One of the biggest buzzwords being thrown around in the business world these days is Corporate Social Responsibility. Many companies have clued into the fact that society as a whole is not enamoured with the behavior of big business, so they have attempted to become stewards of society in a ‘socially responsible’ way. The problem is that very few companies have either the will or the knowledge to do it properly, so the majority of philanthropic and social fundraising activities end up being more like an advertising campaign for the brand. Can crowdfunding help change this situation?
Naturally, the answer is yes!
Here in Belo Horizonte, I had a chance to sit down this week with Guillermo de Barros, the cofounder of Dekdu, a white-label crowdfunding platform designed specifically to help big businesses mobilize people and resources around charitable and philanthropic causes. Dekdu is a multi-functional platform that includes components such as crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and a social payment system. The ‘white label’ term refers to the fact that the platform is customized for each individual company with their own logos, branding and colours – in other words, it is a personalized crowdfunding platform.
Guilherme and I at the Institute of Innovation in Belo Horizonte
So here is how the concept works …
For the majority of big businesses, there is no shortage of projects to donate to or money to give to those particular projects. The problems stem from difficulties in organizing and mobilizing resources. How do you get people to know about and actively participate in important social causes within a company?
That’s exactly where a platform like Dekdu comes into play. Dekdu helps with these problems in three ways:
Crowdsourcing – the concept behind crowdsourcing is simple – you harness the power of the crowd (knowledge, creativity, ideas, etc.) by organizing employees into a social network. From there, all the people within a certain company who want to participate in certain projects are able to simply by joining the project. It’s a way to tap into the social capital that already exists in every business simply by organizing the employees into a structured network.
Crowdfunding – once you have a bunch of people in the social networks, the next step is to mobilize them and get them to act. That’s where crowdfunding fits into the picture. Anyone who is passionate about a certain social project or philanthropic cause can donate to it with a few clicks of a button; they can also tap into their networks to get even more people donating. Rather than just one-off donations, the process of donating to causes becomes collaborative and fun.
Social Payments – to simplify the process of payments, the team at Dekdu has created DekPag, which enables people to load credits into their account and donate whatever amount of money they want to a certain cause. This helps in a situation, where for example, the CEO of the company agrees to match every dollar donated to a certain project. The DekPag system would thus be able to keep track of who makes the payments and automatically add the extra credit to the account of any employees who are donating.
The goal of the Dekdu platform is to streamline the social donation and philanthropic process and create a spirit of collaboration within the company around important projects. For big businesses that struggle to organize and mobilize people internally around their social causes, a platform like Dekdu could help bring new energy and ideas to the whole social process. More importantly, it could help make Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) more than just a buzzword in business.
Inside Startup Farm, an incubator for promising new companies like Dekdu
Dekdu is trying to benchmark itself against Innocentive, a platform based out of the US that crowdsources solutions to important problems and challenges that a certain company faces. For example, if Company X needs to find a new formula for its product to make it competitive in the market, rather than trying to find the solution internally, the company can post the challenge on the Innocentive platform and offer the challenge winner (could be anyone from anywhere) a large cash incentive.
Dekdu hopes it can bring the same level of effectiveness to the social causes and philanthropy market. Companies can post certain project internally, or solicit help from anyone who is interested externally – the ball is in their court. The key is that the platform makes it much simpler to engage and inspire people to act together to bring these projects to fruition.
While Dekdu is geared specifically to large companies, there is another crowdfunding platform here in Belo Horizonte that is similar to Catarse, yet focused on non profits. I sat down with Andre Gabriel, founder of Lets.bt, to discuss how a traditional crowdfunding platform like Lets can help mobilize people around important social causes and raise funds. The big difference between Catarse and Lets, for example, is that Catarse runs on an ‘all or nothing’ system where project creators either raise all of the money they seek or they get nothing; in contrast, Lets works without this restriction, meaning that even if a cause were to only raise $100, they would still get to keep that money.
Andre and I at the Let’s office
One of the big challenges that Lets is facing out of the gate with their platform is that many non-profits don’t understand how the process of crowdfunding works. Rather than viewing it as a tool to help mobilize their own resources and networks, they think that the group at Lets will go out and raise the funds for them. To help get over this hurdle, the team at Lets will have to be diligent in educating non-profits about the process and engage in a lot of PR to get the concept out there. Recently, their company was featured in ‘Filantropia & Gestao Social’ (Philanthropy and Social Management), a prominent magazine in the social sector based out of Sao Paulo. Their writeup about crowdfunding goes to show that it won’t be long before crowdfunding makes its way into the non-profit sector here in Brazil.
Overall, CSR teams and non-profit organizations stand to gain a lot from the process of crowdfunding. Traditionally, the process of soliciting donations and engaging interested parties has been a very fragmented and arduous process; crowdfunding platforms like Dekdu and Lets, however, enable companies to transform their CSR efforts and engage the entire community in the process.
I had a great time speaking with the two companies here in Belo Horizonte, and am definitely starting to see how crowdfunding has an application to various different sectors outside of the traditional market.