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Crowdfunding Triple Bottom Line Ventures

Words by 3p Contributor
Leadership & Transparency

By Jeff and Liz Helfrich

By now, you’ve probably heard about crowdfunding and some of its more wild successes such as the Veronica Mars Movie (which has raised $4.1 million and counting), The Pebble ($10.2 million), or the OUYA Video Game Console ($8.5 million).  It is clear from these and many others that certain types of projects including games, tech gizmos (especially iPod accessories), and movies can do amazingly well on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms.  We believe some of the success in these groups stems from the fact that there are already large communities familiar with crowdfunding that get behind these particular types of projects.  Our question is: How do we build equally fervent communities supporting triple bottom line ventures?

There have been a number of notable successes for sustainable ventures on various crowdfunding platforms.  Excellent examples include the NanoLight (since renamed the NanoLeaf) ($273,000), the Home Aquaponics Kit by Back to the Roots ($248,000), and most recently the Beez Kneez Bee House ($36,000 and counting).  So sustainable ventures can and do succeed on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter.  However, as a couple running a Kickstarter campaign to launch a sustainable venture, we have found that many people interested in sustainable ventures don’t know about crowdfunding the way gamers, movie fans, and early tech adopters do.  Basically, as a sustainable project on Kickstarter, you often have to educate your base of potential backers about both your project and crowdfunding.  So how do we change this dynamic?

One approach is to build separate crowdfunding platforms for sustainable ventures.  Some examples of this already exist, including Green Unite and Start Some Good.  These platforms definitely had some appeal as potential crowdfunding venues for our triple bottom line venture because their audiences should be receptive to a project like ours.  However, the question for us was, “Do they have a big enough community to fully fund our project?”  The most successful project on Start Some Good, the Do Good Bus, raised just over $100,000 from 680 backers.  As we need to raise $75,000 for our project, and anticipate that means gaining support from more than 3,000 backers, we would have to be one of the most successful projects in the history of these platforms to succeed. Would it be easier to succeed with a very large pool of users who needed to be educated about sustainability, or a small pool of users already committed to green projects?   In the end, because we knew we needed such a large number of backers we decided that going with the largest pool of users was the best bet.  So we settled on Kickstarter.

So if many sustainable entrepreneurs decide they want to go on the “mainstream” crowdfunding platforms, the question remains:  how to we unite the triple bottom line community and get the word out about worthy projects?  GOOD may be showing us the way on this.  They have begun publishing “Push for Good,” a weekly guide to crowdfunding creative progress.  Every Saturday morning they highlight projects from Kickstarter and Indiegogo that do well by doing good.  They also run a GOOD curated Kickstarter page to highlight projects worth funding.  If other triple bottom line focused blogs and magazines do the same perhaps we can unite our community this way.  Gadget blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo certainly have enough sway to make sure that projects they favor get funded and they aren’t shy about promoting them.  Why not Triple Pundit, Treehugger, Inhabitat, and numerous other bloggers who support triple bottom line ventures?  If we all work together to spread the word about worthy ventures, we can makes sure more of them get funded.  There is nothing wrong with that bottom line.

Jeff and Liz Helfrich are the developers of the Solecan an eco-friendly trash/recycle bin.  Their project is currently funding on Kickstarter.  They need your support by Earth Day (April 22, 2013) to succeed.