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“We all started clapping,” said a relieved Boulka.
Justin Kazmark, a spokesman for the New York-based Kickstarter, believes that sense of urgency helps make such fundraisers successful, as well as the personal connections between donors and recipients.
Radical shift in giving
For Minnesota’s 5,000-plus nonprofit community and its residents, who donate more than $1 billion each year, the fundraising shift has been mind-boggling.
“Five years ago, GiveMN didn’t exist, Kickstarter didn’t exist, online funding really didn’t exist,” said Dana Nelson, executive director of GiveMN. “It has radically changed how nonprofits can reach people.”
Candida Gonzalez, a community education coordinator at Jefferson School in Minneapolis, helped raise more than $5,000 over the past month through a crowdfunding platform to help pay for a Central Neighborhood mural project. She’d never given crowdfunding a thought before, but now she’s a convert.
“What people want is flashy, colorful video that you can easily share on Facebook or get on your mobile phone,” said Gonzalez. “It makes that easy.”
The latest: Barnraisings
Minnesota’s newest crowdfunding site, Barnraisings has raised just over $1,300 since it was launched in July. Its creator, Jim Rettew, expects that will change as more Minnesotans learn about it.
“There’s a niche for a local crowdfunding site because it features your neighbors,” said Rettew, adding that the website also seeks volunteers, not just cash.
Barnraisings already has attracted the unexpected. The Hollywood Studio of Dance, a small nonprofit dance school in north Minneapolis, has just signed on. The studio has provided dance lessons and a sense of community to more than 1,000 students in the past 20 years. But as the economy faltered, so did many parents’ ability to pay full fare. The school is now seeking funding for student scholarships.
Starting this month, the studio will launch its first crowdfunding campaign. It will feature a video of a single mom on St. Paul’s East Side who attended the school as a child, and who now wants to keep sending her two girls there. The appeal will ask for $450 for a year’s dance classes for each child, plus money for performance costumes.
“I never heard about this before,” said Diane Elliott Robinson, the studio’s founder. “But I thought, ‘This is a great way to raise money and great way for us to get exposure.’ ”
There remain some risks. Individuals seeking cash without nonprofit or other institutionalized backing may not be fully vetted. The winner-take-all-or-lose-everything model can be devastating for those who don’t reach their goals.
“It’s still a little bit of the Wild West,” said Jennifer Ford Reedy, president of the Bush Foundation. “There’s a lot of faith involved. But mostly I see it as a great opportunity for people to get funding for something they are passionate about.”
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511