“A couple of years ago, Karen Klein, a 68-year-old bus monitor, made headlines when a video surfaced of four adolescent schoolboys bullying her during a ride. But that viral clip wasn’t just pure awfulness. After seeing the video, Canadian do-gooder Max Sidorov started a campaign on crowdfunding site Indiegogo with hopes of sending Klein on vacation. He set a goal of $5000, but the link was passed around until more than 32,000 people from 84 countries backed the project. The final amount raised: $703,168.
Now, Indiegogo will enable more of these charitable crowdsourced fundraisers. Today, it’s launching Indiegogo Life, a standalone service that lets people raise money for emergencies, medical expenses, celebrations and other important life events. ”We saw how many people started using the platform to raise money for themselves, a loved one, or even a stranger they wanted to help,’ Danae Ringelmann, Chief Development Officer of Indiegogo, tells WIRED. ‘Indiegogo Life is a response to their needs.’
Indiegogo has always allowed charity drives in the past, but Indiegogo Life stands apart because it’s purely dedicated to cause-based fundraising, and it’s also completely devoid of service transaction fees. So why bother? By making it easier to find charitable causes and ensuring that more money goes to the fundraisers, Indiegogo seems to be trying to ignite growth in a core area where Kickstarter doesn’t tread. In doing so, the move could eventually raise Indiegogo’s profile and expand its user base.
The problem of catching up to Kickstarter has persisted for Indiegogo. Though the latter was founded a year earlier, in 2008, Kickstarter has hosted 1.3 times as many completed projects. Indeed, Kickstarter has hosted more of the higher-profile crowdfunding hits we’ve seen in recent years, including the Pebble smartwatch, the Veronica Mars movie and The Coolest, a souped up cooler with a built-in blender, speakers and a USB charger.
Meanwhile, Indiegogo does have differentiating strengths, some more subtle than others. While Kickstarter refunds money to backers when a project fails to meet its goal, Indiegogo offers partial funding to projects. But the biggest contrast might be in the kinds of campaigns you find one each platform: Kickstarter bans charitable causes. But for Indiegogo, they’re huge: According to Ringelmann, since Indiegogo launched, its personal cause category has seen triple-digit growth.
It makes sense then that Indiegogo is giving this category even higher visibility. Especially since Kickstarter loosened its rules for launching projects on its site a few months ago. The new requirements are simpler, remove bans on certain campaigns and, just like Indiegogo, give creators the option to launch campaigns instantly, without approval from the website’s gatekeepers. If Indiegogo can take ownership of the humanitarian crowdfunding space with Indiegogo Life, it could start to close the gap with Kickstarter.
Of course, the issues that plague crowdfunding sites in general also impact Indiegogo Life. It may enable fraudulent campaigns, as one popular Kickstarter project for Kobe Red beef jerky nearly did. Ringelmann was light on the details of how the platform vets submissions, saying the process was the same as any regular Indiegogo campaign: ‘There are algorithms, protocols and systems on the backend that can tag posts that are suspicious,’ she says. But Indiegogo’s terms of service indicate (as do Kickstarter’s) that the platform ultimately relies on its own users to report questionable campaigns. ‘As a Contributor, you are solely responsible for asking questions and investigating Campaign Owners and Campaigns to the extent you feel is necessary before you make a Contribution,’ its website reads.
That murky standard makes Indiegogo a target for spoofs. Back in 2012, as Karen Klein’s campaign closed in on $200,000, another Indiegogo user posted a campaign for the project’s creator, called ‘Love for Max Sidorov too,’ which was promptly promoted on Klein’s page—a move many found distasteful. Is there any line demarcating what constitutes a ‘personal cause’?
Maybe it doesn’t matter: Users can decide whether they want to buy someone lunch, or help someone make potato salad.”