Crowdfunding for youth: raising funds for service projects and developing life skills

The increasing number and popularity of crowdfunding websites provides many options for youth in need of financial resources to support community service projects and other social, human, environmental causes.

Is your 4-H club or youth group looking for a fundraising project that does not involve waving handmade signs on the side of a dangerous and busy road to entice drivers to give you $5.00 to wash their car?  Did your last bake sale fail to raise the money you were hoping because so many people are eating healthy food these days? 

Citizenship, leadership and service are key components of the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program, and fundraising activities are often needed to support community-based volunteer projects led by youth.  If your club or group is looking for a new way to raise funds to support a community service project or another social, human, or environmental cause, learning to tap the power of technology and social networking for raising funds might be just the thing you need!

Crowdfunding, defined by Mashable.com, is “the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts by other people or organizations.”   It has become a popular way for individuals, groups, and organizations to raise money in order to fund charity and service projects, and there are many choices of crowdfunding websites to use for fundraising campaigns.  Popular crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow people with an idea to solicit funds from others online in order to support their efforts.  Crowdfunding has been used to fund many different types of projects, such as projects that help artists and filmmakers, animal welfare organizations, and health and environmental causes, just to name a few.  In addition to charitable causes, some young people have even found success using crowdfunding to finance their college education!

Youth led community service projects are an ideal type of project that could successfully use crowdfunding to raise funds.  One of the key components of a successful crowdfunding campaign is having a good story and a good cause and people may feel inclined to provide support to projects led by youth as a way to engage other young people in the betterment of their community.

In addition to raising much needed funds for service projects, youth can also gain valuable knowledge and skills from researching best practices for crowdfunding, and planning and launching the actual crowdfunding campaign.  A successful crowdfunding campaign requires the application of communication skills and technology skills.  Many campaigns include written communications and videos that promote the fundraising project to tell the story of how contributing to the project will benefit others.  For youth new to crowdfunding, two helpful websites are a good place to start learning about and planning a campaign. One, crowdsunite.com, allows users to compare the features of a vast variety of crowdfunding websites. Another, piggybackr.com, is catered to children and youth. An overview of PiggyBackr and a few of the projects that have been funded on the website is presented in a YouTube video featuring Andrea Lo, the CEO of PiggyBackr, and five young people who have used the website to raise funds for various causes.

Through their participation in a crowdfunding campaign to support a community service effort, youth can gain valuable knowledge, skills and competencies that will help them to succeed in many aspects of their lives.   For more information on Michigan 4-H programs, visit Michigan State University Extension.

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