Crowdfunding (alternately crowd financing, equity crowdfunding, crowd-sourced fundraising) explains the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowdfunding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, startup company funding, motion picture promotion, free software development, inventions development, scientific research, and civic projects.
Crowdfunding can also refer to the funding of a company by selling small amounts of equity to many investors. This form of crowdfunding has recently received attention from policymakers in the United States with direct mention in the JOBS Act; legislation that allows for a wider pool of small investors with fewer restrictions. While the JOBS Act awaits implementation, hybrid models, such as Mosaic Inc., are using existing securities laws to enable the public in approved states to invest directly in clean energy projects as part of a crowd.
Crowdfunding has its origins in the concept of crowdsourcing, which is the broader concept of an individual reaching a goal by receiving and leveraging small contributions from many parties. Crowdfunding is the application of this concept to the collection of funds through small contributions from many parties in order to finance a particular project or venture.
Crowdfunding models involve a variety of participants. They include the people or organizations that propose the ideas and/or projects to be funded, and the crowd of people who support the proposals. Crowdfunding is then supported by an organization (the “platform”) which brings together the project initiator and the crowd.