Debate: Are online crowdfunding platforms the future of charity fundraising?

The proliferation of such sites has led Nesta to predict they will bring £5bn a year into UK charities by 2018

Thomas Muirhead is head of digital and customer relationship management at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research

Thomas MuirheadIt will be very difficult for large policy or research charities involved in long-term projects, such as trying to influence governments or fund basic research, to take advantage of crowdfunding, because it lends itself really well to providing short-term returns for funders. I think that smaller, project-based charities should be able to use crowdfunding well if they can capture what they do, personalise it and therefore provide tangible returns for donors.

Cathy Pharoah is professor of charity funding at Cass Business School


Cathy PharoahIt's hard to predict whether crowdfunding will take off, but it has exciting potential. One issue holding it back is the divide between staff with technical expertise in social media and those with fundraising and communications know-how. The 'techies' often don't know how the market works, while the comms staff often don't see social media's potential. The other problem is how to use crowdfunding well. It's not a substitute for other methods, but is rather more of a campaigning tool, where the goal is specific and needs a quick response.

Alice Casey is senior development manager at Nesta, the UK innovation charity

Alice CaseyCrowdfunding is not new. In the 19th century, more than 100,000 people pledged the funds to build the Statue of Liberty plinth. What is new is that it is now being accelerated through online networks. At Nesta, we are looking at how innovative platforms can make it easier for groups to fund their own projects. Through our programmes, we have seen how it is part of a wider trend of increasing everyday use of online organising tools. But new tools are only part of the picture; hard work and advocacy skills are still needed.

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