The Genius Blog
Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing – An Exciting or Dangerous Trend?
Posted by: Dan Rutledge on 12/1/11 11:22 AM EST
I got an email the other day from a friend who is a full-time missionary. As a unique way to raise funds, he was asking for people to commit to a $5 donation per month -- and he actually urged people NOT to give more than that. His thinking was that with a small commitment from many people, his support would be more stable than it is when people commit to large sums and then back out.
My wife and I like what he is doing and signed up. Maybe you've been asked for something similar, as the trend of "crowdfunding" has exploded recently. I had another friend that published a book using Kickstarter.com, a popular crowdfunding site. And of course, President Obama famously used crowdfunding to revolutionize campaign fundraising in the 2008 election.
For some reason, though, as I thought more about my friend's $5 campaign, it started to bother me. I began wondering whether the "crowd-everything" trend was a good one. I was reading a book the other day by Richard Swenson. Swenson is a futurist that spends his time tracking trends. He was showing statistics related to the unprecedented pace of progress in the last twenty years and how the graphs are reaching a staggering point on the curve that looks mathematically unsustainable. This escalation trend spans almost every area of life from the number of hours we work each week to the amount of media generated each year. A simple consumer-goods example is that twenty years ago you went into a grocery store to buy coffee and there were a couple simple brands to choose from. Now, there is an entire aisle of choices and options and flavors and price points… and at some point the curve of the graph reaches a mathematical breaking point. That is, there are only so many options you can have for coffee before the whole coffee industry becomes unsustainable and has to consolidate or we all break down in tears in the coffee aisle from decision overload and we just go buy some milk instead. And that breaking point looks to be coming in hundreds of escalating areas of our society.
As I thought about it, there are two primary reasons why crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are increasing right now.
First - technology is enabling this. A $5 campaign never would have worked in the past… because you'd be mailing letters and sending out monthly reminders and getting checks in the mail and depositing them… and you'd end up spending so much time and effort that it wouldn’t be worth it. Email and auto-withdrawal and the internet make it all possible. It many ways, it's a great time to be alive.
But the second reason this is happening is because of an increasing lack of commitment from people brought on by their escalating pace of life. There are now so many ways to spend your money and so many things to support… that my friend was finding that no one will commit any longer to giving $50 a month consistently. Because we're all dealing with so much "stuff" - the only way to get things done is to ask for very small amounts of time or money from lots and lots people.
The thing that really bothered me was where this trend is leading. There is a breaking point coming. Sure, it's great that I have one friend that does this $5 idea… but soon I will have 2… then 5… then 100. Before long I'll have hundreds of people asking me for $5 a month to the point that it's going to be overload every time I open my mailbox. What will be next? Some kind of donation technology where you donate a penny on top of every single purchase you make? Think it won’t happen? Just wait. I’m happy to support my friend, but I'm exhausted already for where this is headed.
The reason these trends fascinate and concern me, of course, is because SignUpGenius is at the core a crowdsourcing utility. Instead of funds, SignUpGenius breaks down tasks and divides the work amongst lots of people. And I actually created it because the escalation of volunteering requests is already reaching a mathematical breaking point. Families in my stage of life are experiencing "death by paper-cut" with an overwhelming number of tiny commitments that are nearly impossible to organize and maintain.
Thirty years ago, when I was growing up, there was not as much need for SignUpGenius. When I went to church… my Sunday School teacher Mrs. Irish was there every week and she had committed to that responsibility for nearly ten years. No one needed to organize that. But now, people have so many responsibilities that a church needs to schedule a different volunteer every week and people will only make a commitment of once a month for six months. It's maddening to coordinate that without some kind of electronic tool like SignUpGenius.
So what does this all mean for SignUpGenius? It means first of all, that this tool is INCREASINGLY needed to try and simplify a life of crowdsourcing. We can't stop the freight train of culture and therefore we have to be able to manage it. That's the good part of what SignUpGenius does – and it does it very well. But the danger is that it could also enable further crowdsourcing escalation. The more our site grows, the more I am convinced that it is an important responsibility for each person that uses our tool to think about what they are doing. As much as we're glad to have new users, we don't want to run this site if it just contributes to bombarding people with hundreds of more responsibilities.
School, church, nonprofit, sports leaders… you need to start asking yourself:
Is this event really valuable? Is everything I'm asking for really needed? Is my task something so critical that an entire group of people needs to band together immediately and make it happen? For example, if your child's 3rd grade classroom doesn't have “Friday study snacks” brought by a different parent each week, is anybody really damaged? Is that something that could just be cut? Definitely raise supplies for that orphanage in Africa. And organize meals for that friend that has cancer. But we all have a little bit of responsibility to throttle the crowdsourcing/crowdfunding trend. Please think. Don't just use our tool to overwhelm people and create more busyness.
Otherwise, I'm just going to break down and cry… and go drink some milk.
COMMENTS: [View all 10 comments]
Posted by Julie Luton on Fri Feb 10, 2012 10:10 AM EST
I get the idea behind your post, but I'm less concerned that you about your site leading to over-commitment or overuse. Instead, I see this signup tool as a way for people to manage more efficiently the things they care enough about to commit to (if that sentence makes any sense). Used correctly, it should save time and worry, both on the part of the signup creator and the signup user. As a volunteer, I'm more willing to agree to organize something if I know I won't have to keep track of everything manually. Thus, I remain committed and yet not overworked.
Posted by Dan Rutledge on Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:28 PM EST
Super glad to hear that Julie. That's our hope for the site for sure - that it will save time for both coordinators and their volunteers! Appreciate the comment.
Life Lessons from the Suburban Battlefield
Posted by: Dan Rutledge on 10/18/11 10:31 AM EST
Six years ago in March, we moved to the suburbs of Charlotte from a little condo next to a highway in Los Angeles. I remember walking outside at night and standing in the street and being amazed that I couldn’t hear any traffic. It was glorious.
What I didn’t know is that paradise comes with a price. Lurking in the shadow like a cougar ready to pounce… was spring. And as April blossomed, I got my first taste of an epic battle between good and evil that has raged war against suburban men for decades. This age old struggle has chewed up and spit out even the toughest of men – leaving only shattered shells of failure.
It is the quest for the perfect lawn.
When we bought the house, I didn’t think much about the grass. All you have to do is mow, right? Apparently not in the Carolinas. It didn’t take long to see that without purposeful effort, the lawn quickly digresses to a patchy weed garden.
Being a type-A first child – I determined that no weed would conquer my land. I marched into the local Home Depot and bought my ammunition. And I waged my war - hand-spraying weed killer, sometimes several times a week. But the weeds kept coming and I battled that entire first season, and it made hardly any difference.
So the next year, I decided to get even more serious. When I saw crabgrass sprouting, I bought some Round-Up (which basically kills anything that grows) and I started in the back and sprayed any weed I saw. And yes… that finally killed the weeds! Unfortunately…it also killed pretty much all the grass. I had sprayed right before we hit a draught and subsequently the entire back yard turned into a big patch of red clay! That summer, the kids left red footprints anytime they walked through the house.
I was a broken man - cruelly humbled by the bladed beast…and I finally stooped to do what all men do in desperate times. I talked to my dad.
And like a wisened sage of the turf, my dad shared with me a little secret that turned my battle plan on its head. Three words that reversed my thinking.
DON’T WEED. FEED.
My dad encouraged me to quit focusing on the weeds and instead turn my attention to the good grass. True well-bred grass thrives when watered, fed, and given good ground to grow. It will actually grow up strong and force out the weeds.
So the next couple years I completely flipped my plan. I fertilized and aerated and we even had a sprinkler system installed. I was all about the good grass. Now… nurturing good grass is not a fast process. It took multiple years of feeding and seeding and patching bad spots to slowly take back the dirt field I had created. But each season it got easier until finally - this year - the real grass is thriving and the turf is thick and the weeds are becoming few and far between.
So I was mowing the other day and enjoying the fact that the mower was finally filling the bag instead of blowing dust everywhere… and it suddenly hit me.
Isn’t this the same error that I make in my life all the time?
Whenever I have a problem, I try to solve it by attacking the negative item. If I’m getting overweight, I diet and try to weed out the bad food. If I’m busy and stressed, I try to evaluate and weed out items from my schedule. If I’m having trouble being a great father or husband, I try to crack down on myself and weed out anger or impatience. But these techniques almost never work in any of these situations.
What creates real life change… is feeding. Investment in positive growth is far more effective than attacking the negative. If you’re overweight, start a new exercise program and you’ll find that your body naturally wants better food. If you’re stressed, force yourself to add time in your schedule for reading and taking a walk with your family, and watch how you’ll naturally eliminate other items. If you want to be a great father and husband, try saturating your mind in scripture and prayer, and watch how growth comes from the inside out.
Browse the news and you’ll see lots of examples of weeding. Recently a big executive started a campaign to stop funding politicians in order to try and root out corruption. On Wall Street, jobless workers are currently protesting to try and force changes in business ethics. Even if the goals are admirable, in my mind, all this is going to do is create more dirt. If you really want to see change – in your own life or the world around you –
It’s all about feeding.
Be gone ye evil weeds.
COMMENTS: [View all 4 comments]
Posted by Tammy Fareed on Tue Nov 15, 2011 8:47 AM EST
Read a book called Whale Done. It's a little self-help thing written from the point of view of training orcas at Sea World. The trainers point out that you can't train a killer whale by punishing failure..... Some time outs to regroup, redirecting toward good behavior, and rewarding any little success builds relationships with the whales that result in those extraordinary performances. And every whale has its bad day, which is just normal, and those days are set aside, then the whole positive reinforcement process picks up again. I wish I could live like that every minute of every day. Your weed story is awesome and offers me that positive reinforcement that myself need and don't get very often!
Posted by Dan Rutledge on Tue Nov 15, 2011 10:36 AM EST
Hey Tammy - thanks for the encouraging note and the book recommendation. Sounds like a very interesting one! I hope you have a fantastic day!
Lessons on Work from Sand Castle University
Posted by: Dan Rutledge on 8/22/11 09:04 AM EST
A job well done is its own reward.
Creativity always trumps resources.
Never be satisfied.
Pass it on.
Leadership's True Test
Posted by: Dan Rutledge on 1/25/11 04:47 PM EST
How exactly do you gauge the effectiveness of a leader? By the attendance at meetings? By the financial growth of the organization? By some kind of satisfaction survey from the membership?
I think that the true test of leadership is something completely different. The real litmus test comes after the leader leaves. What happens to the organization after the leader has moved on speaks volumes about the kind of leader that was running the organization. Were long-term procedures and plans put in place? Was the vision communicated so that other people in the organization truly own the mission? Were other leaders mentored and prepared for taking over? When the leader has moved on -- will the organization continue forward without a hiccup or just dissolve because it was shallow and held together only by the effort of a single person in charge?
For the last couple years, I’ve been leading a small group ministry at the church we attend. I love the way God grows people in the context of community and it’s been exciting to be a part. Recently, though, my wife and I felt that God wanted our family to move to another church. There was nothing wrong with our existing situation or the people there – we just sensed we were being sent to serve elsewhere. While ultimately I know that this small group ministry is God’s and not dependent on anything I did … I can’t help but wonder if I was involved in the kind of leadership that fostered a sustainable ministry or if I was just a shallow organizer.
It was about six months ago that I realized that I had been going about the leadership thing all wrong. I was handling almost everything for this ministry myself, rarely delegating, and working in a completely top-down model.
So for the last half-year, I made a conscious effort to change the structure of the group and my leadership style. I tried to get more feedback on decisions and interact with a small core of leaders rather than deciding everything myself. I recommended that we re-organize the way our teaching was handled - overhauling it so that we got as many people involved in leading/facilitating as possible. We also simplified the whole meeting schedule, making it easier for others to lead and for group members to come if they missed previous weeks. I can only hope that some of those changes laid a foundation that will help this ministry flourish apart from any one person.
I don’t know what kind of group or organization you are leading… but it’s worth asking: Are you burning yourself out doing everything? If you stepped away would everything crash to the ground? Are you the kind of leader that is building a rock-solid organization… or are you just organizing people?
COMMENTS: [View all 4 comments]
Posted by Melissa Enderle on Fri Feb 4, 2011 3:35 AM EST
Greetings from India! I am a teacher coordinating our upcoming professional development day. We used SignUpGenius last time and it was well received - SO much better than paper signups! Creating the signups is easy, especially with the duplication feature. Now, what I'd like to do is publish them in a way so that teachers can quickly (and visually) see what their choice offerings are for period1, period 2, etc. and select one for each period. It would also be nice to have the presenter see (and perhaps change) their session data, along with the coordinator. I like the themes - more education ones perhaps? Thanks again!
Posted by Dan Rutledge on Fri Feb 4, 2011 7:45 AM EST
Hi Melissa. Thanks so much for the comment and we're very excited to have friends in India using our site. I'll send you an email offline with some thoughts on your comments. We have a couple things in the works that may be of use.
The Leadership Double-Standard: How We're Failing Our Kids
Posted by: Dan Rutledge on 10/25/10 09:13 AM EST
I had a bizarre experience this weekend. A lesson in contrasts…
I’m no great runner, but I enjoyed taking the race seriously. I trained, ran the route the week before, and set my own time goal. I even got up early and ate two pieces of toast with honey and drank some fruit juice so that my body would have natural energy it could break-down easily.
The race was organized well and at the finish line they had a bunch of water, fruit, and sports drinks for the runners to refuel. I was totally spent, so I immediately drank two bottles of water, a bottle of Powerade, ate a banana and a peanut butter sandwich for protein. I spent most of the day guzzling more water.
So here’s the weird part…
After the race, I rushed over to watch my 8-year-old boys play soccer. It was a tough game and both teams were running like crazy. The ref blows the final whistle and both teams come off the field. I was watching the other team… and the other kids walked over to the sidelines where the team parent handed the kids some kind of pre-packaged cookie treat or chocolate chip muffin thing along with a big old sugar drink.
The contrast almost made me laugh out loud.
This is a big pet peeve of mine. As adults, when we are leaders of sports teams, church groups, or school classes… we have to start paying the same kind of attention to our kids' bodies as we do our own. We need to demonstrate leadership with food choices so that kids can learn the proper way to take care of their bodies. Can you imagine the flack the leaders of my 5K would have gotten if they handed out ice cream cones as people finished the race? But for some reason, we never think that way when it comes to kids.
Now, I’ve been there… and I know… everybody wants to be the fun parent that brings the cool snacks to church or the game or school. No one wants to be the parent that hands out the raisin granola bars. But because none of us wants to step up with tough leadership… the sugar epidemic is taking a toll on this nation. I spotted an article in the Charlotte Observer this weekend. The CDC now estimates that ONE IN THREE adults will have diabetes by the year 2050. That really scares me… cause I’ve got four kids between 8 and 11. Statistically, at least one of them will have diabetes by the time they are 42!
I know that this is one of the toughest weeks to think about this issue. I’m not a food Nazi and I’m certainly not going to make my kids eat broccoli for Halloween or anything. It’s ok for kids to enjoy some candy now and then. But as leaders, we have to make sure that candy-events like Halloween are a RARE activity… not something that happens every single group party, every school event, every week at church, and every game on the soccer field.
I think that when we make those hard choices and start fueling our children well… there will be a lot more kids that will be beating out 38-year-old men in the local 5K!
COMMENTS: [View all 3 comments]
Posted by Dan Rutledge on Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:47 AM EST
Thanks for that great follow-up comment. That's an awesome example of some tough leadership that will make a long term difference. Very cool.
Posted by iintense media on Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:34 AM EST
Yes, I absolutely agree. We are failing our kids and more and more it is deemed acceptable to society. This needs to be changed.
The Leader's Creed
Posted by: Dan Rutledge on 10/11/10 09:13 AM EST
It’s October and fall groups are in full swing. If you’re a leader that spent the last month coordinating kick-offs and startup events, this might be your first chance to come up for air.
For me, each new season of activity I re-dedicate myself to better leadership. I can only hope that one day I’ll actually reach the level I aspire to. This year, I was thinking about all the leadership “traps” I continually fall into. Whether leading a small group ministry, coaching kids’ sports, or even leading my own family… certain “shortcuts” always tempt me.
So here’s my leadership creed for the year. Will you join me and make this year different? Let’s nail these principles to the Wittenberg door and start a new era of group leadership.
Am I missing anything that you would add?
Posted by Traci McGough on Mon Oct 11, 2010 12:38 PM EST
As Secretary of our Parent Teacher Organization, I think that this is a wonderful list. I have printed it and posted it next to my calendars. Thanks for the inspiration.
Posted by carla cajuste on Tue Oct 12, 2010 1:26 PM EST
As president of our PTA group, this is truly a blessing, it makes life much easier, easy access to vounteers for events. I just wish vlounteers would utilize it more
Welcome to the Website for Lion-Beavers
Posted by: Dan Rutledge on 9/27/10 04:24 PM EST
I went on a leadership retreat this weekend. As part of the training, we took a personality test. I like those kinds of tests... mostly because it is impossible to fail them. This one happened to be the DISC model, which breaks down personality types into four categories:
There is also a similar test out there which instead labels the four categories as animals: lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver, respectively.
So anyway... It was no big surprise to me (or my wife) that I ranked pretty high in the "C" category, with some elements of "D." Here's the wikipedia description of the "C" personality: "People with high 'C' styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High 'C' people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful."
Basically, we "C's" are busy beavers -- hard workers that like systems and organization. In addition, "D's" are leaders that like to organize others.
Does that combination remind you of a certain website?
I had to laugh a little bit... because SignUpGenius is basically a website designed specifically for "C" and "D" personalities. All our sign up creators are people that organize, plan, and lead!
I guess this explains why I always get along so fabulously with our users. Lions and Beavers of the world unite! Drop me a note if you're a "C" or "D" too!
COMMENTS: [View all 3 comments]
Posted by Dan Rutledge on Mon Oct 4, 2010 6:46 AM EST
I'm glad to hear you have some "I" traits... because the "I" folks are the ones that are always telling their many, many friends about us! :)
Posted by Mary Jo Stubstad on Wed Oct 6, 2010 10:52 PM EST
I'm more an I and C person.
Can you hear it?
Posted by: Dan Rutledge on 8/19/10 08:42 AM EST
Last night I was driving in the car alone… when I had one of those moments. One of those moments when God cuts through the clutter of life and sends a message. Just for me. And this one was through a song.
Now, I don’t talk too much in this blog about my spiritual beliefs, because I know there are many people from all walks of life that use our site. But one thing that is common to the coordinators and organizers that utilize SignUpGenius.com… is they are all leaders. Leadership is something I’ve been reading and thinking about and focusing on for the last year or so – and I know it is something that every event planner or church leader or teacher or sports coach that uses our site values. So whatever your spiritual beliefs are… maybe this was a message for you too.
So I’m driving in my car and a song from Sanctus Real comes on the radio that I’ve never heard. It’s a prayer from a husband and dad, who suddenly realizes how desperate his family is for his spiritual leadership. Powerful song. And I’m sitting there and I feel like God opened my eyes to all these moments in my day that showed how much the world around me was desperately crying out for me to stand up and lead. To protect, serve, shepherd, comfort, fight for what’s right – to show by example what’s important in life. I could suddenly see it in my sons’ eyes when I walk in the door from work and they rush to see me. I could see it in my daughter’s eyes when she asked me what I thought of her outfit. I could see it in my wife, who was exhausted from the day and asked if I could be the one to pick up the kids. And then I could see it at church… when I picked up my daughter from youth group and there was a mass of wild junior highers - all acting out – trying to figure out who they should be... and looking for someone… anyone… to show them.
Can you hear it too?
Our whole world is desperate for leaders.
For followers of Christ, leading involves pointing a hurting world to the answers found in a life of faith. That was a sobering challenge for me. But even if that’s not your belief… for all of us, it means recognizing the incredible responsibility that it is to be in charge of sports teams, school classrooms, small groups, and families. It is not something to be taken lightly. It is a task that requires our dedicated effort and attention.
So listen closely. Watch the faces of your group. Of your family. The cry for leadership is there.
Will you answer it?
ABOUT THIS BLOG
Like you need another blog to read, right? Well this one is completely different than anything you've ever read before!! Um... not really. But you can read it if you want to keep up on the latest SignUpGenius news and the off-beat thoughts of our company President, Dan Rutledge.
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