Need help paying your mortgage? Medical bills piling up? Or maybe you've rescued an injured, stray dog but can't pay to repair its broken leg?
Well, how about asking strangers to fork over cash for the cause? In the Wild West financing world of crowdfunding, anything is possible. More crowdfunding websites are opening up to peer-to-peer fundraising -- allowing people to give directly to other people for any “good' cause. The latest is Razoo, a San Francisco crowdfunding platform that uses data visualization and social media tools to help nonprofits and even entire cities and states raise money.
Run by CEO Lesley Mansford, a competitive Ironman athlete who was diagnosed with leukemia more than 12 years ago, Razoo has been focused on helping nonprofit organizations tap into new donors. Since the company was founded in 2007, Razoo has raised more than $165 million for causes that include breast cancer research, at-risk Bay Area youths, endangered tigers and advancing the education of girls in Africa.
With the addition of peer-to-peer fundraising, now individuals can ask family, friends and complete strangers to give money to a personal project or interest, help cover the bills for some unexpected expense or hardship or even a trip.
According to a news release, people can now use the site to “fundraise to support a family member's emergency medical bills, help pay back your college loans, fund your housing for a summer internship, or even to help pay for a friend's wedding or just a much-needed vacation.'
The cruise to Bermuda you thought you couldn't afford? It's back on.
The company said it won't allow malicious causes and hate speech and suggestions of violence or illegal activity will be kicked off the website. But Razoo said it isn't going to do much moral policing about whether a cause is worthy of crowdfunding. People will only give their hard-earned money to causes they believe in, Razoo said. So if a fundraiser for someone's plastic surgery or their cat's visit to the pet therapist doesn't make money, they'll eventually be replaced by fundraisers that will generate money.
Razoo said its site can now “help to anybody who needs it, regardless of the cause -- because not all needs are tied to a charitable organization.' With people out of work, underwater on their mortgage and still struggling to recover from the recession, peer-to-peer giving can help people more quickly recover from the economic downturn. And, Razoo said, people who get money from strangers will want to return the favor one day -- that's the idea, anyway.
“Giving makes you feel good, especially when you can see benefits to real people,' Mansford said.
Peer-to-peer crowdfunding has been ripe for controversy before. Crowdfunding site Indiegogo made headlines when a couple used the site to raise thousands of dollars for fertility treatments. The procedure was successful, and they recently had the first crowdfunded baby. Another Indiegogo campaign raised $3,000 to buy business suits for Occupy Wall Street protesters “as a form of tactical camouflage.'
Critics say this type of fundraising for personal luxuries detracts from its original mission of crowdfunding. The concept began with giving small enterprises that were shut off from business loans following the economic downturn a way to raise capital through social media and Web platforms. First-time entrepreneurs who would otherwise not have access to the early-stage investments or large venture capital firms would now have access to smaller investments from people they did not previously know and were not likely to meet.
Razoo publicly launched its peer-to-peer platform Tuesday, but it had been in test mode in previous months. One couple raised money for help with an emergency move to a new house, and one mother has started a fundraiser for her son with muscular dystrophy.
For donations made to individual fundraisers, Razoo keeps 7.9 percent plus a flat rate of 30 cents per donation.