees many benefits of an environment that facilitates artistic and business creativity noting that "It's through the eyes of artists and creative people that we are able to better understand and shape our world into something that is increasingly humane. Sharing an idea at early stages can be quite scary and there are a lot of unknowns but we have seen our community and the web in general, repeatedly step up, celebrate and reward people with ambitious ideas people who are willing to share a very different way of thinking. There are supporters who are there for them. Nobody does this stuff alone. If you feel inspired by having backers behind you, this is a very viable option. It's legit."

From the beginning, Strickler and his team believed that most people have the desire to help others succeed, even without getting a piece of the financial 'pie.' He says, "We know the degree of love and support that's out there. As fans of anything, you're not looking for a piece of ownership, or looking to get paid, you're looking to get recognized as being a fan, you're looking to have the chance to enjoy what was made. I understand that we are living increasingly in an investment society, trying to optimize our own personal upsides, but I don't think fans are thinking that way. People don't have grand aspirations for their small donations other than hoping that creators do something cool with the money and let us see it when they're done." Strickler has personally supported over 2,000 Kickstarter campaigns.

Kickstarter is now hooked on 'doing good.' They recently became a benefit corporation. Strickler explains, "Becoming a benefit corporation is a new option for companies. It's a legal change in ownership status that requires us to produce a positive good for society. We lay out a charter to explain how we'll do that. We're supposed to do a private report every 2 yrs., but we'll report on it publicly every year starting Feb 2017. It's a legal mandate for our future course of action. We are quite excited about this because it will preserve a certain ethos and set of principles for the organization for as long as we have the privilege to exist, regardless of who management is. It locks in the idealism that the company was founded upon and ensures that it's always core to how we operate. Its a big step." The Patagonia company is also a benefit corp., and was the inspiration for the Kickstarter team.

During the Sage Summit entrepreneurial conversation, Strickler said that he ends each day reflecting on how he can make his tomorrow better than today. He expounded on this saying that, "Being able to identify and acknowledge the things I may have gotten wrong that day is important. The ability to identify something and account for that will hopefully mean that I'll only make new mistakes the next day. I try to take time at the end of each day to understand the things that should have been done better. There's always a longer list than I'd like."

As far as short term future goals, Strickler says, "We will continue to pursue the mission. I want us to be an engine of competence that helps people to get the courage and know-how to put their ideas out into the world, that's what were focused on providing. We have a world of improvement that we'd like to make, that's ultimately why we exist."

Kickstarter has made an indelible mark on our culture. Those average $30 donations have added up to tremendous economic benefits that have enhanced our lives and will continue to do so every single day with the accessibility of crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter. All it takes now is a dream, a plan, a camera, a laptop. and some generous strangers.


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The Jewish Community Turns to Crowdfunding

When The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles made headlines recently with its public plea to raise $9 million to get Woody Allen to film his next movie in Israel, they helped expose the budding concept of crowdfunding – and not just any crowdfunding, but Jewish crowdfunding.

“The Woody Allen Israel Project,” posted on the Jewish crowdfunding platform Jewcer, which asks “[e]verybody who cares about great movies, and about Israel, [to] give a few dollars,” is just one of a host of new ways the Internet is revolutionizing how Jews give tzedakah and support the projects they believe in.

To the uninitiated, crowdfunding is when individuals turn to the public via the Web to help fund their personal projects. Kickstarter, the most recognized crowdfunding platform, launched in 2008 and is famous for its wacky, creative projects. Crowdfunding has grown in popularity over the past five years – and in tandem, more and more niche donation portals have been popping up, according to Debra Askanase, a Boston-based digital engagement strategist. “What we’re seeing is online giving as a whole is up across all channels between 10-20% every year, year after year,” said Askanase.

What’s unique about the crowdfunding model is how it harnesses the power of the public, and through typically small donations, can make possible what would otherwise have been a pipedream – especially for artists and innovators who would otherwise have had to wait for support from the government, banks, funding bodies or other traditional sources.

Fundraisers and organizations are also turning to the public to help them raise money for charitable ends, only those in the field clarify that this online endeavor is called, crowdfundraising. “Everybody is using the buzzword ‘crowdfunding,’ but crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, for example, are not for charities and they expressly say that charities cannot use their website,” said Yonatan Ben Dor, Founder and CEO of Israel Gives, a website that connects Israelis and people around the world to Israeli nonprofits.

This summer, Ben Dor will launch a new global fundraising platform, JRaise.com, which will enable people to donate or fundraise for Jewish organization worldwide.

“Jewish organizations, particularly in North America, are years behind their secular competitors,” said Ben Dor. “They are not taking advantage of online fundraising and online donating tools. It’s not the question of what technology they should use, but why aren’t they using any online platforms successfully?”

While there are a number of websites that allow people to fundraise for nonprofits, including Jewish nonprofits, this will be the first exclusively Jewish fundraising platform that highlights only Israeli and Jewish nonprofits around the world, according to Ben Dor.

“Our website is unique because it highlights Jewish charities,” he said of the platform that will feature 30,000 Israeli nonprofits and 3,000 Jewish nonprofits from the U.S. and the U.K. “We are appealing to the general public by asking them, ‘Do you feel connected to a Jewish cause or a Jewish organization and if so, here is a tool you can use to donate directly.’”

Sandy and Gary Ungar launched their crowdfundraising platform Root Funding in 2009. An American Jewish couple who settled in Israel, while their site is not exclusively Jewish, it has a definite “footprint in the Jewish arena,” according to Gary. (A large percentage of the campaigns are connected to Jewish or Israeli nonprofits).

The platform is a very 21st century concept that relies on the power of the individual to tap their personal networks to support the causes they believe in.

“What we saw back in 2009 when economic times were hard was that organizations were looking to their existing base of support and trying to squeeze more dollars out of the same people,” explained Gary Ungar. “This got us thinking. How can an NGO broaden their base of support and raise money and awareness so that they are not solely relying on the same people, season after season?”

The way it works is that people can launch their own personal online campaigns on behalf of an organization. It’s called “branching.” For example, a nonprofit may have its own page with a campaign goal and then connected to this organization are hundreds of branch pages where individuals, like Bar or Bat Mitzvah youth, have their own campaign goals. Since these branch campaigns are linked to their personal social media pages, the Bar Mitzvah child can publicize their campaign goal on their Facebook page for all of their friends to see. This, in turn, allows their personal network to support them by donating, adding personal comments, keeping track of whether the end goal is met, being part of the buzz surrounding the campaign, and also – the organization’s other main objective – learning about the organization itself.

“There is no limit,” said Ungar. “You can have a branch campaign within a branch campaign. We don’t define what that structure should be – we just provide the flexible platform.”

What crowdfundraising like this also does is enable organizations to breakdown large fundraising goals into very manageable components. So if a synagogue wants to raise $1 million dollars, they can break down this goal into smaller campaigns. Congregants can each launch branch campaigns and of the families participating, each child can launch his or her own personal campaign.

“There is value in the small donor not the mega donor,” said Ben Dor of JRaise, which underscores the notion that fundraising in the next century is heading towards the power of the micro instead of the macro.

Beyond that, crowdfundraising is often effortless because it is embedded into the social media realm where people are already spending more and more of their time.

“This taps into the way people communicate today,” said Ungar. “It’s a very natural extension of how people spend their time and how they talk to others. People, by nature, want to do good and we make it very easy for them to do so and to get involved through what they’re already doing.”

What crowdfunding and crowdfundraising sites have in common is they are fueled by the power of the personal connection.

“Often, a person is not going to give randomly to a nonprofit they have never heard of, but if their sister or friend says, ‘This is really important to me,’ they will say yes. What this goes back to is the relationship between the cause and its supporters it comes down to building your online community and building it passionately,” said Askanase, the digital engagement strategist.

Proponents of online crowdfundraising argue that more than the money raised is the awareness generated through all of the personal ambassadors spreading the word.

“Think of how many people are being introduced to the organization,” said Ungar.

“It’s difficult to measure the number of people exposed to these organizations who wouldn’t have otherwise, but the exposure is exponential.”

That is the main reason why Aleh, an organization that has residential facilities for severely disabled children in Israel, has used Root Funding for its online campaigns for the past two years.

“Our goal is not just to raise the money because we can do that in a traditional way. Our goal is to create relationships and to create awareness, but not from me pushing Aleh onto someone, but from a friend saying, ‘This is really cool,’” said Dov Hirth, who is on the marketing and development team for Aleh.

From a psychological perspective, turning the fundraising reins over to the public creates many favorable outcomes.

“When people get involved in the fundraising themselves this creates a different type of commitment to the organization. They feel more attached,” said Ungar. Case in point are when students create their own campaign pages to raise money for their school or B’nei Mizvah youth fundraise for their favorite charity and are able to stamp their personal messages on their pages.

“The whole concept behind this is we are giving the fundraising opportunities to the donor. We’re putting the ball in their court,” said Hirth.

And that, exactly, is what experts say is how the world is shifting to accommodate a new, more hands-on generation.

“The idea is not to ask for help, but to ask for participation,” said Naomi Leight, one of the co-founders of Jewcer, the Jewish crowdfunding platform. “For 20-45 year-olds to participate in causes, ideas and projects, they don’t want to just give money, they want to be involved in active philanthropy. They want to ask people to participate, to share their projects, and then pledge. It’s not just a strict donation it’s a pledge and in return for your pledge, you receive a reward, which can be as simple as a thank you email or two tickets to a movie premiere.” (In the case of the Woody Allen Israel Project, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Jewish Journel Rob Eshman will personally cook dinner for anyone who contributes towards the $5,000.00 cinematographer fee.)

The L.A.-based Jewcer, launched in March 2012 by five Jewish Americans and Israelis, aims to “… help strengthen the connection between the younger generation and Jewish and Israeli causes.” It works just like other crowdfunding platforms with what they call the “innovators” seeking to finance their ideas through small pledges collected from many funders, in this case, the “jewcers.” Social media is used to promote the projects and to keep the jewcers updated on its progress. Current projects include “Dude, Where’s My Chutzpah?” a comedic web series that follows a young American Jewish woman on her adventure to discover what it means to be Jewish (currently, she has reached just over $3,000 towards her $4,000 goal) and “Once in a Lifetime HD,” where a group of Tel Aviv University students want to bring people to Israel to tell its story through Instagram pictures (so far, $766 has been raised of the $2,000 goal).

(Note: Jewcer is not the first attempt at a Jewish crowdfunding platform. JCrowd, a.k.a. “the best way to raise money since the invention of the tzedakah box,” launched in 2010 and shut its doors in March.)

Like crowdfundraising, where the goal is awareness and not just raising money, with crowdfunding the idea is to get people motivated behind an idea.

“The traction behind the project, getting as many people to participate as possible, is more important than meeting the goal itself,” said Leight.

Like the crowdfundraising platforms, Leight sees Jewcer not as a competitor, but as a vehicle that can only enhance and work with traditional Jewish funding bodies.

“The premise is there are a ton of great ideas out there and also a ton of bad ideas,” said Leight. “Sometimes bad ideas get out there. Let’s say $20 thousand is spent by a grantmaking organization to support a project and the community doesn’t show up. So here they have just produced something and the money is wasted. The idea behind crowdfunding and community support is you’ve got Jewish ideas that help the community and/or Israel and here you have 100 or more people saying, ‘I want to put my money where my mouth is because I want to show my support.’ We want to partner with the traditional Jewish organizations and grantmakers. We want them to use us as a filter. If we think it’s a good idea and see that it’s popular, we will raise the matching amount of funds.”

“There are so many ideas out there, we just have to reach the people and facilitate them getting onto the platform. We see success as changing the way Jewish ideas are funded,” Leight continued.

Despite the good intentions, experts are quick to point out that many of the traditional fundraising organizations may not wholeheartedly welcome these new online fundraising platforms.

“One of the differences between personal fundraising and something like Kickstarter is with the personal fundraiser you give because of the person who asked you to give, the cause is secondary. This is a big challenge for fundraisers since ideally, they think about the lifetime value of a donor. If you gave to an organization because of friends, they still are going to want you as a donor, but you’re not necessarily that into the cause,” said Michael Hoffman, a long-time consultant to nonprofit leaders on online fundraising and CEO of the Chicago-based see3 communications, an interactive communications agency that works exclusively with nonprofits and foundations.

Another challenge with crowdfunding and fundraising from the perspective of traditional organizations is the demand for complete transparency.

“Organizations generally hate giving that is restricted rather than having money for general support that can be allocated for what is needed,” said Hoffman. “But that is the exact opposite of [crowdfunding] where they are fundraising for one particular thing and need to completely fund it and if they don’t make the goal then no one has to pay. Nonprofits are not generally set up for that. They want general support.”

Despite popular sentiment, general support may not be inherently suspect. Larger nonprofits or fundraising institutions, like the Federation system, argue that they have the expertise to allocate bulk sums according to the need and sometimes, administrative and overhead fees are incorporated into the mix.

But enter the Internet and a new generation of funders and anything less than complete transparency and treating funders as equal partners just won’t cut it.

“What all of these things have in common is this idea of disintermediation,” said Hoffman. “People are saying, ‘I want to fund this thing and I want to be directly involved in the action. I don’t want to give my money to some giant institution and have no control over what happens.’ The Internet has made it possible for people to find that cool project they want to fund in a way that was never possible before and in a way that’s exciting, but for the established organizations it can be frightening.”

So where does this leave the Jewish organized world?

According to Hoffman, “The train has left the station,” which is another way of saying, crowfunding and crowdfundraising are the wave of the future.

But old school organizations can take heart. Despite all indications that in a progressively individualized world, where a new generation wants to choose from a menu of options that appeal to them, what the “crowd” continues to vote for again and again is that they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They are, in essence, voting with their comments and likes and dollars for something as old as Judaism itself: Community.

“This is really about how to make individual donors feel needed and connected and that is the most powerful tool of all,” said Hoffman.


Dream of Opening a Food Truck? Here’s How!

You watch Atlanta Eats with Steak. You listen to Mara on the Atlanta Eats Radio every Saturday. You are consumed with Top Chef, Chopped, and seeing every possible Iron Chef throwdown you can DVR. Now, you’ve got the bug to start your very own business. With the proliferation of the modern day food truck hitting the scene, how would you secure funding to start up your very own food business? Having worked with business owners over the past twenty years (and starting four companies myself), you should know in advance that starting a business is going to be really tough work. (you can check out my entrepreneur series on www.yoursmartmoneymoves.com). So, what may be the best modern day ideas to get funding for your budding business.

WWW.FOODSTART.COM– Foodstart is a crowdfunding business that was specifically built for the restaurant industry. You can post up your new food truck or coffee shop idea and ask for donations to start your business. You can reward your loyal followers with behind the scenes tours, first priority in line, discounts, and much more.

CROWDFUNDING– If Foodstart doesn’t work for you there are dozens of new websites that promote the idea of crowdfunding. Websites such as www.kickstarter.com, www.rockethub.com, and www.godfundme.com are just a few that involved getting investors to donate money in return for some perks when your business gets up and running.

PEER TO PEER LENDING– Not all peer to peer lending sites will allow for start up of a business to be a reason to ask for funding. However, you can investigate websites such as www.lendingclub.com, www.prosper.com , and www.zopa.com to look for lending in the $5,000 to $25,000 range. This may not be enough to fund a restaurant, but it could certainly make a down payment on your food truck business.

WWW.SBA.GOV– Unlike Healthcare.gov, this website actually works and really does help business owners. Go to the section on loans and review the general small business loan also known better as a 7(a) loan. They also have an area called microloans for those who need a lower amount of initial capital.

SELF FUNDING– Whether you use credit cards, friends and family, or your personal savings, self-funding your new business is certainly an option. Nobody plans to fail when they start a business, however the majority of new restaurant ventures crash and burn. Consider any capital you invest flight risk.

You should listen to the replay of the November 16th Atlanta Eats radio interview with Mara Davis and me from this past Saturday. Right after our interview, Mary Moore who is the founder and owner of Cook’s Warehouse shared how she got her business off the ground and discussed additional ideas on what it takes to be a successful business owner.

Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®

Co-CEO and Founder oXYGen Financial, Inc.

To get FREE brochures on the mistakes business owners make, go to www.oxygenfinancial.net. You can also have a complimentary meeting with one of our Private CFO’s to discuss your future business plan.

Ted Jenkin, CFP® is co-CEO of oXYGen Financial and is a top ranked personal finance blogger (www.yoursmartmoneymoves.com). He is a regular contributor to Investment News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

TED JENKIN IS SECURITIES LICENSED THROUGH INVESTACORP, INC. A REGISTERED BROKER/DEALER MEMBER FINRA, SIPC. ADVISORY SERVICES OFFERED THROUGH INVESTACORP ADVISORY SERVICES, INC. A SEC REGISTERED INVESTMENT ADVISORY FIRM. Linked sites are strictly provided as a courtesy. Investacorp, Inc., and its affiliates, do not guarantee, approve nor endorse the information or products available at these sites nor do links indicate any association with or endorsement of the linked sites by Investacorp, Inc. and its affiliates.


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Crowd-funding draws donations for Sandy relief

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, some who lost their homes or businesses have turned to crowd-funding websites to elicit a faster and more direct response than they could expect from the government or traditional charities.

While Congress considers a $60 billion disaster aid package for the storm victims, hundreds of them have gotten quicker results by creating personalized fundraising campaigns on sites including GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and HelpersUnite. These individual efforts have totaled a few million dollars — enough to show the funding model can work. GoFundMe leads the way with $1.3 million raised by about 320 individual campaigns from more than 14,000 donors.

Crowd-funded campaigns have also been started in recent days to benefit families affected by the school shooting that killed 26 in Connecticut, though those efforts are on a smaller scale than those that benefit the thousands hit by Sandy.

"There's always going to be some sort of gap between when a storm or natural disaster or accident or tragedy happens and when larger organizations can step in and help, whether that's an insurance company or FEMA or what have you," said Brad Damphousse, CEO of San Diego-based GoFundMe. "Our users get their money as it comes in, and donors know exactly where the money is going."

By comparison, the Red Cross has more than $200 million in donations and pledges for Sandy — which includes donations through crowdsourcing website CrowdRise — and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said this month is has distributed about $2 billion in aid to 11 states struck by Sandy. Successful applicants can receive up to $31,900 from FEMA for home repairs, though lawmakers have said it's often not enough to rebuild.

Using GoFundMe, Doreen Moran set out to raise about $5,000 for her friend Kathy Levine of Long Beach, N.Y. Moran said she had been sick but wanted to do something to help after Sandy's destruction. So she set up a page on GoFundMe, linked her Facebook page and started spreading the word. She had a birthday coming up but asked for gifts for her friend, instead of for herself.

"Donate what you can," she wrote. "I will make certain it all gets to her fast. Because she needs it fast."

Moran has raised more than $15,000 in a month and has been posting pictures of repair work that has begun.

The crowd-funding site HelpersUnite considers its personal fundraising campaigns as secondary to the Red Cross or FEMA relief efforts. A percentage of each donation can be directed to a charity of the donor's choice, such as the Red Cross. The site's chairman, Steve Temes, said its model of fundraising can help victims cover costs that aren't paid by insurance or government aid. The site didn't immediately provide a total for its Sandy-related campaigns.

IndieGoGo's site says $965,443 has been raised through 161 Sandy campaigns.

Sandy represents a breakthrough for the charitable model since it's the first major disaster since the sites were set up and is expected to be the biggest domestic relief effort since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The charitable sites are modeled after Kickstarter, the top crowd-funding site in traffic and volume, though Kickstarter is devoted to films, music and other creative projects. The pioneering site launched in 2009 can't be used to raise money for individuals to spend on themselves.

Still, those who monitor charities advise would-be donors to exercise extreme caution when choosing whether to donate to an individual's page. The Department of Justice also has issued cautionary notes about the tendency for abuse after a disaster. Charity watchdog Charity Navigator said crowd-funding sites are ripe for abuse.

"We think that it's a crapshoot," said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator. "If you know the person personally and you can eyeball the effort, that really is the only way that I think you mitigate your tremendous risk."

Otherwise, the group recommends giving to a charity with a demonstrable track record, Berger said.

The rise in crowd-funding may be a response to notions that some charities are inefficient, but for every bad charity, there are many good ones, Berger said.

Damphousse said GoFundMe has several safeguards to ensure campaigns related to Sandy are legitimate. His team is constantly monitoring accounts, looking for signs of fraud or abuse. Users must link their campaigns to their accounts on Facebook — which itself works constantly to verify users' identities. And they must raise at least $100 in online payments from friends or family before being listed on the public search directory.

"Of course we're well aware that people can try to take advantage of a natural disaster like this, so we really stepped up our game, trying to be that extra layer of protection between those collecting money and donors," he said.

Donors make online payments through WePay in the United States or through PayPal internationally. The funds are delivered directly into a payment account for those seeking help. Then they link their bank accounts to the payment sites to withdraw the funds. The funds can arrive within three to five days, or checks can be cut within a week. Damphousse said the payment sites are skilled at detecting risky transactions.

GoFundMe charges a 5 percent fee from each transaction for the service.

Successful campaigns typically start with friends and family, spread through acquaintances and draw only sparingly from complete strangers, he said.

"The friends and family are the ones who are going to support you no matter what," he said. "If you've got friends or family who are across the country and are out of power, of course it's easier for you to support them online with a credit or debit card, rather than mailing a check or sending a card."

Initial donations give a campaign credibility, or "social proof," he said. Then friends and family can ask their friends for support as well through Facebook, Twitter or e-mail.

Some who lack power or Internet access have had friends set up their campaigns.

For Phyllis Puglia of Staten Island, N.Y., who lost her home and belongings, crowd funding has meant about $52,000 in support after her cousin, Josetta Maurer launched a campaign. Maurer created a page to tell Puglia's story online. It was later featured on NBC's "Rock Center." Her initial fundraising goal was just $15,000.

The Good Fork restaurant in New York City's Red Hook neighborhood has raised more than $53,000 through GoFundMe after telling how water filled the restaurant's basement and continued up to the dining room.

Donors often leave comments of support on the fundraising sites.

"We're seeing individuals taking care of one another before some of these bigger organizations can get involved," Damphousse said. "The process of giving is just so much more intimate and impactful sometimes than just throwing money into a larger organization and being unaware of where that money might be used."


D&D 5E Auroboros Kickstarter From Warcraft Devs Has Launched

The D&D 5E setting from developers who originally hail from video game studios like Blizzard, and video games like Warcraft and Diablo, has launched on Kickstarter with a bang, as expected. Auroborus: Coils of the Serpent details a realm called Lawbrand, which contains a number of trade cities and factions. Will this one be the 4th in the last month to join the $1M club?

The high-powered team, under the banner of Warchief Gaming, includes Chris Metzen (Blizzard Entertainment, Warcraft, Diablo, Starcraft, Overwatch), Mike Gilmartin (Blizzard, Eidos, Maxis, Atari), and Ryan Collins (Hearthstone, Marvel Heroes, HeroClix).

The setting contains 5 new races and 4 new subclasses, plus details of 8 trade cities. It also features a new game rule called the Mark of the Serpent which lets you do incredibly powerful magical effects at a cost.

Auroboros: Coils of the Serpent

For $25 you can pick up the PDF bundle, or $50 for the hardcover. There are higher tiers with GM screens, world maps, slipcases, and more, with expected delivery in one year (March 2022).

Russ Morrissey

Reynard

Legend

ImagineGod

TwoSix

Unserious gamer

Reynard

Legend

Jayoungr

Legend

Jeff Carpenter

Adventurer

Warcraft has a huge fan base and I feel that like you say Symbaroum is a more obscure cult following.

Pitch Perfect 3 was the number one movie at the (American) box office the weekend Mad Max Fury Road came out.

Istbor

Dances with Gnolls

I wouldn't say it is known to the casual or even somewhat hardcore fanbase. Maybe like. the hardestcore?

I certainly never heard of it. Though, I have played in more that one world that was at least some of his creation, and I enjoy them quite a lot. As an example, and probably will be lost on many here, the creation, corruption, and fall of the Scarlet Crusade in WarCraft has always been a favorite of mine.

This is me simply betting on this being on-par to some of the world building I have seen in the past.

Reynard

Legend

Warcraft has a huge fan base and I feel that like you say Symbaroum is a more obscure cult following.

Pitch Perfect 3 was the number one movie at the (American) box office the weekend Mad Max Fury Road came out.

Grimslade

Doddering Old Git

Kurotowa

My experience is there's two ways to have a mega successful Kickstarter. One is to offer some shiny new gewgaw that isn't available anywhere else, and the other is to be a creator with a proven track record and established fan base. In the latter case, the pitch is less "Here is this amazing idea I want to make happen!" and more "If you liked my previous work, come get in on the ground floor for the next project." Was the Critical Role animated series a record breaker because of the novelty of making an animated series about their group's D&D campaign? Of course not, it was a record breaker because it was Critical Role and for the nearly 90,000 backers that's all you had to say to sell them on it.

This is definitely one of the latter cases. Some people don't know who Chris Metzen is, and see this as just a vanity project from a retired computer game developer. For the millions and millions of people who have played Warcraft, though, Chris Metzen is a name that conjures happy memories and good associations. And out of those millions of people, at the moment a bit less than 5000 feel that's enough to get them to lay down money for this project. I should know, I'm one of them.

Really, that's not a very big conversion ratio, if you think about it. Less than 5000 people? That's nothing! It's only by the standards of the incredibly niche field of third party TTRPG books that it seems like a lot, and the Kickstarter total is being pumped up by people buying bundles with expensive addons like maps and dice.

So we have here a perfect storm of a creator with strong name recognition putting together a polished campaign and offering lots of addon options to raise the potential pledge ceiling from the people who really want them and can afford them. That's not something you can easily compare to other TTRPG offerings or deliberately replicate.

Reynard

Legend

My experience is there's two ways to have a mega successful Kickstarter. One is to offer some shiny new gewgaw that isn't available anywhere else, and the other is to be a creator with a proven track record and established fan base. In the latter case, the pitch is less "Here is this amazing idea I want to make happen!" and more "If you liked my previous work, come get in on the ground floor for the next project." Was the Critical Role animated series a record breaker because of the novelty of making an animated series about their group's D&D campaign? Of course not, it was a record breaker because it was Critical Role and for the nearly 90,000 backers that's all you had to say to sell them on it.

This is definitely one of the latter cases. Some people don't know who Chris Metzen is, and see this as just a vanity project from a retired computer game developer. For the millions and millions of people who have played Warcraft, though, Chris Metzen is a name that conjures happy memories and good associations. And out of those millions of people, at the moment a bit less than 5000 feel that's enough to get them to lay down money for this project. I should know, I'm one of them.

Really, that's not a very big conversion ratio, if you think about it. Less than 5000 people? That's nothing! It's only by the standards of the incredibly niche field of third party TTRPG books that it seems like a lot, and the Kickstarter total is being pumped up by people buying bundles with expensive addons like maps and dice.

So we have here a perfect storm of a creator with strong name recognition putting together a polished campaign and offering lots of addon options to raise the potential pledge ceiling from the people who really want them and can afford them. That's not something you can easily compare to other TTRPG offerings or deliberately replicate.

I get all that and I still hope folks get what they want, but I am happy to reiterate: it's his high school campaign world. NO ONE'S high school campaign world was any good. I wouldn't pay money for my own high school campaign world with snazzy art. Lipstick on a pig, and all that. It's crazy to me that people want that, even if they recognize the creator as someone who in the 3 decades AFTER making that thing created stuff they loved. But, again, maybe it will be awesome and they will be happy.

Anyway, my intent isn't to bad mouth Metzen. I really was just curious if this was a thing he talked about all the time and it was like Vin Diesel's with hunter class or whatever: something that kind of had a mythic status among gamers and they were FINALLY getting it kind of thing, or even something like the Crit Role world because people were familiar with it through a stream or whatever.


Alive and Kickstartering

Before the Internet, penniless dreamers seemingly needed to find eccentric weirdos to fund their economic rebounds. You have Charlie from the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who needs to complete a series of horrifying tasks, which apparently kill and mutilate the other children, before Willy Wonka gives Charlie and his family a key to the magic candy factory. You have Annie from the musical Annie who has to use song to dissuade Daddy Warbucks from sending her back to the orphanage before she gets to tap dance with FDR. Thankfully, today we live in the age of Kickstarter.com. With a good idea and a bit of spunk, this little website can help the dreamer fund his projects without those previous inconveniences. On Kickstarter, any aspiring entrepreneur can set up a fundraising page for a prospective project. The project receives all the donated funds (less a small 3–5% charge for Kickstarter’s services) as long as it reaches its intended fundraising goal within a specified period of time.

An amazing number of projects with an incredibly wide range of funding levels can be found on Kickstarter. The “Small Projects” category of the site profiles ventures attempting to raise less than one thousand dollars within 30 days. Featured currently on this page are an 8-bit video game about a Dim Sum mecha-cart, an app which attaches digital beards to pictures of infants, and a documentary about the search for the apparently rare Morel mushroom. Conversely, donations of about $155,000 have funded, I kid you not, a “Lowline” park that will reside below New York City’s Lower East Side and be illuminated by solar funnels. The park will fill the Essex Street Trolley Terminal, which has been abandoned since 1948, and it has apparently already raised real estate prices in the area. Most important of all, more important than NYC real estate, the greatest card game of all time—“Cards Against Humanity”—started as a Kickstarter project.

In our little corner of the world, Kickstarter has helped out many a Providence-based art and tech project. Brown TV (BTV) has done some of its fundraising on the site, including a Black Swan-esque short film by Calvin Main ’12, called Two Hearts, which premiered at the Avon alongside four other short films last May. RISD, meanwhile, has an entire Kickstarter page with a seemingly infinite list of projects by alumni and current students. My favorite project on their page is called “Missy for Prez.” Sakura Bready, a textiles senior at RISD, had a fantastical dream one night about Missy Elliott as the President of the United States. Fittingly, Bready was particularly inspired by Missy’s presidential threads: “She wore a tracksuit in the Oval Office, a tracksuit in the conference room, and she also had a matching Air Force plane to match her flying tracksuit.” Thus, the project focuses around making those fly threads a reality. And she got 90 backers and $2,495. God bless America.

Kickstarter seems like a logical development in this age of tech-based democratization. Tools that allow for collaboration and mass action have become contemporary signifiers of political progress and the power of the people—look at Twitter. Kickstarter is especially appealing because neither the backers nor the site itself gain intellectual rights to the creators’ ideas. According to the FAQ: “Project creators keep 100% ownership of their work. Kickstarter cannot be used to offer financial returns or equity, or to solicit loans.” There is something so affirming and amazing about artists, entrepreneurs, and inventors being able to directly connect with their patrons. It cuts out the expensive middlemen of galleries and corporations. It creates an intellectual sounding board for developing nascent ideas and allows for new collaborations. Although traditional print media (the New York Times especially) seem to be constantly labeling our millennial generation as “entitled” or “lost” or “out of touch,” impossible-sounding dreams that may have been ridiculous in past decades can become reality through these venues that connect artists and audience. Maybe they’re just jealous I can make a living making movies about cat shows or selling illuminated toothbrushes.

Still, there are issues with the website. (You didn’t think I was really going to write an entirely complimentary article, did you? I’m a journalist.) First of all, Kickstarter makes no distinction between projects. John Constant, a writer for the Seattle newspaper The Stranger, sees this lack of differentiation between “worthy” and “unworthy” as a problem. Sure, worthiness is subjective. This issue is hard to avoid because it’s unclear who could or would or should decide which projects were useful and which were not. Yet building a $50,000 Robocop statue in Detroit while the Michigan unemployment rate hovers at 11% seems instinctively wrong. Should funding a bougie inside joke trump funding programs that help support the livelihood of Michigan citizens? Yet that choice quickly turns out to be a false one, because the money being shelled out for the ironic iconography isn’t necessarily being funneled away from charitable donations.

Alexandra Lange from The Design Observer Group makes a distinction between what she calls “urbanism” and “industrial design.” Lange sees Kickstarter as rewarding the flashy over the practical, the informative over the truly useful. As she explains, “You wouldn’t Kickstart a replacement bus line for Brooklyn, but you might Kickstart an app to tell you when the bus on another, less convenient line might come. You can’t Kickstart affordable housing, but the really cool tent for the discussion thereof.” In contrast, a website called Brickstarter is being developed in response to these critiques. The website isn’t truly set up yet, but its goal is to use the model that Kickstarter pioneered, a model that harnessed the power of the crowd, but focus on projects that have societal benefits and consider the needs of the community these projects affect.

A second problem: Does the type of democratization enabled by Kickstarter really allow the most talented artists or inventors to rise to the top? Ideas may speak for themselves, but funding a significant Kickstarter project takes a certain degree of self-promotion. Maybe not every artist is simultaneously a creative genius and a marketing expert. There are the Andy Warhols who feed off of popular culture and whose art screams commercialization. And then there are the weird reclusive artists, like J.D. Salinger, who would rather cut off their own arms than make a Twitter account. (Or, in the case of Van Gogh, cut off his own ear). Some artists’ crazy is what makes them great, and some crazy doesn’t translate to social media seamlessly.

That’s not to say I’m not a diehard adherent of my favorite Kickstarters. Growing up, I smoked a lot of (cough) cigarettes in every corner of Central Park and would have loved a strange, new underground New York park to explore. I’ve donated to keep La Newyorkina, a great Mexican sweet shop, alive after Hurricane Sandy. As someone who hopes to make enough money to feed myself doing what I love, I think it’s incredible that Kickstarter helps people do what they love. Maybe the future of urban spaces or technology won’t be through this little website, and maybe it shouldn’t be. Regardless, Kickstarter has changed the way creators interact with audiences, and my friends and I at the GCB playing Cards Against Humanity long into the night couldn’t be more pleased.


Crowd-Funding Draws Donations for Sandy Relief

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, some who lost their homes or businesses have turned to crowd-funding websites to elicit a faster and more direct response than they could expect from the government or traditional charities.

While Congress considers a $60 billion disaster aid package for the storm victims, hundreds of them have gotten quicker results by creating personalized fundraising campaigns on sites including GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and HelpersUnite. These individual efforts have totaled a few million dollars – enough to show the funding model can work. GoFundMe leads the way with $1.3 million raised by about 320 individual campaigns from more than 14,000 donors.

Crowd-funded campaigns have also been started in recent days to benefit families affected by the school shooting that killed 26 in Connecticut, though those efforts are on a smaller scale than those that benefit the thousands hit by Sandy.

“There’s always going to be some sort of gap between when a storm or natural disaster or accident or tragedy happens and when larger organizations can step in and help, whether that’s an insurance company or FEMA or what have you,” said Brad Damphousse, CEO of San Diego-based GoFundMe. “Our users get their money as it comes in, and donors know exactly where the money is going.”

By comparison, the Red Cross has more than $200 million in donations and pledges for Sandy – which includes donations through crowdsourcing website CrowdRise – and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said this month it has distributed about $2 billion in aid to 11 states struck by Sandy. Successful applicants can receive up to $31,900 from FEMA for home repairs, though lawmakers have said it’s often not enough to rebuild.

Using GoFundMe, Doreen Moran set out to raise about $5,000 for her friend Kathy Levine of Long Beach, New York. Moran said she had been sick but wanted to do something to help after Sandy’s destruction. So she set up a page on GoFundMe, linked her Facebook page and started spreading the word. She had a birthday coming up but asked for gifts for her friend, instead of for herself.

“Donate what you can,” she wrote. “I will make certain it all gets to her fast. Because she needs it fast.”

Moran has raised more than $15,000 in a month and has been posting pictures of repair work that has begun.

The crowd-funding site HelpersUnite considers its personal fundraising campaigns as secondary to the Red Cross or FEMA relief efforts. A percentage of each donation can be directed to a charity of the donor’s choice, such as the Red Cross. The site’s chairman, Steve Temes, said its model of fundraising can help victims cover costs that aren’t paid for by insurance or government aid. The site didn’t immediately provide a total for its Sandy-related campaigns.

IndieGoGo’s site says $965,443 has been raised through 161 Sandy campaigns.

Sandy represents a breakthrough for the charitable model since it’s the first major disaster since the sites were set up and is expected to be the biggest domestic relief effort since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The charitable sites are modeled after Kickstarter, the top crowd-funding site in traffic and volume, though Kickstarter is devoted to films, music and other creative projects. The pioneering site launched in 2009 can’t be used to raise money for individuals to spend on themselves.

Still, those who monitor charities advise would-be donors to exercise extreme caution when choosing whether to donate to an individual’s page. The Department of Justice also has issued cautionary notes about the tendency for abuse after a disaster. Charity watchdog Charity Navigator said crowd-funding sites are ripe for abuse.

“We think that it’s a crapshoot,” said Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator. “If you know the person personally and you can eyeball the effort, that really is the only way that I think you mitigate your tremendous risk.”

Otherwise, the group recommends giving to a charity with a demonstrable track record, Berger said.

The rise in crowd-funding may be a response to notions that some charities are inefficient, but for every bad charity, there are many good ones, Berger said.

Damphousse said GoFundMe has several safeguards to ensure campaigns related to Sandy are legitimate. His team is constantly monitoring accounts, looking for signs of fraud or abuse. Users must link their campaigns to their accounts on Facebook – which itself works constantly to verify users’ identities. And they must raise at least $100 in online payments from friends or family before being listed on the public search directory.

“Of course we’re well aware that people can try to take advantage of a natural disaster like this, so we really stepped up our game, trying to be that extra layer of protection between those collecting money and donors,” he said.

Donors make online payments through WePay in the United States or through PayPal internationally. The funds are delivered directly into a payment account for those seeking help. Then they link their bank accounts to the payment sites to withdraw the funds. The funds can arrive within three to five days, or checks can be cut within a week. Damphousse said the payment sites are skilled at detecting risky transactions.

GoFundMe charges a 5 percent fee from each transaction for the service.

Successful campaigns typically start with friends and family, spread through acquaintances and draw only sparingly from complete strangers, he said.

“The friends and family are the ones who are going to support you no matter what,” he said. “If you’ve got friends or family who are across the country and are out of power, of course it’s easier for you to support them online with a credit or debit card, rather than mailing a check or sending a card.”

Initial donations give a campaign credibility, or “social proof,” he said. Then friends and family can ask their friends for support as well through Facebook, Twitter or e-mail.

Some who lack power or Internet access have had friends set up their campaigns.

For Phyllis Puglia of Staten Island, New York, who lost her home and belongings, crowd funding has meant about $52,000 in support after her cousin, Josetta Maurer launched a campaign. Maurer created a page to tell Puglia’s story online. It was later featured on NBC’s “Rock Center.” Her initial fundraising goal was just $15,000.

The Good Fork restaurant in New York City’s Red Hook neighborhood has raised more than $53,000 through GoFundMe after telling how water filled the restaurant’s basement and continued up to the dining room.

Donors often leave comments of support on the fundraising sites.

“We’re seeing individuals taking care of one another before some of these bigger organizations can get involved,” Damphousse said. “The process of giving is just so much more intimate and impactful sometimes than just throwing money into a larger organization and being unaware of where that money might be used.”


Watch the video: World Health Organization is monitoring a new COVID variant called Mu (June 2022).


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