‘Crowdfunding favours urgent and tangible needs such as disaster relief, or heart surgery for a specific individual. It is not necessarily effective in mobilizing deep, sustained support, and may even “crowd out” public policy challenges like universal healthcare. But I believe we have yet to realize the full potential of the crowd in what we are doing as crowdfunding platforms.’
Foundations partnering with the crowd?
In the June issue of Alliance, Mari Kuraishi raises the question of whether the initial wave of crowdfunding support directed towards immediate, tangible and compelling issues might crowd out funding for society’s more complex – and often less visible – longer-term challenges. It’s a critical question that groups like GlobalGiving should be applauded for facing head on.
One important key to unlocking this conundrum might be a more concerted focus on leadership. In traditional philanthropy, like that practised at my own Surdna Foundation, staff devote their time and energy to looking at medium- and long-term trends that affect our work. Often we find the most important investment in accelerating positive social change is supporting the kinds of leaders in communities and in great organizations who are devoted to understanding and solving these longer-term problems.
Indeed, it is often said that in America one of our most difficult problems is that our political and business leaders focus only on the short term – quarterly profits, the next election, the current crisis. This short-termism leads us to decision making – on everything from climate change to funding of the arts – that fails to address needs over the long run.
At Surdna, progress towards our mission to foster the development of socially just and sustainable communities demands that we identify and cultivate those visionary leaders and organizations who look beyond the short term. Investments like this move us out of transactional giving towards giving that’s relational and focused on problem solving.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in this for GlobalGiving and other crowdfunding platforms. Spotlighting the critical role of social change leaders could help direct crowdfunding’s remarkable and growing power towards addressing some of society’s most intractable social problems. It’s not sexy work. It’s the kind of work that takes a long time. But in this effort, foundations would love to partner with the crowd.
President, The Surdna Foundation