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Could Affiliate Crowdfunding Be an Alternate Model for Online Advertising?

posted Nov 8, 2013, 11:25 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Nov 8, 2013, 11:26 AM ]
The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter recently introduced ‘Curated Pages,’ a way for arts and cultural institutions to feature projects they like on the site. I’m currently test driving Kickstarter myself for a Future of Facebook Project, and think this ability to showcase other projects I find worthy or exciting as a great feature.

It made me think it would be valuable to be able to highlight projects that resonate with me on my own website. And perhaps receive a small percentage for every transaction that occurred via my site.

Affiliate programs of all stripes exist around the web – I see them a lot for ebooks (zenhabits offers 50% commission to sell his digital products), and then there’s the Amazon Associates program, which lets you earn up to 15% in referrals if you advertise their products.

But here’s an idea I haven’t seen yet – affiliate crowdfunding.

What if you could support the fundraising efforts for creative projects and initiatives for social good by posting a widget to your site, and earn a small percentage when a donation was made?

Of course, most crowdfunding platforms currently charge between 8 – 10% to use their service already. Kickstarter, for example, charges a 5% fee, plus it passes on the transaction fees charges by Amazon Payments, their payment service of choice. So tacking on an affiliate fee onto that structure may not make sense for the individual or group trying to raise funds. On the other hand, some would argue that every little bit helps.

What would be interesting is a platform that doesn’t automatically charge that 5% flat fee, combined with a transaction platform that doesn’t gouge you for another 3-5%.

I took a look around, and there actually are a few examples of crowdfunding platforms that take no fees. One is, an open source challenge based fundraising platform created in PHP/MySQL by a nonprofit, the Sarapis Foundation. They charge no fees for transactions, and the tool works with Paypal. Another service that takes no fees is Kapipal.

I wonder if a service like could be modified to allow a user to enter in a % they would take for promoting a crowdfunding campaign on their site. To keep things from getting exploitative, that % would have to be transparent to the public, and would be based on an agreement made by the fundraisers and the affiliate. Then combine that with a payment service, either online or mobile, that charges a very small fee for transactions.

I can think of a lot of projects I would love to see get off the ground – from open source projects to sustainability initiatives to social enterprise and business ideas – all things I believe in. This would be a mechanism that would help get those things funded, while also supporting an affiliate’s effort to promote them. On a larger scale, it could lead to accelerated social innovation to see this kind of thing appear on huge sites with massive traffic.

Perhaps it would create a category of advertising that directs people’s attention (and microdonations!) in a socially useful way, verse just encouraging people to consume more stuff. :)

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