Clearwater Goes Indiegogo

Dec 1, 2014

Credit Courtesy of Clearwater

Forty-five years after Pete Seeger and friends launched the tall-ship Clearwater, the nonprofit organization that operates the sloop has launched its first “crowd-sourcing” effort to help fund a new sail and boom for the vessel.

The 60-day campaign aims to raise $25,000 to help replace the worn-out mainsail and 12-year-old boom. In fact, the Clearwater Sail & Boom Project began after the crew found a crack in the boom in October, ending the sailing season 10 days early. Matt Soper is Clearwater development director. He says this is the first time the non-profit group is turning outside, specifically to online fundraising and crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

“The total budget for the entire project is close to, I think, $40,000. We have some grants that are out that we’re hoping to hear back about soon,” says Soper. “So we figured $25[,000] would be a good goal, would get us more than halfway there.”

And achieving the goal with the help of Indiegogo, Soper believes, would meet with Pete Seeger’s approval.

“Well, it’s interesting,” says Soper. “Pete’s philosophy on fundraising was that he wanted to get a million dollars by getting a dollar from a million people.”

Seeger, the legendary folk singer and activist, died at 94 in January. Soper says the values and ideals of Clearwater are universal - gathering the community to address environmental concerns, a message Indiegogo can further.

“And we’re hoping that Indiegogo would get the message out. And we have gotten some gifts from, I noticed that one person from Seattle gave us some money that was not affiliated with the organization,” Soper says. “And we know that’s Pete’s legacy and the Clearwater had pretty broad appeal, so we’re trying to test to see how far our fundraising efforts can go.”

He says Clearwater receives a substantial amount of its annual donations in December. Plus, December 2 is #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back.

Katy Coppinger is director of major gifts at Westchester-based Mercy College. She says turning to a site like Indiegogo is one of many ways non-profits are fundraising these days.

“It really works well particularly for specific projects or a specific need,” says Coppinger.

She says the appeal of Indiegogo should serve Clearwater well and capture the following population.

“They’re going to get the millennials, the young people, the millennials, the people who are really on the Web, people who get most of their information from the Web, those donors are the people they’re going to pick up,” says Coppinger. “And also because those, crowd what they’re called, they’re called crowd fundraising, crowdraising is what they’re called, you’ll hear it referred to as crowdfunding, they really appeal to millennials and also because it’s almost a donation of any amount, very small amounts, but the idea being it all adds up.”

Soper says Clearwater does have its sights set on a younger generation.

“We know the power of social media so, it’s something that we haven’t really I don’t think harnessed very well, but I think this will be a good foray for us to really modernize the way Clearwater reaches out to the general public and we’re trying to, a lot of our members are Pete Seeger followers and have been with Clearwater for 40 years so we have a lot of older members that are part of Clearwater,” Soper says. “So we’re also trying to create ways to get the next generation of environmentalists involved and interested and make Clearwater relevant in their lives as well.”

The Indiegogo effort introduces a new video that features original footage of the 106-foot-long sloop being launched in South Bristol, Maine, in 1969. The film also offers a quick dip into the experience some 500,000 people have enjoyed aboard Clearwater. The Clearwater is now headed for its winter home port in Kingston, where it will undergo routine winter maintenance.