Canterbury crowds set pledging bar higher

20:56, Oct 27 2013
Bronze bull
PLEASING BEAST: Chapman's Homer was the subject of a PledgeMe fundraising campaign to keep the sculpture in Christchurch.

Christchurch is changing the face of New Zealand crowdfunding site PledgeMe, founder Anna Guenther says.

Kiwis have gifted nearly $2 million since the site's inception in February last year. A quarter has been for Canterbury-led projects.

The biggies include a campaign to buy a Michael Parekowhai sculpture for Christchurch ($206,050), a drive to raise enough money to keep the Pallet Pavilion venue open ($82,210) and a South Canterbury couple's book project ($85,288).

Anna Guenther
THESIS SUBJECT: Anna Guenther, co-founder of PledgeMe, a website for fund-raising that has so far raised more than $750,000 for 175 projects.

Sam and Rachel Callander, of Timaru, raised more than $85,000 in 35 days to help produce a book that celebrates the unique powers of children with genetic abnormalities.

Their 2-year-old daughter, Evie, was born with "super powers" due to a rare chromosomal condition and died just over three years ago.

Photographer Rachel Callander an now afford to travel the North and South Islands to photograph other children with genetic abnormalities. All going well, the book will hit the shelves in the middle of next year.

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So open someone's heart, open their wallet. Easy, right? There is a bit more to it than that.

"We did not just sit back," Callander says.

"We were well-prepared and worked hard to make it work."

The Callanders created videos, wrote regular Facebook posts, arranged media coverage, emailed friends and photographic contacts and wrote PledgeMe updates throughout their fundraising drive.

"We got to the heart of what the project was about."

PledgeMe only processes contributions if a project meets its funding goal.

It has a 49 per cent success rate and the average target of successful projects is $3000. A quick browse through the archives reveals plenty that did not fly.

Nelson man Robbie Siataga-Kavanagh tried to raise $4200 to buy a vintage bicycle, motorise it and "pimp it out" with an umbrella shade and graphics to become a delivery cycle and mobile stall from which to sell his Ringo's Ultimate Chocolate Kookies.

The 47-year-old was pledged only $35, and while it was "good exposure", he had gone back to the drawing board.

"I will probably do what I did not want to do - get a loan. These things are hard to do. You have got to have pre-existing networks. Once a few people get on board it is easier," he says.

Auckland woman Sophie Peacocke and her cousin Laura Kay were pledged $595 of the $5500 they needed to publish a second edition of their art and design magazine Collectif while studying last year.

The 23-year-old, who now works as a graphic designer for Homestyle magazine, says: "Looking back I probably would not have set the target so high. No-one really knew about Collectif at the time."

Guenther says one of the most important things for project creators to remember is to "bring their crowd with them", whether it is other parents of children with disabilities, champions of the arts or pallet fans.

Supporters who come along later are influenced by previous spending and require less personal knowledge, she says.

It is also important to have a clear and memorable message, to run a persistent publicity campaign - "make it a journey" - and stress the project's deadline.

Gap Filler co-founder Coralie Winn says while an individual's "dream project" can meet its PledgeMe target, she thinks those that involve a lot of people have more chance. Guenther says people have seen crowdfunding work in Canterbury so they are more open to giving it a go - and aiming high.

"Success breeds success. Christchurch is taking off."

Winn agrees.

"We are seeing a shift in how people see their agency in the city. More is achievable here because all bets are off. Everything has changed and people realise there are new ways of doing things," she says.

The Press