With crowdfunding, you don’t have to sell something. Instead, you can inspire.


Crowdfunding has rapidly become a way everyday people can give financial support to projects that appeal to them, or think are worthwhile.

Rather than appealing to industry executives, investors or finance institutions, crowdfundees are gaining the support of ordinary internet users via blogs, videos, and various other kinds of engaging content.

Pre-crowdfunding, charities and social causes were already collecting money online. However, the popularity of crowdfunding could be attributed to the way it allows for a sustained and targeted platform where patrons can connect and feel involved in a specific project. And afterwards, stay updated with the results.

This process fits neatly into a common need for people to immerse and engage themselves in the things they love or care about.

Crowdfunding started in 2003 with a site called ArtistShare. It allowed musicians to avoid having to convince the bigwigs they were marketable, and instead go directly to fans to show their talent.

The idea spread worldwide and the types of projects (creative, personal, charitable) grew. Japan now has a host of home-grown crowdfunding websites such as Campfire and ReadyFor.

Here are three stories of inspiring citizens bringing about the change they want to see in society, who’s projects were made possible thanks to crowdfunding.

A Filmmaker Defies Censorship

Controversial films can spark a filmmaker’s career, or spell its end. These warnings were received in abundance by Takafumi Ota, when he approached studios with an idea for a project. None of them were willing to take the risk.

After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and consequent Fukushima nuclear disaster, Ota wanted to make a film contrary to the government’s nuclear energy stance, and critical of the information released to the public directly after the disaster.

Adding to the controversy, cast in the lead role was Taro Yamamoto, who caused an uproar in 2013 by handing a letter directly to the Japanese Emperor without permission; an attempt by the anti-nuclear activist to bring more attention to the plight of displaced Fukushima residents.

These actions struck a chord with growing anti-nuclear sentiment felt by many, and crowdfunding came to the rescue. “Asahi No Ataru Ie” (The House of Rising Sun) reached its goal and was released September 2015 and screened in independent cinemas across Japan.

Getting Young People into Politics

In Japan’s increasingly ageing society, senior citizens (aged 65 and over) account for a quarter of the population. To rebalance the electorate and also get younger people more interested in politics, from June 2016 onwards, the legal voting age was decreased from 20 to 18.

Comedian, Nana Takamatsu came up with a unique initiative. With a mission of being able to “laugh but also use what you’ve learnt”, she wanted to take her politics live show on the road to high schools and universities to get students engaged and involved in politics.

Takamatsu reached her crowdfunding goal July this year. By then she had already begun using the funds to tour Japanese schools and was updating her patrons with comments written by students who felt a positive effect from participating in her workshops.

Supportive Messages for LGBT Kids

Staying silent about his sexuality made Fumino Sugiyama’s youth difficult. The LGBT rights activist wrote in his biography that he was lucky to have supportive family and friends when he finally come out as transgender.

The publication of his biography prompted people to send him messages of thanks for helping them realise they weren’t alone.

Inspired by this, he developed a website featuring supportive video messages. Similar to the ‘It Gets Better’ project, he wanted to show that LGBT youth can become successful members of society and live the life they choose despite current hardships.

A slow-burner, it took two years to reach his crowdfunding goal, but Sugiyama didn’t give up. The project won an award in 2015, for projects creating a lasting impact on society. The ‘Heart School’ site has now launched, and Sugiyama gives talks at schools and businesses forty to fifty times a year.

The internet gives everyone a voice, but it can also pave the way for action. These examples show the people-power and can-do attitude that crowdfunding can harness for those wanting to change society for the better.