Crowdsourcing — small amounts of money, knowledge or ideas contributed from a large number of individuals — has become a popular way to build up resources that wouldn't otherwise be available to small businesses and social causes. While monetary funding is the most common reason for organizations to turn to crowdsourcing, people have found plenty of other ways to use these tools to innovate and change the world. Here are five unique and inspiring goals being accomplished by harnessing the power of the crowd.

Awareness and interest in arts projects

Most crowdfunding efforts involve donating money, but on Feed the Arts, donors are simply asked to give their time to help fund up-and-coming artists' career endeavors. Lauren Daddis, the company's director of publicity, explained Feed the Arts' unique patent-pending process called Time Funding.

"Time Funding is a cross between crowdfunding and virtual rewards programs that allows fans to donate time instead of money," she told BusinessNewsDaily. "Users earn virtual currency called 'Arts Cash' by searching, taking surveys, watching videos and shopping on Feed the Arts. The Arts Cash is then turned around through an advertising revenue share, and those funds are given to projects posted on the site."[How to Crowdsource Innovation for Your Business]

Traditional arts funding models such as managers, agents and record labels have diminished in recent years, and it can be difficult for artists to self-fund their projects or ask family and friends for assistance. Daddis said that artists on Feed the Arts feel more comfortable asking fans to follow them and spend time on the site as an easy way to help fund the endeavors.

Book publication

If there's one thing that blogs and social media have proven, it's that people want to share their stories. After a difficult attempt to write his own e-book, Griff Hanning wondered if he could use crowdsourcing to write and publish a bestseller. He then took his idea one step further and decided to link each book to a great cause, with part of the proceeds donated to a charity organization. The resulting project was Cause Publishing, CausePub for short.

"We allow authors, or 'project organizers,' to submit a book project idea, whether it's a book they've already written or started, or one that they want other authors to help them write," Hanning said. "If we determine it's a good fit, the project organizer will choose a cause they want to connect the book with and how they want to support it. Then we design the project and determine what aspects need to be crowdsourced to make the book a success."

Whether it's pledge orders, story submissions, editing and proofreading, marketing or other creative needs, CausePub organizes the crowdsourcing to help aspiring authors get their book published and support social causes at the same time.

Medical assistance

Traditional crowdfunding platforms often feature campaigns in which donors can give to a charity or organization to help support medical research and disaster relief efforts. But what about the individual patients and victims who desperately need those funds to pay bills? Enter Give Forward, a crowdfunding site designed to give money to families in need of financial assistance to recover from accidents, illnesses and natural disasters.

"Whether you're insured or not, all medical procedures are expensive," said Nate St. Pierre, the company's director of communications. "With Give Forward, you can give directly to an individual. We provide a place where people can come together and show support for a friend or loved one, whether it's with words of encouragement or financial assistance."

Since its creation five years ago, Give Forward has become one of the world's top medical fundraising sites. In addition to allowing families to create and promote campaigns for their sick or injured loved ones, the platform also offers a sense of community, connecting campaigners with mentors who have been through similar situations.

Medical diagnosing

Securing the funds to pay for expensive medical procedures is one matter. It's another matter entirely when a person is suffering from a seemingly un-diagnosable illness and is bounced from specialist to specialist, each with their own associated expenses. Jessica Greenwalt, founding member and lead designer of CrowdMed, said that the younger sister of CrowdMed's CEO inspired the concept for a crowdsourced medical diagnosis site.

"In 2003, [CEO] Jared Heyman's little sister fell ill, and her parents spent the next three years desperately searching for a cure," Greenwalt told BusinessNewsDaily. "Their search led them to 16 different medical specialists and cost them more than $100,000 in bills before she was eventually diagnosed. Heyman had been using a prediction market at his previous company, and wondered if prediction markets could be used to help solve difficult medical cases."

Anyone can sign up to become a "medical detective" on CrowdMed and contribute their experience and knowledge to help suffering individuals gain some insight into their illnesses. While the cases may not be solved immediately, people can use the platform to reduce their diagnosis time to days or weeks instead of years.

Emergency relief

CabinetHardware.org founder Dave Mason describes his products as "boring" on their own, but he's found a way to make his company stand out from price-controlled competitors: a customer voting system that determines the recipient of an emergency relief grant.

"We do a great job with customer service, but no matter how good of an experience someone has, no one gets excited to talk about buying cabinet knobs," Mason said. "I wanted to do something different that would make a difference. I turn 10 percent of our profits into a grant, and anyone who needs help can apply for it. Our customers and website visitors then decide which projects they want us to fund by voting."

CabinetHardware's unique business model allows customers to help the company do worthy things, such as helping rebuild the town of Union Beach, N.J., after Hurricane Sandy, through its project, Flow Over. The startup recently received a certified B-corp status for its mission to make a profit while helping local communities.

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