29 March 2017

We've been crowdfunding since 1884

Just to remind you, Nationwide isn't a bank: it's the world's largest building society. We were founded in 1884.

What our founders started in the 19th century is what people now call crowdfunding: lots of folks coming together to pool resources for their mutual benefit. In our case, they did it to help people find homes. We've been doing it ever since, and the size of the crowd we've helped fund over the decades numbers in the millions.

How do we do it? By using the money from savers with Nationwide and putting that towards helping people buy their own home.

Crowdfunding through history

The word “crowdfunding" is credited to the technologist Michael Sullivan just over a decade ago, but became more well known with the launch of Kickstarter in 2009. But although the technology was new, the idea wasn't by a long shot.

In 1713, writer Alexander Pope asked his fans to each give him two gold guineas to support his goal of translating some ancient Greek classical poetry – Homer's Illiad – into English. In return, he named all 750 of them in the acknowledgements.

Seventy years later, Mozart wanted to perform three newly composed piano concertos in Vienna. He published an invitation to potential backers, offering manuscripts to anyone who pledged funds. He didn't reach his goal on the first attempt, but that didn't stop him from trying again a year later. That time, 176 supporters pledged enough to reach his goal, and the concertos were performed.

One of the most famous examples of crowdfunding dates back to 1885. When the state refused to fund the building of the Statue of Liberty, publisher Joseph Pulitzer used his newspaper, the New York World, to launch a fundraising campaign. He gathered over $100,000 from more than 160,000 readers in five months, with some donations as small as 60 cents.

Modern crowdfunding

Today, many different projects are crowdfunded through websites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and GoFundMe, from the infamous “Potato Salad" campaign (what started as a joke led to over $55,000 being raised for a man in Ohio to... yes, make a potato salad), to independent filmmakers, journalists and people seeking to pay medical bills.

Online crowdfunding has also become a resource for charities. JustGiving, founded in 2000 specifically for charity fundraising, has benefitted over 12,000 UK charities and raised over £700 million in the 17 years since its creation.

Still crowdfunding after all these years

Our foundations are based in the crowdfunding movement of the Victorian era, with a building society for everyday people to pool their savings until every member could afford to buy their own home.

Today, we're still here for the very same reason, except we're now a crowd of over 14 million members, digitally empowered, but never letting go of our human touch.

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