Buzzwords and catchphrases evolve when there is some cool opportunity for success. People get excited, and sometimes we realize that “easy” success actually only works in very specific circumstances. One of today’s buzzwords is crowdfunding.
First, some definitions. This isn’t crowdsourcing, which is another popular buzzword. Crowdsourcing is creating something by dispersing the task of creating it to many people. It’s possible to crowdsource writing a book, for example. However, when people fund the work of a single editor who turns that crowdsourced content into a coherent narrative, that is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is not the same thing as fundraising for ongoing operating support. Building a base of small donors and trying to get large amounts of money is an important, ongoing operational goal, but that’s just fundraising. There may be some new tools to do it, but it is as old as the nonprofit sector itself.