Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET with comments from Indiegogo
Crowdfunding is a tool that’s been used to finance everything from weddings to potato salad. Now, for the first time ever, it’s being used to bail out a country.
The financial crisis in Greece is at a tipping point; today is the deadline for the hard-pressed country to pay back its creditors, but it doesn’t have the money. While politicians debate, a 29-year-old in London named Thom Feeny is working to solve the matter through crowdfunding website Indiegogo. Launched two days ago, his campaign has raised more than 200,000 euros, or nearly $223,000. (Fun fact: from the time I began writing the story until the time I finished, the donations increased by 20,000 euros). Feeny said he was “overwhelemed” by the positive response.
Though it’s a far cry from the 1.6 billion euros Greece needs, the donations keep coming. In fact, the campaign generated so much traffic that Indiegogo had to "bring it down momentarily." The site has been down for several hours today. Indiegogo said it would announce when the page was back up via its Twitter account. The company also said, in a statement: "This campaign shows that people are passionate about the situation in Greece and want their voices heard.”
The overwhelming response was just what Feeny was hoping for. “The European Union is home to 503 million people,” he writes on the site. “If we all just chip in a few euro then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon.” Though the total number needed might be daunting, Feeny says the goal is reachable if everyone in Europe donates about 3 euros. “That's about the same as half a pint in London. Or everyone in the EU just having a feta and olive salad for lunch,” he explained.
As with any crowdfunding campaign, there are rewards. Donating 3 euros will get you a postcard from Greece’s prime minister, Alex Tsipras (though Feeny admitted to Buzzfeed that he hasn’t spoken with Mr. Tsipras about the postcards promised to backers). Larger amounts correspond with bottles of Greek wine, a Greek food basket and a Greece vacation for two. According to the campaign page, helping the Greek economy is part of the purpose of the rewards. “All products would be sourced from Greece, made in Greece and sent from Greece,” Feeny writes.
There is a week left in the campaign. Usually, if the goal is not reached by then -- even with ?200,000-plus euros raised, the site’s meter shows that the project is 0 percent funded -- all of the pledged donations will be returned to the backers. In the comments section, however, people are calling on Indiegogo to pass along whatever amount is raised, regardless of the corresponding perks. It seems that Feeny and others truly just want to help.
“I was fed up of the Greek crisis going round in circles,” he wrote. “While politicians are dithering, this is affecting real people. While all the posturing is going on, then it's easy for the politicians to forget that. I just thought, sod it, I'll have a crack.”