Getting Funded While Female

Annie 2014 smilingAre women at an advantage or at a disadvantage when it comes to crowdfunding on the Internets? Several news items lately have addressed that question.

First, being a pretty girl — or at least looking like one in your picture — can be helpful when it comes to crowdfunding, because apparently straight men will “donate competitively” to help fund you.

Men give more money through fundraising websites after seeing that other men have donated large amounts and when the fundraiser is an attractive woman, according to new UCL and University of Bristol research.

The scientists say this response by men is unlikely to be conscious and could have an evolutionary function as theories predict that generous actions can honestly signal hidden qualities, such as wealth or desirable personality attributes, to potential partners. …

people on average give about £10 more after seeing others’ large donations. When the large donations are made by men to attractive female fundraisers, subsequent donations from other men increase by a further £28 on average.

The researchers reviewed 2,561 fundraising pages from the 2014 London marathon and found 668 that met the study criteria. Each needed to include an image of the fundraiser whose gender was identified and attractiveness verified independently.

I love the idea of having one’s “attractiveness verified independently.” It’s like a scientific, peer-reviewed version of 

Whether Hot or Not? though you will do better if you post a picture of yourself smiling: “For both men and women, fundraisers who were smiling were perceived to be more attractive than those who weren’t and received more donations.”

It’s what you wear from ear to ear and not from head to toe … (Anyone else in “Annie” as a child? I was Pepper.)

Without dealing with vague ideas like attractiveness, Forbes reports that women do indeed do better when passing the hat online.

Women entrepreneurs outperform their male counterparts on some equity- and rewards-based platforms, such as CircleUp and Kickstarter, according to CircleUp, and Hebrew University, the Kauffman Foundation and UC Berkeley respectively.

Women outperform men because women have the skills, including project management, marketing, storytelling, meeting milestones, being frank when mistakes happen, and communicating clearly – without jargon, with realistic revenue projections and words that align with actions. Of course, they are also excellent at followup.

Start-up companies can demonstrate to potential investors that a product has traction by conducting a rewards-based campaign before asking for investor funding. Those who did so were able to raise money from angel investors.

Instinctively, I balk at essentialist statements like women “are also excellent at followup.” But regardless of the reasons, it is interesting to consider gender breakdowns on platforms like Kickstarter. Are men more likely to put projects up on crowdfunding sites in the first place? Or are women more likely to, since it is harder for them to get backing in the real world?

Kara Goldin, Hint Inc., makes flavored water with no added sweetener. She has raised money from both angels and venture capitalists in the past, but  hit a dead end when she tried to raise institutional money to expand her e-commerce model. But she raised $2 million in 10 days by reaching out to her most avid fans – employees of technology companies in Silicon Valley. She did this privately via a crowdfunding platform.

Our friend Helaine Olen writes about the difficulties women face raising money for new ventures in Inc:

Even though women own more than a third of businesses in the United States, the tech and venture capital worlds remain largely boys’ clubs. (Just ask Ellen Pao.) Less than 3 percent of all venture financing goes to startups headed by female CEOs; for angel investments, the percentage is 19 percent–better, but still quite unbalanced. And women seeking financing face many less measurable challenges, including sexist treatment ranging from the merely condescending to out-and-out harassment.

It seems like an intractable problem, despite being a well-known one. “The equity model that exists in the United States does not appear to be a particularly good fit for many entrepreneurs, especially for women,” a group of researchers wrote in a 2014 report for Babson College’s Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, which has been monitoring the issue since the late 1990s.

There are workarounds, though. Olen advises women to swagger more, even if we have to fake it; be more resilient and less dispirited by the word “no”; and make use of our networks. One of the oldest fundraising mantras, after all, is that people give to people (they like).

If that fails, try crowdfunding. And make sure to add a picture of you smiling prettily to your ask.


RELATED: If you have time for a #longread, this NYT magazine piece on The Rage of The Jilted Crowdfunder is full of fascinating details about what happens when a successful-seeming Kickstarter project meets Murphy’s Law.



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