Regular PM readers may have seen my feature on crowdfunding in the last issue. The keen observer will have spotted that I'm currently running a campaign of my own! But why did I choose crowdfunding and what's it really like to run a crowdfunding campaign?
For me, I had a problem and crowdfunding enabled me to make that problem the solution. I’ve been sponsoring a young girl in Southern Africa since I was 18, who I met during a gap year placement at a day care centre in Swaziland.
After seven years of letters back and forth, glowing report cards and a lot of missing one another, we were reunited this Easter when I finally scraped together enough pennies to visit.
Lelo, now 15, had written a little earlier asking to go to boarding school as she was being bullied – and frankly, I think was under-stretched at her rural comprehensive.
I spent every day of my trip to Swaziland desperately trying to contact schools (most of which had no online presence, let alone an e-mail address!) and arranged interviews for the two best boarding schools in the country. On the day of the second, we rose at 5am, traveled two and a half hours by bus, then walked for 15 minutes in the rain, only for a cold and very soggy Lelo to be whisked straight off into three hours of entrance exams. Incredibly, she got in.
Opportunities like this don’t come round for kids like her too often. In fact, as a girl growing up in AIDS-ravaged Swaziland, she’s more likely to marry young, contract HIV and face malnutrition than spend a single day at boarding school.
And yet, receiving such an education has the power to expand the economic and social horizons of not just her family, but her community and even her nation. Educate a girl and her own daughter will never go without education. Educate Lelo and she wants to become a doctor to help others.
But there lies the problem. I’d spent most of my years supporting Lelo as a student or graduate, staying in and saving my student loan to pay for her schooling. More recently, I’ve been funding food for her family as well.
I was already stretching beyond my means to cover her basic needs. The jump to boarding school fees was impossible. And my applications for charity grants fell on deaf ears.
The Seed of an Idea
So The Seed was born, with a tweet on 22 June: “I’ve had the seed of an idea… We know that if you plant a seed you create a life. I believe if you educate a girl you can change the world.”
It’s hard to summarise the five months since, but they’ve included a lot of hard work, late nights, strategic planning (then replanning!), constant losses of faith, and repeated, remarkable acts of kindness by strangers.
I had to build a following, create a brand, design a website, plan the rewards I would offer in return for people’s pledges, calculate my costs, choose a crowdfunding platform and film a video that would compel people to open their hearts – and their wallets.
It took every bit of those five months (with a sprinkling of freelance journalism thrown in too) until I was finally ready to launch on 1 November.
The first pledges came in before I’d even woken up on launch day and after 24 hours over £1,000 had been pledged – from a mixture of friends, family and a few strangers.
That’s a great success, but let me tell you, the minutes between each pledge feel like hours as the fate of this campaign – and Lelo’s life – lie in the hands of others: the crowd!
There are now just 5 days left to get involved and I’ve got around £4,000 still to raise. Am I nervous? Absolutely! Optimistic? Absolutely!
The one thing crowdfunding teaches us is that when we all come together, amazing things happen. We can be the change we wish to see. We can change the world.
But, we all have to take responsibility. It’s no use thinking ‘the rest of their crowd’ will do their bit, just as it’s no good thinking the banks will bring our ideas to life. We have to get out there, share our vision with the world and make it happen. We all have a part to play in that.
Georgina-Kate’s crowdfunding campaign is now active on Crowdfunder.co.uk. Click here to watch her video or to make a pledge towards her goal.
For ways of better understanding the needs of your friends, family or wider community and how you can implement ways of helping them, see Looby Macnamara's People & Permaculture.
For more crowdfunding inspiration, or if you have a project you'd like to get off the ground, have a look at our recent crowdfunding articles on permaculture.co.uk: How to Crowdfund Your Permaculture Project; How I Crowdfunded my Permaculture Project and Crowdfunding to Raise Money for Permaculture Projects