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  • Crowdtilt lets groups collect money from their social networks
  • Crowdtilt lets groups collect money from their social networks
    Crowdtilt (2012) ©
CASE STUDY

Crowdtilt: helping groups fund anything

Organising a group activity can be awkward, especially when there's money involved. Crowdtilt aims to change this by letting groups collect money from their social networks.

Location Global

Scope
Organising a group activity is stressful, especially when there's money involved. Crowdtilt aims to change this by letting groups collect money from their social networks, hoping to use technology to make people's personal lives less awkward.

Splitting bills at restaurants, chasing late-payers for event tickets, keeping track of who's paid and who hasn't – the hassle of planning and organising often turns what's meant to be camaraderie into chaos. Crowdtilt wants to change this with a platform that lets friends and family easily 'group fund anything'. From 'outfitting the local baseball team' to 'renting Alcatraz for a Halloween party', the site takes crowdfunding to a personal level and makes it easier for groups to spend in unison.

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A typical Crowdtilt campaign will ask for just a few hundred dollars to support a personal cause, idea or project

In 2009, James Beshara launched Dvelo, a platform for funding charity projects. But when his friends hijacked Dvelo to raise money for a party, it soon became clear to Beshara that the real demand was closer to home. So, stripping the platform of its cause, Dvelo re-launched the platform as Crowdtilt in February 2012, with a focus on letting Americans raise funds for almost anything by tapping into their social networks. Within six weeks, the site had channelled $1 million in funds. [1]

A typical Crowdtilt campaign will ask for just a few hundred dollars to support a personal cause, idea or project, such as 'supporting a junior sports team' or 'hiring a venue for a school reunion'. Projects vary from the fun (one group rented out Alcatraz for a Halloween party) to the heartfelt (some families use it to fundraise for medical treatment).

Organisers are encouraged to solicit funds through their personal or professional networks – usually Facebook – and the majority of campaigns are hidden from public view. Anyone can fund a project, but only those with a US bank account can start one. Before funds are released, each project requires a specified 'tilt' amount – much like Kickstarter – and for this service Crowdtilt takes a 2.5% cut.

Context
Unlike Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, Crowdtilt isn't aimed at creatives, charities, or anything particularly 'world changing'; it's aimed at friends, family and local communities – an area Beshara believes to be a 'massively under-served middle-market' for group payments. [1]

By operating in these intimate domains, and allowing projects to be shared across social media, Crowdtilt relies on peer pressure to ensure those who commit will pay up. After donating, your picture and name are displayed alongside the project – although specific amounts are hidden. This means friends who’ve said 'yes' in person but didn't commit online are easily called out, and those who commit online agree to their money automatically being released should the campaign 'tilt'. This, Beshara claims, guarantees higher repayment rates, as social collateral can often be more valuable than ordinary collateral. It also fosters a 'bandwagon effect', whereby donors pledge because everyone else is – an effect that research shows is only made stronger by the limited time-frame. As a result, Crowdtilt's project success rate is 91% – more than double Kickstarter's 44%. [2]

Other start-ups are keen to innovate in this area, facilitating payments between friends and families. PayDivvy, Splitwise and Billr all help people divide and keep track of their bills, ensuring friends cough up by administering virtual IOUs. "It's awkward to talk to your friends about money, and it's awkward to collect it," observes Jon Bittner, the founder of Splitwise. [3] However, these passive aggressive start-ups may only alienate or further complicate matters, as focusing on the minute details of splitting bills can cause ill-feeling; a Brooklyn-based lawyer recounted in The New York Times how a friend's birthday party “ended with a girl calculating how many glasses of wine each person had had, dividing the cost of the bottle by glass and calculating how much each person owed.” [4] Barclays' Pingit, a stripped back tool that lets friends and family borrow small amounts from each other with their mobile phones, stays out of the politics and has already had over a million downloads. [5] Its most common use is ‘splitting a petrol bill’, followed by ‘paying for a team night out’, and ‘splitting the cost of birthday presents’ – all group-related activities. [6]

Barclays' Pingit has had over a million downloads
Barclays (2012) ©

Crowdtilt takes group spending a step further than dividing bills, and opens up communities to new possibilities. In a recent campaign, $37,000 was raised to rent the island of Alcatraz for a Halloween party. Instead of fronting the money himself, the organiser shared the idea on Facebook, convincing 300 people to chip in instead. As the money is released only when the target is hit, either everyone parties (and pays), or no-one does. When a couple recently hosted their bridal registry on Crowdtilt they asked for people to put money towards a barbecue instead of each buying separate gifts. “We would’ve gotten Matthew some bogus wedding gifts individually, but we were able to use Crowdtilt to get him a brand new smoker. It rocked!” commented one guest.

Some see it disheartening that a platform intended to serve charity is instead being used for Halloween parties and 'new smokers'. Crowdtilt helps communities throw their weight around more efficiently – and realises that this is as important in the US as it is in developing countries. In a post-Kony 2012 world, ambitious cause-related ventures are operating with a little more caution.

Recently, Crowdtilt became the official fundraising platform for Reddit, 'birthplace of the meme' and arguably one of the most cohesive digital communities in the world. Arming them with a collective wallet will formalise their ability to act in unison and give them (and other looser-connected digital communities) more clout. While the community's current preoccupation appears to be NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), with a billion page views every month, the community has already achieved remarkable feats: operating the largest Secret Santa programme in the world with 39,000 people exchanging over $1 million dollars worth of gifts, or helping to raise $720,000 for a 68-year-old American bus monitor. The money helped Karen Klein get back on her feet after a video surfaced on the internet of her being mercilessly bullied by school kids, and she now plans to retire, devoting her time to helping people affected by bullying or suicide. [7][8] 'Meme-commerce', here we come.

Everybody is super-connected online, but people really want to do things offline

James Beshara, Co-Founder of Crowdtilt (2012)

Insights and opportunities
In Brazil, crowdfunding is used to persuade wannabe models to take their clothes off.  Community-oriented commerce – for good or ill – reflects the goals of its participants. In this raw expression of demand, the weird and wonderful can flourish alongside the simple and the meaningful – and the message seems to be that communities are increasingly empowered to get what they want. Crowdtilt is innately tied to Facebook. In this 'public marketplace', people are more likely to display 'pro-social' spending (spending that makes them look good), which should see social media, causes, and commerce becoming increasingly intertwined. Fundraising platform JustGiving estimates that by 2015, 50% of all their donations will come from Facebook. [9]

Technology is often most useful when it is focused on enhancing the personal, intimate and local domains of life rather than the global. Despite social networks being global, people are more likely to interact with people online if they already know them offline. [10] Finding ways to facilitate or tap into this latent desire for groups to express themselves collectively will only resonate more as we become more connected. Beshara observes: “Everybody is super-connected online, but people really want to do things offline.” [11]

In the wake of eroding trust between the financial industry and consumers, creating usable and accessible technologies for consumers may be the answer. Barclays’ Darren Foulds recently commented in Marketing Week that while only 16% of consumers trust banks, 46% said they would bank with Apple. On their app Pingit, up to one fifth of the users are from a different bank, giving a neutral leadership stance a credible vantage point. [5]

Key statistics
- Within six weeks of its launch, Crowdtilt had channelled $1 million in funds [1]
- Crowdtilt's project success rate is 91% – more than double Kickstarter's 44% [2]
- Barclays' Pingit already has over a million downloads [5]
- While only 16% of consumers trust banks, 46% said they would bank with Apple [5]
- Up to one fifth of Barclays' Pingit users are from a different bank [5]
- Social platform Reddit has raised $720,000 for a bullied 68-year-old American bus monitor [8]
- JustGiving estimates that by 2015, 50% of all their donations will come from Facebook [9]

Related on Canvas8
'Demand and supply: how communities reshape the market' (October 2012)
'Holvi: community banking' (March 2012)
'Reddit Secret Santa' (December 2011)
'Jonathan's Card' (August 2011)
'Obopay' (December 2009)

Related TABS
Alternative Currency - Traditional economic systems are being subverted; reputation counts more than cash.
Collaborative Living - Niche groups are creating disruptive, open-source innovations and redefining community.
Social Participation - The shift from a 'me' to a 'we' culture.

Sources
1. 'This Startup Is Going To Change The Way You Plan Events With Your Friends Forever', Business Insider (August 2012)
2. 'Peer Pressure: What Microloans And Your Next Group Purchase Might Have In Common', Fast Company (August 2012)
3. 'The virtual debt collector', MSN Money (October 2012)
4. 'You Do the Math', The New York Times (May 2007)
5. 'Pingit now Barclays' 'best' digital acquisition tool', Marketing Week (September 2012)
6. 'Barclays Pingit Research: 100 days of a new way to pay', Barclays (2012)
7. 'Help NORML Smoke the Vote in 2012', Crowdtilt (2012)
8. 'Karen Klein, Bullied New York School Bus Monitor, Retiring: 'Time To Move On'', The Huffington Post (July 2012)
9. 'How social and mobile are transforming fundraising', CFG (October 2012)
10. 'Rethinking Information Diversity in Networks', Facebook (January 2012)
11. 'A website to crowdfund your wedding (or party bus)', Chicago Tribune (August 2012)

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