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The Problems With Crowdfunding

Employees at GlobalGiving at its Washington, DC, office keep the world's first and largest crowdfunding organization open year round. It operates virtually 24/7. (Photo - C. Presutti/VOA).
Employees at GlobalGiving at its Washington, DC, office keep the world's first and largest crowdfunding organization open year round. It operates virtually 24/7. (Photo - C. Presutti/VOA).
The Perils of Crowdfunding
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Crowdfunding — or soliciting people online to fund projects -- is rapidly growing in popularity around the world, say experts.

Here’s how crowdfunding works: You pitch your project to a large group of people through an online platform. If they are interested in your project, they donate money to fund your project.

You pay a fee to the crowdfunding platform for hosting your appeal. For example, a popular site called Indiegogo charges a four percent fee from the total you raise. It also charges $3 for credit card processing, plus a $25 wire fee for non-U.S. campaigns.

One of the largest crowdfunding sites is Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Since it launched in 2009, “over $2 billion has been pledged by more than nine million people, funding more than 90,000 creative projects,” says Kickstarter’s website.

Many artists, designers and filmmakers have funded their projects through the platform. Most projects raise between $1,000 and $9,999, although some have raised millions of dollars, reported Kickstarter.

Crowdfunding platforms cater to different audiences. Startups seeking funding from investors can turn to Angel List, Crowdfunder, or Fundable, reported Business News Daily.

Other crowdfunding sites focus on charities and non-profit organizations.

Despite its benefits, crowdfunding poses legal, regulatory and ethical challenges, say experts. Crowdfunders who raise money incorrectly “could run into problems with securities law,” wrote researchers Stephen Wolfson and Matthew Lease at the University of Texas.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulates the sale of stocks and bonds. The SEC is charged with protecting investors from scams. The agency has proposed rules that would affect crowdsourcing sites where a company is selling stock or equity, wrote Kendall Americo, a crowdfunding attorney.

Crowdsourcing has other perils

Crowdfunding only refers to raising funds on the Internet. Crowdsourcing is a broader term. It means using the Internet to raise funds, solve problems or generate innovative ideas from other people.

Crowdsourcing can cause innovators to lose control of their work and not be fairly paid for it, warned experts.

“Crowdsourcing can be an innovative way to source and/or develop creative works,” wrote researchers Wolfson and Lease at the University of Texas in a paper called “Look Before You Leap: Legal Pitfalls of Crowdsourcing.”

Yet the creators of these works “can easily lose control over crowd-developed creative works” if they do not pay attention to copyright laws.

Ross Dawson, author of “Getting Results from Crowds,” said crowdsourcing could exploit people by profiting from their ideas and not paying them.

Design Contest, a website for designers, warned design professionals to “avoid being scammed out of money, time or effort” on crowdsourcing sites. They urged designers to find out who gets the rights to their work and how they will be paid.

Despite these perils, crowdsourcing continues to grow at a rapid pace globally.

Sean Moffitt is managing director of Wikibrands. At a conference in Singapore, he said that the crowdsourcing market is growing 80 percent every year.

I’m Mary Gotschall.

Mary Gotschall wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

soliciting – v. to ask for (something, such as money or help) from people, companies, etc.

fund - v. to provide money for (something)

pitch v. to talk about or describe (something) in a favorable way so that people will want to buy it, accept it, etc.

appealn. a serious request for help, support, etc.

platform n. something that allows someone to tell a large number of people about an idea, product, etc.

creativeadj. having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas

startup n. a new business

legaladj. of or relating to the law

regulatoryadj. making or concerned with making official rules about what is acceptable in a particular business, activity, etc.

ethical adj. involving questions of right and wrong behavior

securities lawnoun phrase laws relating to investments in a company, organization, etc.

scam n. a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people

copyright lawsnoun phrase laws relating to the right to be the only one to reproduce, publish, and sell a book, musical recording, etc., for a certain period of time

exploitv. to use (someone or something) in a way that helps you unfairly

perilsn. something that is likely to cause injury, pain, harm, or loss

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