Although the term crowdfunding only made it into the dictionary in recent years, the activity of crowdfunding, or funding from the crowd, the masses, the community, is hardly new. It's been going on for centuries in various forms, long before the internet ever popularized crowdfunding portals like StartEngine, GoFundMe, and Kickstarter. In fact, one of the most famous crowdfunding campaigns occurred nearly 140 years ago in America.
The year was 1885 when a gift from France arrived in New York Harbor. This was no ordinary gift. This was a gift that went on to become the world's most recognized symbol of freedom. Of course, I am talking about the Statue of Liberty. But what most people don't know is that when the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York in June of 1885, it arrived in pieces. Its pedestal was still under construction and needed funding to fully assemble it. A newspaper publisher named Joe - Joseph Pulitzer believed that he could raise the money as a community effort. So he launched a "crowdfunding campaign" in his newspaper, The New York World, in hopes of funding the completion of Lady Liberty's pedestal.
Pulitzer advertised his crowdfunding initiative in his paper by stating, "The world is the people's paper and now it appeals to the people to come forward." and raise the money. Let's not wait for the millionaires to give us this money.
"It is not a gift from the millionaires of France to the millionaires of America, but a gift from the whole people of France to the whole people of America."
Pulitzer offered rewards to those who gave money, as well as printed their names in his newspaper. He often included details that they had sent him about why they were donating or how they had come up with the money. And contributions came from all kinds of people.
They came from businessmen, street cleaners, even young children. And most of those who donated, donated less than $1 each.
In a matter of five months, more than 160 ,000 members of the community came forward and contributed to Pulitzer's crowdfunding campaign, which ended up raising $101 ,091 in total.
That's more than $3 million in today's dollars accounting for inflation, and it was just enough money to complete the construction of the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Today, nearly 140 years later, Lady Liberty stands on that crowdfunded pedestal, symbolizing a beacon of faith and freedom and demonstrating how small financial contributions from the community can make an enormous impact.
And Pulitzer's original message continues to echo throughout modern crowdfunding campaigns as companies all across America look to their communities to capitalize their growth instead of to just a few millionaires or financial institutions.
Nowadays, businesses reward small funders, many of whom are their customers, with an equity stake in the business or with interest payments in exchange for their capital. And as a result, the business receives the capital it needs to expand, and the community of customers receive better products as well as an economic stake in the growth and appreciation of that business, making it a win -win for everyone involved.
At Worthy, we believe that crowd or community funding can not only be lucrative, but very impactful.
We invite you to learn more at WorthyBonds .com.
January 15, 2024