Crowd funding, a system in which people can raise money for a project by collecting small donations from various people via the Internet, has become popular.
Under crowd funding, people can raise money for a variety of projects, such as art programs or socially oriented projects, by posting a proposal online at a crowd funding website. Then, people who are interested in the project can make a donation. Often, crowd funding utilizes social networking services like Facebook.
Tomo Inugai, an artist in Yamagata Prefecture, posted a project proposal in January on the crowd funding website, "READYFOR?" Inugai's project was to arrange a trip to Italy for children from Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, an area that was seriously affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Inugai, 32, volunteered at an evacuation center in the city. Using disaster debris, he worked with children there to create works of art.
Later, Inugai arranged nationwide exhibitions featuring the children's art.
Inugai then came up with an idea to take more than 10 children and their parents to Italy this month so they could experience Italian culture.
After posting the proposal on the READYFOR? website, Inugai raised a total of 4.22 million yen from 388 people in a month and a half.
In recent years, crowd funding has become widely used in the United States and Europe. People interested in specific projects often spread information to a large number of people through social media.
In addition to the READYFOR? website, Inugai posted information on his Facebook profile, where he writes about his daily activities. As a result, people who read Inugai's page can easily share information about his activities with other friends on Facebook.
Since last March, READYFOR? has been managed by Ohma Inc., an information technology company based in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. About 19 million yen has been raised for approximately 30 projects through the website.
An Ohma staff member said, "Projects related to reconstruction in the quake-hit areas have gained lots of support."
Hyper Internets Inc., a company based in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, launched a crowd funding website called CAMPFIRE last June.
Starting from 500 yen, people can donate to a variety of projects. So far, about 20 million yen in donations have been collected for an estimated 50 projects, such as delivering emergency food and developing equipment for motorized wheelchairs.
"We hope crowd funding can help create opportunities for ideas or projects that might otherwise never see the light of day due to a lack of funds," a company spokes-person said.
Intermediary companies such as Ohma and Hyper Internets take commissions from donated funds. Meanwhile, those who donate are given rewards or presents for their contributions toward a project. For instance, Inugai will send thank you letters from the children, or a DVD with images taken in Italy depending on the donated amount.
Junko Yamamoto, senior visiting researcher at Keio Research Institute at Shonan Fujisawa Campus and representative director at a marketing company, said, "In the United States and Europe, crowd funding is often used to raise money for music and film."
"In Japan, crowd funding has become popular for socially minded projects following the Great East Japan Earthquake," Yamamoto added.
However, would-be donators are required to verify the credibility or reputation of any given project on their own.
"If crowd funding can become more credible, then it will be widely used for art and business-related projects in the future," Yamamoto said.
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