Some new friends of mine are talented jazz musicians in Oakland. They are high school and college students and via the Oakland Public Conservatory are in the midst of a campaign to raise funds to facilitate a cultural exchange in Peru.
(Visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/send-oakland-youth-music-ambassadors-to-peru to donate.)
As the deadline approaches (ending in 7 hours and currently only $500 away from their goal), I assumed that surely they would be featured on the home page or at least the “Final Countdown” panel of the “Browse” section. To my shock, all panels showed the same handful of projects, all far from their deadlines and already over-funded.
Some further research yielded that Indiegogo has a “Flex-funding” plan by which Indiegogo passes money to the fundraising organization whether or not they meet their goals, but assesses an unacceptable 9% fee on all funds for organizations that don’t reach their goals, even verified non-profits in the inner-city!
The following is my email exchange with Ana, a Customer Happiness team member.
Z - 7/25/13
Hi. My name is Zack and I’m a computer scientist and jazz musician living in Oakland.
Some youths that I have been helping out informed me that via the Oakland Conservatory of Music they had an Indiegogo campaign to travel to Peru. This is an amazing idea! And a rare opportunity for kids born without the means of upper-class parents.
I’ve given to the campaign and so have friends and family, and I thought that surely as they closed in on their final 13 hours they would be featured on the front page or final countdown page.
These are amazing kids and with an extremely worthy cause backed by a verified non-profit. I’ve been dismayed to see that the final countdown page shows mostly popular over-funded projects.
Countdown to what?
I think that if you are going to act as a non-profit friendly company and drape yourselves in the spirit of philanthropic activity, you should put up and feature these kids on the front page.
A - 7/25/13
Thanks for reaching out. Campaigns earn featured spots based on their gogofactor- an algorithm that measures the level of activity on each campaign.
The good news is that you, and your community, are in total control of whether your campaign is featured! If you keep your campaign active, your gogofactor will go up. We have a great Help Center article explaining what goes into the gogofactor: http://support.indiegogo.com/entries/20589776-the-gogofactor
You may also be interested in this article on What Makes a Campaign Successful: http://support.indiegogo.com/entries/20514218-what-makes-a-campaign-successful
You will have a greater chance of being featured by staying active and encouraging your community to do the same!
Z - 7/25/13
Thank you for your quick reply. While the “you are in control” rhetoric seems superficially empowering, I must contest that this is a very specious argument.
What you describe as the “GoGoFactor” simply refers to the campaigns that are the largest, attracting the most donations, eyeballs, and thereby increasing your bottom line. If you are only concerned with promoting your largest, most mainstream commercial projects, perhaps you should rename the site Corporategogo? It is dishonest to drape yourselves in the language of goodwill and independent creativity if this doesn’t align with your priorities.
I must also inquire, why do you bother to have a separate pane for “Popular” and “Final countdown” if the “Final countdown” entries are already over their goals, and are not near their deadlines? This makes no sense and denies valuable screen space where it could better be used to help independent products that are truly in their final countdowns.
If I may be frank, I suspect that part of your bias is that your pricing structure is exploitative. With the “flex-funding” option, organizations, (even non-profits!), are assessed a 3% fee if they meet their goals, but a parsimonious 9% if they don’t reached their goals. By the same token as this incentivizes them to meet the goal, it provides you with a strong incentive to throw them under the bus.
As a student, academic researcher, and musician, I have a strong interest in the success of platforms such as yours, which can provide channels to corral the crowd into fueling independent work that falls outside the mainstream. However, I fear that in your rush to monetize, the values that inspire the phenomenon of crowd-funding have been severely compromised.
Please seriously consider:
1) Not hosing non-profits by taking 9% of their revenue.
2) Using the “Final Countdown” to help people reach their goals.
3) Engaging a more serious “algorithm” than GoGoFactor (I’m skeptical that this algorithm is anything more than profit-maximization) to determine which projects represent a social good and deserve to be highlighted.
In the absence of these and similar reforms, you are simply reinforcing the existing power structure, allotting funds to those that already have rich friends, and forcing inner-city non-profit projects to scrap and beg to avoid missing the cut. These practices, while legal, are classist, and certainly not at all “indie”.
A - 7/26/13
Thank your for taking the time to provide Indiegogo your feedback. I will definitely share your concerns with all my team members.
I will update to reflect any further responses in the thread