Belarus, Russia, Ukraine: Crowdfunding Expertise from the Three Countries

Cases and trends from crowdfunding platforms in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus

On January 28, 2017, within the framework of the Social Innovation Forum in Minsk, experts from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus shared successful case studies of crowdfunding technologies, latest trends and examples of the developments in social entrepreneurship and innovation that happened with the help of crowdfunding. Discussions and exchange of experiences took place during a round table “Crowd technologies in Belarus and Eastern Europe: trends, approaches and indicators”.

The Forum was initiated by  SOIN Social Innovation School in Eastern Europe, with support from the  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany and IBB Dortmund in cooperation with ODB Brussels.

 

Time for hardware start-ups

The top projects in the "social entrepreneurship" category now are projects aiming to apply modern technologies to improve the lives of people with disabilities, explained Yegor Yelchin, head of educational programmes at Planeta.ru.

Yegor Yelchin

“One of the most high-profile projects in the field of innovation and resolution of social problems has been the  “Motorika” team’s project to create artificial hands and arms for children”, notes Yegor Yelchin, looking back on the year 2016. “This niche has been unoccupied so far, and earlier, before 3D printing technology became available, such production would have been costly as children grow up quickly. Authors of the project also offer limbs with additional features, such as a flashlight, a slingshot, a skipping rope, a drone remote control, etc. The children not only receive a functional upper limb but also get a chance to feel like a superhero”. One more successful case: last year, a Russian crowdfunding platform raised funds to produce unusual watches for blind and visually impaired people

The expert thinks that it the time has come for crowd technologies in Russia to move on to technological projects. "In the first two to three years our platform dealt with culture-oriented projects. The next few years were dedicated to the increasing need for social crowdfunding projects and social entrepreneurship. The next logical step, which proven by the development of crowdfunding platforms all over the world, is the technological development”, notes Yegor Yelchin.  

Planeta.ru has already started working in this area, now launching a large-scale online educational reality show "Battle of Technologies", aimed at developing hardware start-ups.

Ukrainian platform Biggggidea.com successfully raises funds for cultural projects. “The platform has been strongly focused on educational projects, such as funding platforms offering online courses. Social entrepreneurship in our country is not as developed as it is in Russia”, noted Yuliya Sobol, coordinator of Biggggidea.com educational programmes.

Yuliya Sobol

"Spilnokosht" is a section of Biggggidea.com dedicated to crowdfunding. In 2016, the crowdfunding platform introduced features to allow institutional crowdfunding.

"Organizations that have reached a certain stage of development can submit their projects for committed funding", - said Yuliya Sobol.At the moment, it has been working in test mode, but not too successfully. I don't think everyone is ready to pay on a regular basis for access to media, education, etc.".

Ivan Viadzenin, creative director of Belarusian platform Talaka.by, described plans to launch committed funding for certain initiatives. In 2017, any talaka.by user will be able to subscribe to an interesting initiative and donate to it monthly.

Ivan Viadzenin

When we were developing “Talaka”, our goal was not to set up a crowdfunding platform. Our idea was to unite people around social projects, aiming to create value for our society. Like-minded people united by a common idea could share both their expertise and their money”, noted Ivan Viadzenin.

 

Crowdfunding means “please take” and not “please give”

People are looking to see social profit from any donation they make”, says Anastasiya Kastsiuhova, creative director of MaeSens crowdfunding platform. “That is why, when someone comes to us to collect money, we tell them: find a way to bring value».

Anastasiya Kastsiuhova

MaeSens platform, which started as a charitable meetings auction, focused on social projects in 2006. Citing successful cases, Anastasiya Kastsiuhova presented a project aimed at helping a gravely ill 22-year-old Margo, who is raising funds to set up her personal art exhibition. “We offered her to organize a project, where exhibition visitors can bring a painting home if they pay its fixed price”, shared Anastasiya Kastsuihova.

MaeSens team seek to engage city dwellers in whatever they are doing. During the summer “Peshehodka” event, street musicians performed and collected money. This money was then used to fulfil dreams of children with incurable diseases: take a trip to Disneyland, see the sea for the first time…

“Anyone who has something to offer to people can use crowdfunding to implement their idea. They have to give something instead of just saying ‘please give us money’” stressed Irina Sidarava, director of Ulej.by. At the moment, the platform only works with individuals but plans to launch a project aimed at legal entities as well. “The goal is to bring highly competitive Belarusian goods to the domestic and international market”, says Irina Sidarava. “We have already selected a category of projects that will be taking part in the test: designer clothes, accessories, furniture, etc. We wish to give Belarusian manufacturers a way to bring their products to market with the help of crowdfunding.

Irina Sidarava

For reference: both the Russian Planeta.ru and the Belarusian MaeSens.by work with both physical and legal persons. Ukranian “Spilnokosht” only posts projects from legal entities.

 

All or nothing?

According to the rules of Planeta.ru, a project is considered to be successful if it has raised 50 or more percent of the intended amount. “But we always seek confirmation from its author if she or he is ready to implement the project with the 68 or 73 percent of funds raised”, says Yegor Yelchin. “If they are not ready, we give all the money back to the people who donated”.

Ulej works on a “all or nothing” basis. According to Irina Sidarava, if an author sets the goal of 50 thousand but only collects 49 thousand, the whole amount will be given back to the donors. She advises to do precise calculations and minimize the budget if possible.

On Talaka.by, project authors can take the money even when they have collected only 50 or 25 percent. “We focus on addressing social issues, which is why we quickly abandoned the classical crowdfunding model. We give them the opportunity to manage their raised funds while the campaign is still going”, noted Ivan Viadzenin.

Both the Russian and the Ukranian platform provides donors or philanthropists with the option to redirect the money from a project that failed to raise the full amount of funds to a different cause.

Authors of the round table were unanimous in saying that crowdfunding get more successful every year. The average donation is increasing, the number of visitors is growing, and crowdfunding itself is viewed with less and less suspicion. In the 4.5 years of Planeta.ru’s existence, project authors have collected 0.5 billion Russian roubles (more than $8 million); authors at Biggggidea.com received 10 million grivnas (about $350,000) in donations, and MaeSens raised more than $550,000 in its 5 years. The amount of money raised grew each year. According to Ivan Viadzenin from “Talaka”, the platform raised $24,000 in 2014 and $170,000 in 2015.

In 2016, Planeta.ru launched the first all-Russian “Crowdfunding School” for social entrepreneurs, which then travelled around Russian 5 cities. “Big Idea” also has its own crowdfunding workshop. Representatives of Belarusian platforms described how they work with the authors, practically on an individual basis.

According to some participants of the Forum, there is a tendency to switch from charity to sustainable development projects. The platforms continue to improve: they are not as inflexible as some American equivalents.

People who support projects are beginning to understand that this is the way they can transform the reality they live in”, noted Yegor Yelchin of Planeta.ru, highlighting one of the trends he considered to be the most important.

Text: Tatsiana Tukhai

Find more photos from the event here and here.

The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.

ODB Brussels