Edward Norton
Edward Norton has had some intense roles during his career. He garnered an Academy Award nomination for his role as reformed Neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard in 1998’s “American History X.” The following year, Norton starred in the critically acclaimed film version of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. However, Norton may be seen at his most intense when he is fighting to promote global development.

Norton comes from a long line of charitable voices. Norton’s father, Edward Mower Norton, was an environmental lawyer and proponent of conservationism. The elder Edward Norton co-founded Enterprise Community Partners. Enterprise is an organization that seeks to fund and provide housing for low-income communities. The younger Edward Norton is now a key member of Enterprise’s Board of Directors and is responsible for helping the organization invest an eye-popping $9 billion total for affordable housing.

A key tenant of Norton’s advocacy is environmental consciousness. Norton is the president of the American chapter of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. The Trust works to preserve the ecosystems and landscape of East Africa, which in turn provides essential resources for the Maasai people.

To garner larger support for his cause, Norton founded an online fundraising platform called CrowdRise. To date, Norton has raised close to $70,000 for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust while creating an innovative social media site for various charitable causes.

In 2010, the United Nations nominated Norton as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. In this capacity, Norton spoke at the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2012.

“I think that it really is true that local efforts are critical,” said Norton in an interview with the U.N. News Centre. “At the end of the day, no big national agency, no huge NGO, for all the good they do…they cannot do all the work in a specific community.” Norton’s words and his incredible charitable background are a testament to the power an individual advocate can hold.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: United Nations, Fast Company, Maasai Wilderness Conservation, Crowdrise
Photo: Hot Secretz

Crowdfunding Pushes Philanthropy and Development

Crowdfunding is an approach to raising money for new projects and businesses by soliciting contributions from large numbers of ordinary people – online. In 2011 alone, this industry raised $1.5 billion dollars, both in for-profit and non-profit ventures. Due to new regulations, some estimate the trend could grow to $500 billion annually. This could mean huge changes and development through social-venture enterprises; more start-ups and funding for projects that have a beneficial social impact.

The money raised through crowdfunding falls into three different categories: 1. Philanthropy, where there is no expected return for the donation, 2. Lending, where the money is paid back, or some other gift (usually the business product) is given as a reward, or 3. Investment, in exchange for profit or revenue sharing (equity).

Much to industry surprise, the category that received the most funding was philanthropic which equaled 49 percent of all funds raised; despite the fact that most funding sites are for lending or investing.  A few sites, like and, are exclusively for 501 registered charities. North America is the largest contributor, $837.2 million, over half of the global total, and also the fastest-growing region.

The dramatic news is that earlier this year new legislation was submitted to the SEC, allowing for even greater investment to be made through crowdfunding. So, if the current trends prevail, projects benefiting social causes could start to receive massive amounts of capital. The average equity-based campaign is aiming to raise about $85,000, compared to just $700 for donations. When the new regulations are approved, more funding is expected to flood into “impact investing.”

Jonathan Blanchard, founder of WeSparkt a crowdfunding platform focusing on social-entrepreneurship, believes investing will start to focus on a “double bottom line – profit and social good – to raise equity.” Blanchard sites a Monitor study suggesting that crowdfunding will reach $500 billion annually.  His site will target impact investors hoping to create social change.

You can participate right now, get in with the crowd – fund a project for the global poor!

– Mary Purcell

Source: Forbes, Forbes
Photo: Hong Kiat