How Online Giving Is Funding Niche Interests

Calling someone a geek doesn’t mean much on its own. In many ways it doesn’t do much beyond signaling that they have a niche interest that others don’t understand. But maybe the word “geek” signals something else too – being an innovator, an early adopter, a creator. As geeks, we’re at the forefront of exploring VR technology or making intricate art. But for many groundbreaking creators, funding our projects is a challenge.

In recent years, the internet has transformed the marketplace making it easier than ever to fund niche interests through crowdfunding, automated giving, and other innovation-driven web platforms. For those creating within a narrow sphere, it’s now possible to find others who want to share in and support that process.

Patr(e)ons Of The Arts

Noncommercial art has always had a difficult time justifying its survival and that’s often meant that its creators lived in poverty – the starving artist model – or simply made art on their own time with no remuneration. Those with money might make it into shows, find representation, or build a small online following, but even their ability to reach a wider audience was limited. More recently, however, with the advent of sites like Patreon, artists can profit off of their work through a hybrid of crowdfunding and patronage.

Part of what makes Patreon especially beneficial to artists and sets the site apart from traditional crowdfunding platforms is that supporters pledge funding on a monthly payment cycle which is automatically paid to the artist. Just like the automated giving systems used by churches, libraries, museums, and other non-profits, artists use Patreon to support repeat giving and ongoing support.

Funds For Futurists

Just as we’ve seen crowdfunding sites arise that focus on highly specific fields – for example, GoFundMe is generic, Kickstarter is product based, and YouCaring is for people with medical or other emergency needs – there are also technology and innovation centered crowdfunding sites.

You’ll find some of these tech projects on Kickstarter, but many others cluster on Indiegogo, which has an extensive technology and art component. As of early April 2017, Indiegogo has successfully funded niche projects including the world’s smallest weather station, a simple, innovative construction tool called Roofus, and a system designed to simplify beekeeping (a prime hobby for the ecologically-aware geek) by letting users tap honey combs like a keg.

Geeky crowdfunding can lead in interesting directions, but it undeniably makes our world a richer, more interesting place. Whether Cards Against Humanity is crowdfunding a giant hole – just because – or Art Basel is bringing Kickstarter on board to support art projects around the world, a talented individual with a small, interested audience can step away from the starving artist or basement investor stereotype. That’s the power of putting our niche interests online and realizing we aren’t so isolated after all.

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