Stand with Palau: Crowdfunding for Change

Crowdfunding and scuba diving. Not exactly what comes to mind when you think of things that complement each other, but the island nation of Palau just scored major brownie points when it comes to thinking outside the box. Never heard of Palau? It’s okay, neither have the majority of people. Wnat’s important is that Palau has some of the most beautiful marine and coral reef ecosystems in the world. I happen to know this because I’ve been there- this past summer, I spent three weeks conducting coral reef research as a scientific scuba diver in Micronesia.

My research partner and I running transects along the ocean floor

Among the many breathtaking sights I witnessed were a multitude of sharks (Gray Tip, White Tip, and Barracudas), wrasses, parrotfish, eagle rays, and sea turtles. That’s not to mention the coral, which was stunning in itself.

A school of squirrelfish swimming by

Saying hello to a passing sea turtle

Nevertheless,if I were to highlight one must-see natural wonder in this small island nation, it would be Jellyfish Lake. An ordinary lake at first sight, your opinion quickly changes as soon as you submerge your masked-and-snorkled face into the water. Surrounding you are millions upon millions of jellyfish- 13 million to be exact. Luckily, these unique jellyfish have evolved over the ages, and have a sting so mild that it cannot be felt.

Pausing to pose with the jellyfish

What does this have to do with crowdfunding? A fair point. As it turns out, the nation of Palau had a stroke of genius and decided to set up a national crowdfunding campaign to turn their territorial waters into a no-take marine protected area. The “Stand with Palau” crowdfunding campaign, which ended on October 13, 2015, successfully raised $118,048 dollars through the support of almost 600 donors, surpassing its original goal of $100,000 dollars. These funds will not only be used to establish the marine protected area, but also to maintain and monitor the sanctuary’s effectiveness. This effectively ensures that the fragile marine worlds that made Palau famous are preserved (and also ensures that Finding Nemo-esque sagas need never be repeated). With an area roughly equivalent to the size of Texas, the marine protected area includes water that are home to over 1,000 species of tropical fish.

A Palauan sunset in all its glory

As a scuba diver, I’ve seen firsthand the difference between marine ecosystems in protected versus non-protected areas- there is a noticeable change in the abundance and diversity of marine life. Moreover, Palau’s decision is not only environmentally savvy- it’s economically savvy. With tourism being a huge contribution to their GDP, Palau is a nation that realizes that the economic value of their natural wonders is maximized when they are healthy and flourishing.

Sea fans- one of the many exquisite wonder to be found in Palauan water

Palau’s crowdfunding campaign is a powerful- and perhaps much needed- reminder of crowdfunding’s ability to spur immense social change. Palau is one small island nation- imagine the scale of impact that could be realized if larger countries followed suit.Yet, big or small, expansive or local- change is change- and positive change is always in order. Whether you are heading a grassroots organization or running a national government, it takes only this story to remember that large scale progress begins with the support of many like-minded individuals. As for me, I would like to say behalf on every scuba conservationist, “Sulang, Belau.” Thank you Palau!

Crowdfunding: Why Millennials Are The Ideal Target Market

When it comes to crowdfunding, “the more the merrier” is the principle characterizing most campaigns. After all, it is relatively simple logic: the greater the amount of people who have viewed your crowdfunding page, the more potential
donors you have, and the greater the likelihood that your page views will translate into actual donations. Fortunately (or unfortunately), there is more science behind the art of crowdfunding than what first meets the eye. Although crowdfunding is a
strategy that was created to cater to the masses, the masses are not all created equal. Inevitably, there are certain market segments that will be more responsive to crowdfunding than others- namely, the Millennial population.

Accounting for roughly one fourth of the U.S population, Millennials (individuals ages 18-35) may be the ideal target market for enterprising crowdfunders. Having grown up with technology, Millennials have been bombarded with branded advertisements of every form since an early age. During that process, they have become quite jaded to the commercialization process, easily writing off cliché large-scale marketing as insincere corporate strategies and artificial business schemes. That’s where the attraction of crowdfunding kicks in. At the end of the day, crowdfunding is a relatively personal process that requires grassroots marketing and peer-to-peer communication (think social media sharing, word of mouth marketing, etc.). For Milllennials, it’s a refreshing change from overdone television commercials asking them to call a 1-800 number and “donate now”. Not to mention that Millennials are constantly connected to the web, and prefer using online channels to make charitable donations.

With that said, how exactly does one go about creating a “millennial-focused” crowdfunding campaign? Research has shown that Millennials are more likely to donate to nonprofit organizations and support corporate altruism than the preceding baby boom generation. In a social media age where the causes that Millennials choose to support are increasingly visible to the public, those decisions are becoming part of how they shape their identity; the question that Millennials are asking themselves is “What does my financial contribution to this cause say about me, my beliefs, and my values?”

When creating a crowdfunding page, consider carefully what you are asking donors to identify with. The most successful Millennial-targeted campaign causes will be framed in a manner that Millennials can easily relate to. In a survey of 2,000 Millennials conducted by Mintel, the social issues that Millennials ranked highest in importance are education (38%), poverty (26%), and pubic safety (21%). Environmental issues and mental health issues followed closely behind in perceived importance at 21% each. Therefore, incorporating aspects of these issues in your crowdfunding campaign could be integral to attracting more donations from a Millennial audience.

It is also important to remember that it is unrealistic to expect large donations when targeting Millennials as campaign donors. According to data from the U.S Census Bureau, Millennial households make up the largest percentage of Americans earning
less than $25k annually, and the smallest percentage of households making over $150k annually. Additionally, Millennials tend to give smaller donations to various organizations rather than contributing a single large sum to one cause or mission.
While this demographic sector may be more willing to donate than previous generations, their individual contributions will likely be limited by their financial capacity. It is their cumulative giving power that makes them an attractive market
for crowdfunding.

Going forward, Millennials will not only carry the crowdfunding movement, but also become a decisive market segment in the workforce as the baby boom generation slowly phases out. As that transition plays out, the question no longer becomes if they will be a good market to consider, but how and to what extent they should be part of your crowdfunding campaign.

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