Recently, we’ve been thinking a lot about crowds. Most sources define the term “crowds” as a large group of people gathered closely together or with something in common. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the term “crowdfunding” as the practice of soliciting financial contributions from a large number of people especially from the online community. That source indicates that the first known use of the term was in 2006.
But, who are the “crowds” in “crowdfunding”? What “online community” will become the “crowd” in crowdfunding?
Over the last two weeks or so, the “ALS ice-bucket challenge” has gone viral. This, of course, has been a great boon to a very worthwhile charity devoted to researching a possible cure for a terrible, often fatal, disease. Even something as simple and benign as the ice-bucket challenge has become misconstrued, however. It had been intended that people would “challenge” others to make a $100 donation to ALS or, if they refuse, to have buckets of ice dumped on them. Of course, in the era of “selfies,” few are able to pass up an opportunity for self-exploitation. Consequently, social media sources are being inundated with video clips of people dumping buckets of ice on themselves. Fortunately, it seems that many of them also are making a contribution to ALS. Is this the same “crowd” that will embrace “crowdfunding”?
Earlier this week various media sources ran articles summarizing the findings of a recent survey sponsored by Bankrate.com, a publisher of personal finance content. The survey, conducted on behalf of Bankrate.com by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, found that 36 percent of Americans surveyed have no retirement savings. Ironically, millennials (most likely the largest group of people dumping ice buckets on their heads and posting selfie videos of that stunt) feel more financially secure than any other age groups, despite being the least likely to have saved any cash for their retirement. Is it any surprise at all that the same people who misconstrued the ice bucket challenge to fulfill their own narcissistic agendas also have deluded themselves regarding their financial security even while they have no actual savings? Is this the “crowd” that will make “crowdfunding” the success that many predict?
The SEC still has not finalized the rules which would enable “true” crowdfunding (except for accredited investors). The conundrum persists as to whether the government has a moral obligation to protect citizens from making bad financial decisions. Based upon the survey published by Bankrate.com, however, this would appear to be of little concern to a large segment of the “crowd.” Naively, perhaps, they seemingly are optimistic and content despite the prospects of having limited resources in their golden years. After all, they can entertain themselves simply by taking videos of themselves drenched in ice water.