Founded in 2007 Pledgie provided a platform for individuals to use the internet to fundraise for causes that were important to them.  Today, this is known as “crowdfunding”, but the term didn’t come into wide use until 2009.  Visitors to Pledgie.com today are greeted with a 404 “Page Not Found” message. Given the breakout success of crowdfunding platforms like KickStarter, what happened to Pledgie?  

Pledgie’s Early History

Pledgie’s founders, Mark Daggett and Garry Dolley were involved with several non-profits in the early 2000s.  One problem that stood out to them was that there were few ways for grassroots volunteers to promote their causes on the internet.  Fundraising tended to involve one-to-one conversations, without any of the sharing options that were second nature to the internet.

Pledgie made fundraising easier in several ways.  First, it removed the friction of requiring donors to write and mail checks.  Anyone with a credit card could go online and make a donation.

Similarly, those who wanted to collect donations didn’t need to set up a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit, they simply needed a PayPal account and a few minutes online.

A third — and perhaps more important benefit — is that Pledgie offered tools to easily share campaigns.  This included “email a friend” functionality, as well as “Badges” that could be posted on blogs or social networks.  Supporters could simply copy the badge to their own sites or pages as a way to multiply the impact of the campaign.

Unlike later platforms, such as IndieGogo or KickStarter, Pledgie didn’t take a percentage of the funds raised.  (However, PayPal was used as the funding mechanism, so PayPal charges applied).  This was intentional — Dolley and Daggett saw this platform more as a way to make the world a better place than as a business.

Daggett and Dolley developed the service on nights and weekends. In fact, it was always a side gig for the two men.  Dolley works at DigiSync as the Director of Technology, while Daggett runs Humansized, a software design company.

A Sampling of Campaigns

Pledgie.com’s first fundraising endeavor was for the Mephisto blog publishing system created by Rick Olson and Justin Palmer.  After asking users to make donations via Pledgie, Mephisto’s fundraising goal was met overnight.  Over the years, many open source projects used Pledgie, including GitHub, the Freesound Project, and Inkscape.

Individuals and organizations ran hundreds of fundraising campaigns on Pledgie under dozens of topics including activism, children and youth, crime victims, disabilities, homeless and crisis relief, education, publishing, and environmental protection among others.

Some of the campaigns became widely known.  One of the best-known campaigns was to support the family of Clay Sannar, a Mormon Bishop who was murdered in 2010.  Started by Connor Boyack, a Utah-based blogger, the campaign raised nearly $70,000 in about 4 days.  Boyack was quoted as saying “All I did was kick a pebble down a hill. It then snowballed into this thing that took on a life of its own. It took me about 10 minutes to set [it] up.”

Some campaigns were personal (such as a man who raised money to replace his stolen bike) others were international in scope, including Haiti earthquake relief and a fundraiser for ACODO Orphanage in Cambodia.  Facing similar challenges as campaigns on GoFundMe or Kickstarter, some gained traction among contributors while others did not.

Why did Pledgie Shut Down?

On January 5, 2018, Daggett posted a note on Pledgie explaining that the site was closing down on February 8th.  He wrote “Garry and I never intended for Pledgie to become a business. It was conceived mostly as a social experiment to find a platform to allow people to help one another.”

He continued saying that “we’ve reached a point where we would need significant investments of time and money to keep it going. After much soul searching I have decided that it is best to end on a high note, and give you the opportunity to move your campaigns to other platforms.”

What Other Crowdfunding Platforms are Available?

Grassroots fundraising platforms give people and communities the ability to share their cause or project with the world, gain support, and receive monetary donations to bring their project to fruition or help others in need.

The following websites are similar to Pledgie.com in their efforts to provide grassroots fundraising platforms:

GoFundMe: GoFundMe is a for-profit crowdfunding platform in which money can be raised for anything ranging from healthcare assistance to weddings.

Kickstarter: Kickstarter touts its position as “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.”

Patreon: Patreon is a membership platform that provides artists and creators with the tools needed to showcase their work, build relationships with their patrons, and make a sustainable income.