Monthly Archives: April 2014

Crowdfunding the Manenberg House: the Good and the Not-So-Good

Various friends have emailed me in regards to our recent crowdfunding campaign that finished on Monday, having raised GBP25, 493 (or, 102% of the total we’d originally budgeted/hoped for).The first thing to say is a ma-hoo-sive thank you to each of the 229 individuals who gave anywhere between GBP2 and GBP3,000. You’re all amazing!

So here it is – my experience of crowdfunding – the good, and the not-so-good:

THE GOOD:
Making the video and creating the campaign
It was a huge help having such a dynamic and generous team crafting the video. Bolly – animator extraordinaire, Jake – musical dream weaver, Nick – catalytic visionary, Sarah – untapped TV talent, and me – script fudger. Just thinking through the concept (did we want jaunty and lighthearted, or heavy and morose?), writing the script (Bolly: “length definitely matters”), researching existing campaigns online (spying out the competition), creating imaginative financial perks (emailing an Oxford professor back and forth, sourcing reasonable quotes for photos, etc), and then writing the indiegogo blurb explaining who we are and what the bigger Fusion picture is – it took a lot of time and thought. Whilst I loved all of it, just getting the campaign to go live probably took four times more time and effort than I’d imagined. It paid off in more ways than one – Bolly has now received so much interest for animation that he’s gone freelance, has set up his own business with Jake working alongside him. The fact is, time and expertise were given for free – if they’d charged me, it would have been in the region of R35-40,000. I love that when you give away what you yourself have received, and partner with God’s ideas you get splashed with unexpected blessing!

The givers
The initial flurry of donations, the unprecedented messages of support (and less helpful messages telling us in no uncertain terms we’re crazy, and asking if we’ve thought about the most obvious things), the thrill of watching the green line go up and up. Yet, probably the best part of this was receiving an email every time someone gave – and knowing the identity of even the anonymous givers, some of whom I haven’t been in contact with, let alone seen, in 10 years! I actually broke down crying one evening as I reflected on the generosity of the human spirit, consciously or unconsciously, when galvanized by a God-vision.

The emerging international ‘community’
Emails from well-wishers I’ve never met, from Cape Town to the USA, to Germany to Colombia. Google analytics tells us the campaign was viewed in over 100 countries – more than half the countries on earth!

The media coverage
Big thanks to each website that featured us (that we know about!)

we-are-awesome.com,
2oceansvibe.com,
kfm.co.za,
10and5.com,
bitchesmustknow.co.za,
Highveld.co.za,
24-7prayer.com.

Along with a couple of local newspapers and even interest from a local TV station (which we turned down in the end), it’s fair to say we were stoked with the amount of positive buzz created through social media.

Creative generosity
One of the prayers we prayed right as we launched the campaign was that it would inspire creativity as a response. We weren’t disappointed! One friend shared his idea to do a series of sponsored challenges to raise money. Another, a teacher, mentioned getting their pupils to find fun ways of donating. A local individual got in touch to ask if we would like parts of a kitchen they were renovating. Another offered burglar bars they weren’t using (they sent an email the day after I’d realized we’d forgotten to get a quote for burglar bars..!). Someone else has been in touch offering to fit a kitchen for us. A local plumber, Peter Heath, of Premier Plumbing (www.premierplumbing.co.za) is giving us a fantastic deal, and another friend, Callen Jefferson, went so far as to get the family business involved in creative generosity – to all at Cape Plumbing and Bathrooms (www.cpandb.co.za), for the donation of plumbing and bathroom supplies: THANK YOU!

THE-NOT-SO-GOOD

The limitations of a campaign pitch
Whilst I was so pleased with the production values and finished product of the campaign video, the personal specificity of the narrative did somewhat detract from the bigger Fusion Manenberg picture. That is to say, zooming in on one thing –renovating the house Sarah and I had bought – inevitably meant neglecting to tell the shared group narrative. This meant difficult conversations needed to be had as a community, and offense felt towards each other needed to be exposed and dealt with. In actual fact, it has ended up strengthening friendship and sharpening vision – it just didn’t feel good at the time..!

The Effect of money
A vulnerable one, this. Basically, I hadn’t realized the allure of money quite as much as I now do. I found this out by virtue of the fact the first thing I’d do in the morning, whilst lying in bed, was check how much the total had risen during the night. I began to see that this was an inherently unhealthy way of starting each day – either I had a good day defined by lots of money coming in, or I had a bad day because very little had come in – either way, my days became defined by money, and I could hear the insidious lies linking my personal worth to financial ‘success’ or ‘failure’. If you decide to crowd-fund something, know this – the endorsement (or otherwise) of others does not define your project nor your personal value.

Misrepresentation through media
This was the most emotionally exhausting factor of the whole campaign. Long story short, we were completely misrepresented by a newspaper that wrote a sensationalist article on us. It said that we were basically going to flood a quiet corner of Manenberg with hard-core gangsters and addicts. The local community then read the article. We received intimidating emails, an anonymous letter was put up in the local mosque, circulating a rumour that the house was going to become a drug den and even that Sarah and I were working for a notorious gang leader. It would have been laughable if only people hadn’t believed it. We ended up meeting with the local imam (and taking the offer to purchase contract in order to quell rumours the gang boss had bought the house), and apologizing profusely to nearby neighbours – all of whom seem to be very supportive and friendly now they know the truth. At the time, this led to anxiety, time off work, and quite a few sleepless nights as we reflected on the poisoned chalice that publicity can be.

So there you have it – my experience of crowdfunding. Hallelujah that the campaign was a ‘success’ in many more ways than one. We move in on Monday, and work will start on the house on Tuesday – funded entirely by the generosity of individuals from all around the world.

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