If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday 17 March 2012

Crowdfunder - is it just me?

Following yesterday's post about Glenn Ibbitson's efforts to fund his art film project, I decided to bung the chap a few quid. It was the start of an hour's frustration.

He has decided to use a website called Crowdfunder to raise the finance. You have a creative project of some kind, you make a pitch on the website, and people donate. It's a bit like JustGiving and other fundraising websites, with a couple of differences. With Crowdfunder, if the pitch doesn't make its target, no money is handed over, but is returned to the donors. And the pitcher must offer rewards to donors (Glenn is offering stuff like signed postcards, artwork from the film's storyboards and so on). It all sounds very good, and after a bit of debating with my inner bank manager I decided to put a tenner his way.

What did I expect? Well, if it's anything like JustGiving, you find the home page of the cause you want to support, you fill in your card details, you click a button, job done. So I registered, and clicked the Fund A Pitch button, only to be told that I didn't have enough in my account balance. Huh? Of course my balance is zero - I've just got here. I wondered if perhaps you had to add funds to your account (in effect, pre-load the funds) before you could release them to a worthy cause, but I couldn't find any mechanism on the site to do so.

OK, it said, since you have a zero balance you can pay by Paypal. Ten pound donation, plus Paypal fees of 66 pence, equals ... hang on. I'm not selling something on eBay, I am trying to donate some cash to a project. This can't be right. So off I go in search of enlightenment, and find the FAQ pages, which I study in earnest. Here are some quotes from the FAQs.
How do I contribute to a project?
If you don’t have enough credit on your account then you will be prompted to add some more via your credit card or Paypal.
Reference to 'your account' sounds as if you make frequent withdrawals and deposits. Listen, chaps, I am only here to bung someone a few quid. Don't over-complicate it, OK? Right, credit card it is.
Who can contribute funds?
Anyone who has a valid credit card or Paypal account and is over 18 years old can contribute funds to projects on Crowdfunder. Please note, you do not need a PayPal account to contribute to a pitch. You simply go through the account set up and click on the appropriate credit card or debit card link to pay.
I went to the My Account pages, but I couldn’t find any mention of payment methods. I even tried setting up a new account to see if I had missed something first time around, but the system doesn't allow multiple accounts on one email address. No luck.
Can I pay by cheque or cash?
No, we only accept payment by Paypal.
Hang on, what was all that about credit and debit cards earlier?
If I contribute, what am I charged and when?
PayPal will charge you their usual transaction rate of 3.4% when you add credit to your Crowdfunder account balance.
OK, I get that. But I don't want to use Paypal, and your FAQs state explicitly that I don't have to. Another half-hour of searching the site, and I still couldn't find a way to pay by card. Every avenue ended in the Paypal cul-de-sac. So I gave up.

I still don't know whether you can donate using a debit card. The site is full of these contradictory statements which I can't make sense of, so I have emailed their support team for enlightenment.

I have sold a lot of stuff on eBay, and paid the handsome Paypal charges for doing so. I don't mind this, really. Paypal offer a service and you pay for the service. Don't like it, don't use it. It's not compulsory (except that on eBay you can't refuse payment this way, which is a bit of a sod*). I am used to Paypal charges when you receive money, not from when you pay money, however, but never mind that. What's frustrating is the lack of clarity from Crowdfunder. You don't need a Paypal account, you can use a credit card, but you must pay by Paypal, and pay 3.4% for the privilege.

Well, I say 3.4%, but for a £10 donation they were adding on 66p, which in my arithmentic is 6.6%, but hey, I'm no expert.

If I am working on any project that will ionvolve a lot of people, one of the last things I do is put everything away and then walk through the whole thing as if I had never seen it before. What do I do here? How does this work? Who does this affect? How will they know? If I can't trace a procedure from start to finish I make a note of it, go back and amend it - and then start the whole thing over again. It takes time, and it might seem a little plodding, but my projects tend to work from the start, and don't involve my employers in expensive mistakes or my colleagues in embarrassing situations. I'm old-school like that. Someone needs to do this for Crowdfunder.

Meanwhile, well, Glenn is only half an hour away up in Newcastle Emlyn. I might take up his invitation for a cup of tea and just hand him the cash.

Not what Crowdfunder was hoping for, I imagine.

* When I sold the Pan European for £4000 on eBay, I specified "£200 deposit by Paypal, the balance by cash, cheque, bank transfer etc." The purchaser paid the whole lot by Paypal before I could discuss it with him. I forget how much this cost me, but it was in the hundreds of pounds. I queried it, and was told by eBay that I could not refuse Paypal as payment, whatever I had said in the listing. They have you over a barrel.


  1. Most other people would have given up early in the procedure.

    Rule #1 of selling is:- Make it easy for people to buy.

  2. Yup, spot on. See next post - they are fixing it. Or fixing the FAQs anyway.


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