Successful environmental crowdfunding campaigns make their own rule book: 10 projects that took the leap of faith, 5 that used crowd science.
Crowdfunding has established itself as an online money-earning titan for projects that are unlikely to have found funding from the private sector. Uncommon ideas and projects are commonplace. This makes crowdfunding the perfect tool for environmentally friendly campaigns that wouldn’t stand a chance in the mainstream.
For supporters of green ideas, it’s more than just a campaign; it’s a lifestyle. This tenacity and passion provide them with a competitive edge over crowdfunding projects that are not environmentally savvy. Still, many of these campaigns fail, while others flourish: it rarely has to do with the validity of the idea behind the campaign, but how the campaign is marketed to its audience.
When Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, makers of the best selling certified organic and fair trade soaps and personal care products, decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to help with the Malaria crisis in Eastern Ghana in the village of Asum, where they source the palm oil for their products. Dr. Bronner’s is obsessed with fairly traded, certifiable organic source materials and therefore, clear that they must provide more than paychecks to the workers in the area. Traditional pesticides to control the mosquitos is not an option. To really get the campaign moving, they used their own products as an incentive. This helped them to easily achieve their initial goal of $25,000 and eventually, raise the stakes to $45,000, which they successfully did. They made great use of stretch goals (short range increases that create the sensation of a “sprint” for the “gold”), and kept the crowd interested by expanding the scope of the project to include building a maternity ward.
A New Café to Stop Youth Homelessness
STREAT is a non-profit group in Melbourne, Australia who trains homeless and at risk youth on the art of making coffee. The youth worked from kiosks, but popularity led to a need to expand. Working with Six Degrees Architects to build a unique ‘environmental and upcycled’ cafe, STREAT raised $40,000 to build the café, providing jobs, and a future, for homeless youth.
Compass Green: A Mobile Greenhouse Project
Aimed to raise $27,000 to build a mobile greenhouse to travel the country teaching sustainability to new audiences. This wildly successful campaign reached their funding goal through intense outreach to their community. By correctly identifying and marketing their message to people passionate about biointensive agriculture and sustainability, they achieved their goal.
The Waikinalani Farm Project
This campaign successfully gained money for their crowdfunding using a variety of interesting rewards, including a visit to their farm. The campaign’s aim was to raise $1,800 for aquaponics efforts to support the local wildlife, which has been affected by the way things are currently grown and the depletion of land. With the funds, they hoped to build back depleted soils to grow twice as much food, four times as densely, while using 10% of the water of conventional farming.
The Regenerative Leadership Institute
started a crowdfunding campaign to help them find funding to develop their course in permaculture for free digital distribution. Permaculture is a sustainable design science that provides solutions for many of Earth’s most pressing environmental issues. Their success can be traced back to the way they targeted their audience and how the rewards supported the campaign’s message and mission: backers will get a hard copy of the course on DVD with a workbook. Offering a video homestudy course in permaculture just had not been done yet in a way that made it easy for anyone to join the movement. This campaign reached its goal early, proof that if you know what people want, they will show up and help you make it.
Re-Nuble Greening the Planet One Community at a Time
Re-Nuble wanted to change the waste industry by providing people with an organic recycling service offering clean technology to manufacture high quality soil/fertilizer plus renewable energy. However, their message for why they needed funding was never made clear in their video. Re-Nuble showcased a lot of logos on their profile, which also added to the confusion–did they or did they not need money? Their messages seemed to imply that they had a lot of emotional backers, but very few monetary backers. They did not reach their goal of $25,000, but since it was a flex campaign, they did walk away with $3000.
Supposedly about doing something positive for the biosphere, this campaign used scare tactics unsuccessfully. Warning about the validity of environmental journalism, they attempted to raise £29,000 or $39,637.50 to fund a eco-journalism magazine. However, their message was lost in a tirade of facts about the environment. Moreover, the reasoning for why so much money was necessary was never made clear, resulting in a failed campaign with team Blue Green only earning 6% of their initial goal.
Atomic Cooperative Market & Sustainability Center
By the end of their campaign, Atomic Cooperative Market raised only $800 of their $100,000 goal. The failure of the campaign was not in their message, which was to design and launch a sustainable store that would carry local, healthy and whole foods, rather, in the fact that they did not do the necessary amount of outreach. The amount of the goal was reasonable, but a need that large probably required a partnership before the campaign launched. The STREAT Campaign had a similar project with a similar objective and did a much better job of getting their message out by strategically using partnerships.
Meeting Everyone’s Needs/Teaching Others Responsibility
For some time, the M.E.N.T.O.R. Initiative has been running a sustainable garden. The garden feeds those running it and the rest is given away or sold at farmer’s markets. They aimed to do this on a grander scale by raising $1,699.95. A lot of the message is lost in the explanation, which is at least a page long, confusing interested parties. They did not raise the funds.
Self Build Affordable Eco-homes
This is the one I am sure will fail, if for no other reason, the lack of options provided by the campaign for donation levels. From 10£ to 50£? The money is needed to make a video of the building process of a straw bale, super adobe home. The construction is already financed, so why the panic about funding the video? Since it’s a student project, and student’s don’t tend to have a lot of money laying around, the campaign missed gifts by omitting 15£, 20£ and 35£ donation levels.
In Depth Look:
STREAT’s New Sustainable Cafe in Melbourne Central
STREAT is a non-profit group in Melbourne, Australia who trains homeless and at risk youth on the art of making coffee using small kiosks.
Overall goal: To raise $40,000 of the $80,000 needed to build a completely sustainable café/restaurant to train and employ at risk youth.
How much they raised overall: $41,406
What they did to succeed: STREAT partnered with some of the most cutting edge businesses in marketing, architecture, and media to help them gain the exposure necessary to reach their goal. Their social media and regular media campaigns highlighted their project enough to earn more than their $40,000 goal, which was matched dollar for dollar by GPT Group for a total raise of $80,000.
Compass Green: A Mobile Greenhouse Project focused on designing and building a mobile greenhouse to travel the country, teaching sustainability to new audiences.
Overall goal: To raise $27,000 necessary to build the mobile greenhouse.
How much they raised overall: $27,616
What they did to succeed: In order to achieve the success necessary to earn $27,000 the Compass Green campaign established a community outreach program that targeted individuals involved in green initiatives. By correctly marketing their campaign to an audience already interested in biointensive agriculture and sustainability, they completed their campaign with success.