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So you have a great idea for a new start-up company or creative project but how do you raise the initial capital? 

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThese days more and more people are turning to their communities for grants, loans and investment. It’s called crowd funding – basically going online to ask your community for start-up capital.

The most obvious advantage of crowd funding is a cheap source of capital to kick-start a new enterprise, but there are also many softer benefits. Crowd funding helps you build a community of avid supporters who are invested in your project both financially and emotionally. As this community wants your project to succeed, they will continue to support and champion it throughout its life.

Crowd funding is fast becoming a funding solution of choice for many entrepreneurs, musicians, filmmakers, designers, social innovators and small business owners.

Here are some of the crowd funding sites operating today:

Profounder helps businesses raise money from their friends, family, communities and the general public. Each entrepreneur creates a fundraising profile, and sets-out their own investment terms based on sharing a portion of their revenues. Businesses can choose between a private offering to friends and family, or a public offering to the general public. The public offerings also have a social slant as once investors make back their original investment, any remaining revenues are donated to a nonprofit chosen by the business.

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects around the world. Unlike profounder supporters do not make an investment, but rather make pledges in return for tangible rewards such as products, benefits or experiences.  It’s based on an all or nothing funding model – meaning if a project’s funding goal is not reached in the set timeframe, no money changes hands.

Indiegogo is a funding raising platform for any project or idea whether creative, cause or entrepreneurial. It allows projects to raise money, offer perks or tax deductions and even pre-sell their work. Project creators keep the money whether or not the goal is reached.

Fundbreak is an all or nothing platform for funding creative projects in return for rewards. It’s similar to Kickstarter but based in Australia.

Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully before commiting any money.

If you knew you could loan someone less than $100 and it would dramatically improve their life forever, would you do it?

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThis is what micro-credit is all about – extending small loans to the poor to allow them to engage in commercial activity in their local communities. While many poor people work hard and have great business ideas to provide for themselves and their families, they often lack collateral, and unlike you or I cannot access it from traditional lenders.

In the past this left them either with no capital or at the mercy of middlemen who charged extortionate interest rates on loans. This meant they were basically unable to lift themselves out of the poverty into which they were born. But with micro-credit, where interest is charged at a rate that allows them to turn a profit, they are empowered them to innovate and change their own lives.

Microcredit began in the 1970s when Muhammed Yunnis founded Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, providing small loans to the country’s poorest people. Grameen Bank has now loaned more than $8 billion to the poor people in Bangladesh and touched more than 40 million members and their families.

Since then thousands of micro-credit programs have sprung up around the world, inspired by the Grameen model. Many of these programs, including Grameen, favour lending to women as research has found they are more likely to use the money to benefit the whole family.

Today lending money to poor families is easier than ever before, with online micro-credit organisations such a Kiva linking lenders and borrowers from all over the world. For more information, to take a look at some of the families seeking loans, or to start lending, visit their website here.

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com]October 17-22 is anti-poverty week – an Australian expansion of the UN’s annual International Anti-Poverty Day created to strengthen public understanding of poverty, and encourage individuals, organisations and governments to take action to address it.

In Australia poverty and severe hardship affect more than a million people, while around the world more than one billion people are desperately poor.*

what can I do?
If you want to contribute to change, this week is your opportunity to get involved by organising an activity or joining in one that is already planned. The activity can be as big or small as you like – it’s only limited by your imagination.

Some ideas are to:

• Write a letter to your newspaper or MP
• Organise a film night to focus on issues of poverty
• Hold a meal with friends to discuss issues of poverty
• Hold a fund-raiser at work
• Blog or write about issues of poverty
• Set-up an anti-poverty display at work, school, or library
• Donate or volunteer to a charity that helps reduce poverty

Or to join in an activity near you click here

beyond anti-poverty week
If helping reduce poverty is important to you, there are plenty of things you can do on an ongoing basis from volunteering, making regular donations, campaigning or even setting up a trust or foundation in your Will. Click here for more details.

Don youngcare thongs this weekend to fight for young care for young people

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com]Right now there are 6,500 young people with high care needs living in aged care facilities* simply because there are very limited alternatives. A further 700,000 young people are cared for at home by family and friends.**

John Tassone is one such person. At the age of 15 he had a devastating rugby league accident, resulting in quadriplegia. He is now reliant on family and friends for all his care needs, meaning he isn’t always able to live the independent, young life others his age take for granted. You can read his story here on MamaMia’s blog.

But donning thongs this long weekend could make a difference.

Today (and extending over the weekend) is youngcare Thong Day – an opportunity to help people like John by donating to and spreading awareness for youngcare, an organisation fighting for the rights of young people like John to live young lives.

Youngcare CEO Marina Vit said youngcare is delighted by the incredible support across the country, with hundreds of individuals and businesses supporting the charity by purchasing youngcare thongs or hosting their own ‘Thong-a-Thons’ at work and at home.

“Thongs represent youth, freedom, fun and an Australian way of life, all things that young people deserve to experience, regardless of their care needs. Each person supporting Thong Day this weekend is making an invaluable contribution to the lives of young Australians with full time care needs.”

To find out where to buy youngcare thongs in your area or donate directly to youngcare visit http://www.thongday.com.au/.

*The Senate Community Affairs Committee 2005 **Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2007

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com]Starting a book club is a great way to expand both your mind and your social circle by introducing you to different genres, new ways of thinking and people from all walks of life. But how do you recruit members, choose the right books, and lead interesting discussions?

Here are some tips and resources to get you off on the right page:

calling all book worms

How large you want your book club to be will depend on where you plan to host it. For example if you want to host it in members’ homes, you’ll probably have to limit the number of people who join, whereas if you have it in a café or bar you can probably accommodate more. Many book clubs recruit solely from friends, friend of friends and work colleagues, but it can also by fun to meet totally new people. Posting flyers at your local library, book store or café or registering your club in an online forum are good ways to find members.

the devil’s in the details

Once you have a core group together, you’ll need to figure out some details such as how often your group will meet, where you’ll host discussions, how you’ll choose books, and who will lead discussions. Most book clubs meet once a month at a set time to avoid continually having to juggle everyone’s schedules. One idea is for a different person to host the meeting each month – they can choose the book, lead discussion and provide snacks. Another idea is to ask a book shop, library or café to host your book club regularly.

don’t judge a book by its cover  

With so many books to choose from, deciding on one isn’t always as easy as it seems. And leading discussions can be particularly daunting for some members. But luckily there is a wealth of ideas and resources for book clubs online. So if your book club is struggling, check-out some of the websites below:

  • The Man Booker Prize has a range of readers’ guides and reading group toolkits.
  • Random House Australia has a range of recommended books and discussion questions.
  • Hachette Australia has a list of books and reading group guides as well as a facebook page for discussions with other reading groups.
  • Allen and Unwin posts new recommended books each month, along with notes and tips for book clubs.
  • First Tuesday Book Club, the ABC’s televised book club also has a website crammed with information and ideas.
  • The Age Book Club is an online book club with articles, interviews and discussion points.
  • Bookcaffe specialises in book club recommendations and supplies, and if you’re in Perth can even host book clubs or put you in touch with one that’s already established
  • Better Read Than Dead in Newtown, Sydney, offers a group reading room, recommendations, trial reading periods and specials discounts for book groups. They also offer open book clubs on the second and third Wednesday of each month at 7pm.
  • Readings Hawthorne runs several book clubs for adults and children – call 9819 1917 for more information.
  • Avid Reader in West End Brisbane runs a variety of book clubs for different genres.
  • bookclub.meetup.com is a website with book club listings around the world. Just type in your city to find a book club near you.

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