Sometimes, we're short on dough. Hey, there's no shame, it happens to the best of us -- especially if you happen to be a "non-essential" government employee at the moment. And though some might be a little shy to reach out to family and friends to throw us a bone in person, asking for help can be much easier online.
Enter crowdfunding or crowd-sourcing websites. You might be familiar with existing ones like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, but the latest venture to hit the World Wide Web is based here in South Florida -- and it's far less restrictive than most of the better-known sites out there.
Meet ifundi (pronounced i-fund-e). ifundi was created with the average person in mind, says founder/CEO Mark Wenzowski; you can create a fundraiser to raise funds for a new iPad for school, for your favorite charity, and even to help raise money for expensive surgery. Unlike Kickstarter, which primarily raises funds for business launches and artists' projects, there are no limits here.
Wenzowski explained how ifundi works: When a campaign is created, "there are no time limits... it will remain live until the campaign creator decides to deactivate it." We repeat: no time limits. Another fundraising perk that ifundi offers is allowing creators to withdraw funds at any time during the campaign and reactivate said campaign if needed.
The main motivation behind launching ifundi for Wenzowski was simple: "I wanted to create an easier way for people to reach out to friends and family for financial support." Therefore, ifundi's services are "centralized around personal driven causes," adds Wenzowski.
Like its predecessors, ifundi pages are free to set up. But the site does deduct a 5% fee in order to keep its services up and running. "Iif no donations are made, then nothing is collected; no one will ever be billed or owe us money," Wenzowski says.
Since ifundi provides a platform for users to start a campaign for any need, what about fraud? Wenzowski says that users are required to sign up via their Facebook page (noting that they are the only crowd-funding website with such requirement), therefore, users are "establishing credibility and trust with potential donors." In other words, if you make up some fake heart-wrenching story in order to get money, your friends and family on Facebook will know and call your bluff. And if you create a completely fake Facebook account, he says, you won't have any real friends to share your cause with.
Furthermore, Wenzowski adds that donors "making a contribution to a cause or individual that they do not know personally is completely at their discretion, and most anonymous donations are made to campaigns with a lot of activity."
Wenzowski went on to explain in full detail (just how we like it) about other aspects of the funding website, so it's best to let him do the talking.
How is ifundi different from other crowd-sourced websites, like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter?
Mark Wenzowski: There are a few significant ways that we differ from these organizations. Kickstarter and IndiGoGo are two great companies that have pioneered the crowdsourcing industry, but they focus primarily on equity and reward based crowd funding campaigns for inventions, business ideas, or creative projects. Our focus is simply helping people raise funds for the everyday things that matter most to them. Think of us as Kickstarter with a heart. We are a straightforward donation-based crowdfunding platform in which a contribution is made to a cause, and the donor doesn't receive anything in exchange other than good karma and a sense of knowing that they helped a person in need. ifundi isn't about getting something in return, it's about giving back.
Another main difference between our platforms is that there are no "all-or- nothing" campaigns on ifundi. An all-or-nothing campaign requires the goal amount to be met within a specific amount of time; otherwise no funds are exchanged between parties. While this is useful in some cases, we help people raise money for accidents and emergencies, birthday parties, tuition costs, weddings, etc. These are the types of campaigns where every donation helps, and goes towards the cause regardless of hitting a specific goal amount.
What do you think ifundi brings to the table/adds to current options for crowd funding?
We wanted to stick to the very basic goal of keeping things simple and straightforward for our users and I believe that we've accomplished this by offering one of the easiest fundraising services to use. ifundi provides a point-and-click, user-friendly platform that gives you the ability to set up an ifundi page and begin raising money in less than three minutes. We focus on everyday funding for everyday things, and that's what sets us apart from other similar crowd sourcing services.
When you say that ifundi helps raise funds for "any personal cause, project, charity, event, passion, or idea," is there anything that doesn't qualify?
Any type of campaign can be created on ifundi.com for any type of cause -- there are no limitations. We have people raising money for school trips, pets, new community buildings, a kidney transplant, etc. We also have over a million charities in our database. Unlike personal ifundi campaigns, donations that are collected for charities go directly to the non-profit and are not handled by any individuals, assuring you and your supporters that the funds being raised are being delivered directly into the hands of your favorite charitable organization.
What sort of memorable/rewarding campaigns has ifundi raised funds for so far?
Being that the site has only been in a production environment for a short period of time, ifundi has only had a few significant campaigns that have been created. A local campaign to spotlight has been the story behind Hubert Allred's kidney transplant campaign that was created this past August. Hubert is using ifundi to share his story with his family, friends, and loved ones via Facebook and other social channels.
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Are you afraid that focusing on local rather than national projects will limit the funding ability of your users?
ifundi is not solely focused on the South Florida market, but we want to be able to establish a presence in our own backyard. We're proud to be a South Florida based company and we are currently strategizing a national rollout and plan to compete with the better-known platforms in the space.