A yellow light for the UUA crowdfunding site

On the last day of the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, outgoing moderator Gini Courter announced a new crowdfunding program: joint project of the Clara Barton and Massachesetts Bay districts, to raise money for Unitarian Universalist projects, in the spirit of Kickstarter and similar projects.

In as much as there’s been buzz about this, it’s been detail-light and affirming; and if there’s been any in any criticism it’s about the general unwillingness or inability for Unitarian Universalists to fund their own projects. I think it is only one chance to get this right. This project will probably attract most or all of the available persons interested in a robust crowd funding model, and if it fails willing it’s to get a second chance. And Unitarian Universalists aren’t the best about creative organizational diversity. (Or riffing off that old theological bromide: “One idea at most.”)

Some questions and observations:

  • Will this fund a pool that a committee will then judge, or will the UUFund allow donors to vote with their dollars, like Kickstarter? If it’s a committee, who choses it? If the latter, what happens to money sent for projects that fail to secure enough donors?Will the funded projects be projects from churches or other nonprofits, or could individuals, collectives or (even) businesses apply?
  • Will there be standards for what projects are acceptable? If so, who makes the standards and who enforces them?
  • Will anyone follow up on the performance or quality of the work funded?
  • If crowdfunding is a good idea, it makes more sense to test it with an established provider than build (and test and rebuild) a private platform. The reach would be farther (that is, to non-Unitarian Universalists), too.
  • How much is the Mass Bay District, “Congregations & Beyond Program and the Unitarian Universalist Funding Program” putting in to this? What happens if the first $10,000 raised doesn’t cover the costs. (Web development doesn’t come cheap. Neither does grants management. This is my day job, by the way.)
  • This proposal for the UUFund Crowdfunding Platform Project Management position, its time requirements and the proposed billable rate/salary are not plausible.
  • By starting the campaign with a tribute fund to Gini Courter, you can be sure some people won’t give. It doesn’t take a lot of backchannel listening to know she wasn’t universally loved.

Most of these conditions can be resolved with simple answers, and it’s reasonable donors demand accountabily. But you’d be pressed to find these details on the current UUFund site. I couldn’t find them.

But none of these are the biggest problem. I’ll save that for next time. (Link added July 4, 2013.)

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