There is a deep hunger in many people to make the world a better place. The trouble, for those same many people, is how to put their skills and talents in service to those visions. For Launcht co-founder Spencer Taylor, his work provides him with the rare working marriage of save-the-world idealism and social entrepreneur energy.
Taylor was drawn to Launcht at its inception because of the overall mission to, as he put it in a recent interview “democratize capital, particularly regarding non-profits and higher education.” Having some experience in the non-profit world, Taylor was well acquainted with the continuing struggles such organizations have maintaining adequate levels of funding. While certainly many non-profits are doing amazing work in all corners of the world, the non-profit funding model is almost inherently unsustainable with many organizations devoting more and more of their time to fundraising and less and less to the mission at the core of the organization.
“Crowdfunding technology breaks open the nonprofit and allows them to illustrate value in all of their projects and initiatives allowing supporters to contribute financial and engendering more agency on the part of the contributor,” Taylor explained. Through crowdfunding platforms, an organization can make more direct connections to donors over specific needs or projects. The basic structure, said Taylor, is “We (the organization) need this much money, in this amount of time, for this specific project. Where nonprofits have had to cater their projects to what initiatives they could get funding for, now the money can be raised for the initiative itself in a very granular way.” From the donor standpoint, people feel more connected to the outcomes their money is helping to create. There by receiving a greater emotional payback which in turn increases donor retention.
Along with non-profits, higher-education institutions are one of Launcht’s major client bases. What makes crowdfunding a good match for higher education is the system’s ability to give potential donors more and smaller choices of exactly what and how they give back to their school. While few recent graduates of any school are in a position to—or particularly interested in—donate a large sum of money to the school’s endowment, it’s a different matter if the outing club appeals directly for minor donations to buy snowshoes, or if a tech innovation club needs to get to a competition. Regardless of the specifics, the crow source model connects supporter interest to project need through smaller gifts and a more personal, active approach.
For institutions and organizations with multiple projects going at once, Launcht’s basic set up is to create an online marketplace where donors can browse through the different options. It becomes a great way to appeal to lower level donors, and having more and interesting ways to give to an organization allows for the donors to have a closer relationship with the projects and campaigns, and hence the organization.
So what makes Launcht special? “Launcht helps to facilitate the adoption of crowdfunding technologies by putting crowdfunding systems in reach for smaller institutions and organizations,” said Taylor. Building a crowdfunding platform from scratch runs about $20,000, whereas Launcht can have a client up and running for hundreds of dollars in a matter of weeks. “It’s really powerful, personally, to be able to help drive money to cool things. We’ve got clients raising money for everything from indie music, to daycare facilities, to schools in Africa, all over the place. Especially considering that in 2011, all this was just an idea in our heads of what was needed and might be possible, it’s all enormously satisfying to see the impact of Launcht as an on the ground reality,” said Taylor.
Moving forwards in 2014, Taylor is excited to see Launcht continue to grow, and to work with their clients to do the same. “I’m particularly looking forward to working with more nonprofits and universities. Crowdfunding is a powerful tool that is just starting to be realized in those sectors and it’s a great way to further the work those schools and organizations do in the world,” he said.