With the economy in a continuing nose dive, the scramble to find financing for your big idea, project or new company can be intense. Perhaps your bank is one of many who isn't lending right now or your credit is shaky after this long recession. Perhaps your idea is marketable to a niche audience but not a qualifier for a typical loan. Maybe your idea is just too out there to take to a "suit". Never fear, microfunding is here.
Microfunding has been gathering steam over the last couple of years as a way for people to leverage their social networks and offline connections to fund a project or gather donations for a cause in small, manageable amounts. The idea is simple: there are plenty of people out there who can't afford to plunk $100 down to save the whales, but they can afford to skip that donut or bagel and add their $2 to your dream.
Some popular sites for microfunding of all kinds include Kickstarter and ChipIn. Whether you want to fund your indie film, your novel, a new set of office chairs, a new employee or a project to make your inner city better – both of the tools can help you gather resources to do that one buck at a time. Keep in mind, however, that out of many microfunding sites (these two are only a drop in the bucket, listed because they have proven to be reliable over time), not all are created equal.
Kickstarter, for example, has a fund limit – if you don't reach your goal amount in the allotted time frame, you lose all the marbles. Your donors get their money back, and you get zip for your trouble. ChipIn, meanwhile, doesn't have the same limitations, but by using a widget based donor platform, whether or not people can see the widget and donate sometimes is browser dependent. Don't be afraid to shop around for the right donor system for you – there are industry specific models like IndieGoGo for film, and of course, old stand byes like PayPal used a new way can work wonders.
Another thing to look out for if you decide to try microfunding for your startup or application idea you've been sitting on all this time – your success is determined by the size and depth of your network. If you have 100 people who listen to you online, wherever you are, then you aren't going to make your goal in 1 month. You don't have the social reach. If you have few fans, you either want to build up your connections first with solid interaction, or give yourself a longer time frame, something like 6 months. You'll have a greater chance of success. Another thing to remember: the more obnoxious you are when you ask, the less money you make. Think of your target audience before involving them in your financial goals.