Sunday, February 26, 2017

Crowdfunding: Dreams achieved

A couple of years ago Heba Khamis, a talented photojournalist from Alexandria, Egypt, launched her first ever crowdfunding campaign to pursue her dream…
"I received a half scholarship from The Danish School for Media and Journalism in Denmark to study photojournalism for 6 months; they offered me a fee waiver but without any stipend", said Heba.
That was not her first shock during the same month; Heba had been just laid off her job at one of the Egyptian privately owned newspapers due to a financial crisis and downsizing, "For me that meant I might lose the opportunity, but I had to find out my chances", she added.
All what Heba had at that time was her semiprofessional equipment, her talent and ambition. She contacted around thirty businessmen, governmental and private organizations but in vain until a friend suggested an online crowdfunding campaign.
Indiegogo was the platform she used, the campaign aimed at $11,000 Flexible goal but she only raised $2,210 by 39 backers which is around 20% of what she sought for. The amount raised covered her airfare. Another organization donated 1000 Euro in return for some photographic work.
To cut a long story short, Heba managed to get the required amount and she achieved her dream. After she returned, her story spread out and she had been invited to give an open public session about her experience.
Indiegogo is one of several crowdfunding sites, just like kickstarter. Heba chose Indigogo for its specialized photography category.   
Fundraising using crowdfunding sites is quite new to Egyptians especially those working in the media field, though people working in the investigative reporting can rely heavily on that technique to gather money for their projects.
Searching Indiegogo deeply from 2011 till now, one could find only 2 Egyptian media campaigns: Heba who achieved around 20% of her target and another project that almost achieved 97% of the target online for some political reasons.
Since 2011 Kickstarter hosted 5 media projects  of which 3 failed to collect the needed amount.
Being interested in media entrepreneurship and media business models, I had an inspiring conversation with Heba in an attempt to assess her voyage. The following are the key findings:
a)      Some mistakes were made during the campaign starting from formulating the message and not learning from others' experiences. First time use of the web site involved some misuse.
b)      Choosing the platform is very important and requires searching and analyzing in order to determine the community we are targeting, the money transferring channel and the website's commission.
c)       Most of the crowdfunding sites depend heavily on the social media platform, so we need to expand our network on the social media.
d)      Some people don't understand the real means of helping someone to achieve a dream. On the other hand the campaigner needs to send a clear message to the world.
e)      Culture constraints:
·         Community not accepting the idea of supporting a female to travel abroad.
·         Those who supported you once might not support you again.
·         Some people don't trust the online payment.

 The Above is a reflection on the Crowdfunded Journalism