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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 05/23/2013

Donald Trump jumps into crowdfunding

Donald Trump recently announced his foray into crowdfunding with the launch of his own crowdfunding platform, FundAnything, with partner Bill Zanker, founder of adult education company The Learning Annex.

FundAnything lets people create a campaign for any amount of money, collecting small contributions from large numbers of donors. Entrepreneurs may offer non-financial rewards in exchange for donations, but are not required to do so.


Donald Trump speaks at the 124th Annual Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in Novi, Mich., Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (Ricardo Thomas - AP)

The site charges a nine percent fee on contributions as they’re collected — if the creator reaches his or her fundraising goal, four percent is returned, for a net fee of five percent.

For many using the site, the possibility of connecting with Trump is a major selling point. In its first weeks since launch, the New York-based platform has accumulated hundreds of campaigns in various categories — creative arts, causes, personal, and business ideas— with subcategories including art, non-profit, hopes and dreams, and pets.

The real-estate mogul has announced his intention to give away money to select campaigns on FundAnything each week, and to tweet about certain campaigns to his more than two million Twitter followers through @realDonaldTrump.

FundAnything features a section called “Trump’s Picks,” showcasing a handful of campaigns attracting Trump’s interest. Currently, these include an assault victim’s campaign to raise $4,000 for oxygen treatment, and musician Celeste Buckingham’s campaign for $100,000 to be used for her new CD and music videos — Trump has already awarded Buckingham a $25,000 jump-start.

“We have an advantage because we have Donald Trump,” Zanker, FundAnything’s chief executive, said in an interview. “By hooking up with Donald Trump and that enormous brand — he is the most recognized business man in the world — we’re educating people [about crowdfunding]...I think Donald Trump is giving them awareness. It’s kind of cool that once a week he picks a campaign he wants to support.”

Nineteen-year-old Brittany Spinks, a sophomore at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., made an appeal on the site after her mother watched a news report on the launch.

Spinks decided to seek funds to transfer to her dream-school — New York University, to which she’s already been accepted. In addition to scholarships, work-study jobs and what her family can afford, Spinks hopes to raise $50,000 to cover two years of college. In return for contributions, the English major offers to proof-read short papers — so far, she’s raised $130.

Spinks said she joined the site primarily to attract the attention of big names like Trump, and has been tweeting at his account hoping he’ll see her campaign or retweet it.

“It is also the only way I could think of to reach out to people who would be able to help me — Donald Trump and founders of FundAnything — with the amount of money needed to fulfill my dream,” she said, noting that she hopes to raise all funds before NYU’s May 30 enrollment deadline.

Spinks said she closely follows which campaigns Trump supports to better understand his interests. “I think they’re looking for originality...and someone with a lot of heart. I think I represent that.”

So far, Trump hasn’t selected her campaign, and has yet to respond via Twitter.

Trump isn’t the first celebrity to lend support to the practice of crowdfunding; Rob Thomas, writer of TV show Veronica Mars, raised more than $5 million with the help of actress Kristin Bell for a Veronica Mars movie on Kickstarter, and actor Zach Braff has raised more than $2 million for a new film also on Kickstarter.

But having big-name support doesn’t guarantee a campaign’s success — a D.C. filmmaking team recently hoped to crowdfund a documentary narrated by actor Matt Damon, but fell several thousand dollars short of their campaign goal on Kickstarter.

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 05/23/2013

 
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