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During the last year there has been a paradigm shift in the grant world. It is an offshoot of social networking giants Facebook and Twitter and it is changing the dynamics of the grant funding process via technology.

It involves the number of hits or votes an organization or institution has on a proposed project or idea. This is accomplished through “crowdsourcing", a trend that has emerged as a new social networking funding model.

What exactly is crowdsourcing? According to Leigh Burke, on his site “My Top 4 Crowdsourcing Sites, ”It’s the process of getting a large number of people to each do one small task for you. It is the sum of accumulated tasks that the crowd does for you in which the power lies.”

"My Top 4 Crowdsourcing Sites" from Leigh Burke Examples of small tasks for crowdsourcing may include:

  • Twitter following;
  • post writing;
  • blog commenting;
  • data validation;
  • Facebook friends;
  • and Youtube voting.

Another new term joining the lexicon is "crowdfunding” as discussed on the webdistortion blog entry: 9 crowdfunding websites to help you change the world.

Webdistortion notes that crowdfunding changes the traditional approach to grant and venture funding. “Who needs venture capital funding to get their idea off the ground? If you’ve been holding back because of it, you might just find there’s help out there, fueled by the community, and managed by some of these fantastic sites, which can help you fund your idea, business startup or music project.”

webdistortion: 9 crowdfunding websites to help you change the worldHere are two of the sites that webdistortion places in the crowdfunding spotlight:

  • KickStarter: "A Facebook alternative “Diaspora” raised $10,000 in 39 days soliciting via social networking."
  • RocketHub:  “Describing themselves as a grass roots crowdfunding site, Rockethub’s focus is again within the creative arts, with the two audiences for the site split into ‘Fuelers’—those providing financial assistance to cool projects—and ‘Creatives’—those coming up with the concepts, artwork and music and in need of funding."

There are a variety of these crowdfunding sites out there, with many new ones coming online rapidly. Please note that I am not endorsing any one of these sites. I am merely using them for illustrative purposes.

Finally, I leave you with a modern day example of crowdfunding that I recently discovered as a letter to the editor to the Chico News and Review, a weekly regional newspaper.

The letter, titled “Help David Beat Goliath”, provides details on the crowdfunding efforts of two local fire councils and how they are crowdsourcing votes in a funding competition.

From the letter to the editor:
“Two small Fire Safe Councils in the foothills (Forest Ranch and Yankee Hill) are partnered in competition with more than 1,100 other projects nationwide for grant funds from Pepsi Refresh, and we need your help.

"Forest Ranch is vying for $25,000 to create a shaded fuel break along the 3.2 miles of Crown Point Road as a crucial fire break and an evacuation route for residents. Yankee Hill is trying to obtain $250,000 to construct three Concow Cabins for families who lost their homes in the 2008 fires.

"Our two Fire Safe Councils are currently in 164th and 159th places in the voting and need the community’s help to get Forest Ranch into the top 10 and Yankee Hill into the top two by December 31 to qualify for funding.

"After enrolling at www.RefreshEverything.com, each person can vote once a day online (search key words “Shaded Fuel Break” and “Concow Cabins”) and by texting to Pepsi. Or you can vote through Yankee Hill’s website, www.YankeeHillFireSafe.org, and at the same time enroll to win a 32G iPod Touch.

"We know we can’t win this competition by ourselves, but with the community’s help everything becomes possible.”

This letter is an excellent snapshot of the changing face of grant funding and the use of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. If you know of any good resources regarding crowdsourcing or have had success at drawing on crowdfunding, please share with our readers by leaving a comment below.<>