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Friday, Dec. 9, 2011

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Donation central: The Campfire website is one of the so-called social funding sites that have made it much easier for artists and activists to raise money for their projects. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Social funding sites to projects' rescue

New media link donors to artists, disaster aid plan


Social networking is enabling cash-strapped artists to realize their dreams and helping groups to raise funds for community projects thanks to cloud funding websites that have made soliciting money for their ideas much easier.

Ryuichi Shigezaki, 23, said that without the money he raised through a social networking site, he would have had to pull the plug on a film he is currently shooting, "Sorakui no Hashi" ("Sky Eating Bridge").

Now, he dreams of taking his movie to the Cannes Film Festival.

While it cost little to hire the crew and actors, who are mostly university students, renting a studio and movie equipment was a much bigger financial burden for Shigezaki, who had no sponsors.

But, using the Campfire fundraising website, he managed to raise more than ¥400,000 from 71 donors between June and August, allowing production to proceed.

Shigezaki said shooting the film has been going smoothly and is scheduled to be completed next spring.

Websites such as Campfire combine social networking and fundraising, and are known as cloud funding or social funding sites.

On Campfire, artists, dancers, musicians, comedians or just about anyone who wants to share their ideas and solicit donations from the public can send details of their projects to the site.

Once Campfire approves their proposal, a presentation video about their project is posted on the site.

Campfire helps those soliciting funds brush up their presentations if necessary.

The artists set a target for the amount of funds they hope to raise, and can receive the money if the amount of contributions exceeds the goal in a specified period of time.

Those who show interest in a project can become "patrons," and in return receive various items and services instead of financial profits.

The items and services depend on the nature of the project and the size of their donation, and could include free tickets to film screenings, music CDs or behind-the-scenes footage.

Shigezaki's patrons who contribute ¥5,000 to the film will get ¥2,000 back and a free ticket to a screening.

Those who donate ¥300,000 will have their names printed on the film tickets and appear in the credits, and receive a ¥10,000 refund.

If the amount donated fails to meet the target, however, the money is returned to contributors and Campfire removes the posting from its site.

"In the old days, young artists worked hard to raise funds to make their dreams come true, but this is no longer the case," said Kohei Ishida, president of Hyper Internets Inc., a website developer that operates Campfire.

"On Campfire, patrons can support an idea based on their values, with no strings attached," he said.

Fundraising sites have also been used by those seeking funding for projects aimed at helping communities.

In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, for example, a group of Miyagi University students studying architecture and design launched a project to assist the rebuilding of the coastal village of Nagashizu, part of the municipality of Minamisanriku, which was wiped out by the disasters.

The group, led by Risa Komuro, 22, designed and produced colorful washcloths with traditional Japanese patterns to give to Nagashizu residents, hoping to raise their spirits.

Using the Readyfor fundraising site, the group raised ¥312,000 from 60 donors by August and used the money to fund the project.

More than 500 washcloths were produced and distributed to locals in Nagashizu and to the project's donors, and some were also gifted to fellow architecture students around the world.

"The tsunami stripped people in Nagashizu of many things and the peaceful scenery we used to enjoy in the village is gone," Komuro said on the Readyfor site.

"But there are many villagers engaged in reconstruction work with the hope of continuing their lives on the coast," she said.

"I hope the villagers put our colorful washcloths around their heads or necks and that they will become a milestone in the village's restoration."

"Using fundraising sites, people can financially support a community project in an effective way," said Haruka Mera, a project manager at Ohma Inc., the operator of the Readyfor website.

"The challenge that lies ahead is how to raise the credibility of those who seek funds," she said.

The Campfire website can be viewed at camp-fire.jp and the Readyfor website at readyfor.jp.

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