SOS! Social enterprises call on the crowd to save them from collapse

Crowdfunding experts typically advise business founders to use the approach as a strategic, community-building exercise, rather than as a last-ditch fundraising effort.

But, with ever tighter-restrictions on movement in many countries during the coronavirus pandemic, making all but essential business activity off-limits, a number of social enterprise bosses have turned to their supporters in urgent appeals for cash to help them stay afloat

In the UK, Edinburgh-based Invisible Cities, which trains people affected by homelessness to become walking tour guides, has had to suspend all its tours. (Some of the team members are pictured top.) Founder Zakia Moulaoui wrote on the Justgiving crowdfunding platform: "Unfortunately, because of the outbreak, all our activities have stopped. This has put our whole organisation at risk but our biggest concern remains our guides as they will become at risk financially." 

At the time of publication, Invisible Cities had raised more than a quarter of its £5,000 target via crowdfunding, which it will use to support guides with food and basic items.  


We’re gathering details of emergency funding available to social enterprises around the world. Let us know what we should add to the list.


Migrateful, which helps refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants to host cookery classes, has cancelled all its classes and says the business will close if it cannot raise £40,500. Migrateful's appeal states: "This crisis is putting at risk the very existence of our organisation, and with it the support we are offering our beneficiaries, some of the most vulnerable in society." The social enterprise has raised over £18,000 so far.

In the coming months, 29 years of trade and support of The Big Issue for vendors will come under critical threat

And John Bird, the founder of UK street magazine Big Issue, has warned that 29 years helping vendors “could well be destroyed” soon – unless 60,000 people subscribed. He said: "In the coming months, 29 years of trade and support of The Big Issue for vendors will come under critical threat." A number of high-profile names and celebrities, including Caitlin Moran, Armando Iannucci and Ainsley Harriott, have supported the magazine already.

In New Zealand, the ethical fashion brand Little Yellow Bird has seen a significant drop in sales, with its primary customer base – the tourism, hospitality, and events industries – among those hardest hit by the pandemic. Having anticipated a year of growth and invested 'heavily' in stock, the company is "in a very precarious position", according to CEO Samantha Jones. It is appealing to supporters to buy its products at 50% off to help shore up cashflow.


A boost from crowdfunding platforms

Some crowdfunding platforms are hoping to make things easier. UK platform Crowdfunder is currently offering 100% free fundraising for businesses, with Enterprise Nation providing free training and support in online sales, marketing and finance; while UpEffect is waiving its platform fee for all campaigns combatting Covid-19 and its effects. In the Netherlands, Kentaa is waiving fees for hospitals and healthcare organisations looking to crowdfund during the Covid-19 crisis. Spain's Goteo has launched a #CoronaZero channel with 0% commission. And crowdfunding giant Kickstarter has said users can request a seven-day extension to help them meet their targets. 

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