Baby Landon Haley, born after mum Jessica underwent IVF treatment funded by internet donors. Photo: twitpic/@sean_haley
Jessica Haley was 16 when she met her high school sweetheart and future husband, Sean Haley. But after 12 years of happily being together, there was still one person missing from their relationship - a child of their own.
After trying to conceive a child naturally for three years and being informed by her doctor of only having a 1 per cent chance of success, the US couple turned to the internet for help to raise money for IVF treatment as their insurance would not cover the cost of the procedure.
One option was to make their story public, but they were afraid to reveal the struggle with infertility, and ask friends for money.
"Sean wanted to keep quiet, possibly take out a loan or put all of the IVF expenses on a credit card," Jessica Haley told Fairfax's ITPro. "I was ready to ask for help but only in a small way."
Then in June last year, just months away from their fourth wedding anniversary, in an act of desperation, the couple from Melbourne Beach, Florida, posted their story on crowdfunding website IndieGoGo, a service normally used to raise funds for art, technology and other projects by using social media to solicit small donations.
It wasn't their first try. Another crowdsourcing website, Kickstarter, rejected their application as it does not accept health or medical projects.
Through IndieGoGo they asked for $US5000 but their story touched many, ultimately raising $US8050, more than 50 per cent of the amount required.
The response was overwhelming, she said.
"Our website spread like wildfire and was popping up on friends of friends news feeds.
"This story we had hid for so long was being accepted by so many people. And friends, family and even complete strangers wanted to help make our dream come true."
Over time, Haley detailed her challenges and life changes, including taking pills and daily injections, and how after 16 eggs were harvested their family hopes lay with three embryos.
On September 2, the couple learned that their 1 per cent chance of successfully falling pregnant had turned into a 100 per cent certainty. Jessica was pregnant. She continued to detail her journey on Twitter and on April 7 gave birth to baby Landon, who spent his first few days in intensive care.
"He has been home with us for nine days now. We can't stop staring at him. He's really ours, a mix of Sean and I, a sweet, little miracle.
"He's here because of hundreds of people that believed in us and wanted us to become parents. Our dream came true. We have a baby, one that comes with an amazing story that we hope and pray inspires others who are facing infertility issues too."
Their dream became real thanks to their successful crowdfunding application.
"I get teary-eyed just thinking about the number of people who helped us get here," she wrote on her Twitter account. "If you have helped us in any way at all, THANK YOU. We cannot say it enough. Your donations have allowed us to do something we never thought we could."
"Why tell everyone? Everyone helped this happen for us, that's why. We want everyone to know that the IVF they contributed to worked."
IndieGoGo principal Adam Chapnick said crowdfunding services like IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and Australia's own Pozible, are used to create a project where the owners offer rewards for donations. Pozible is currently running a number of technology-related projects among others, including a Dual USB, a wireless media transfer project and QR code stickers.
There is a donation every 55 seconds on IndieGoGo, and Chapnick said millions of dollars were donated every month across 70,000 projects in hundreds of countries around the world.
He said the site aimed to become the 'eBay of ideas', a marketplace for dreams.
"Everybody has something in their house that they want to sell on eBay," Chapnick said. "Nobody would've believed before eBay [that] everybody would become a seller and everybody would become a buyer."
"It's the same for crowdfunding. Everybody has a dream and everyone wants to help, and that's something undervalued and under-recognised in humanity. There's a far stronger inclination to be part of something bigger than yourself."
Data gathered from previous campaigns help shape advice given by the site to new project owners to help them raise funds successfully.
For example, 53 per cent of successful campaigns have a pitch video shorter than three minutes, and 34 per cent of funders visit the campaign page before contributing. He said that Aussie males are among the most active donors in the world.
These insights are built into the website's engine so project owners are prompted to take particular actions at critical times in the campaign. Recently, IndieGoGo released a proprietary 'gogofactor' algorithm, which uses a data-driven methodology to rank the projects and deliver the most meaningful results to potential donors.
"The tool is the opportunity, and if we make the product the best it can be, it can work just as well for virtually anything," he said.
"A fundamental value of ours is being open, if you have a great product and you're open, consistent with that ideology, it's available for anyone who wants to raise money for anything."
Pozible specifically targets the local creative community, including filmmakers and musicians. Its biggest campaign to date was to facilitate the fundraising of more than $150,000 to revive the then-defunct alternative news website, New Matilda.
Pozible was co-founded by Alan Crabbe and Rick Chen, and Crabbe said the success rate of campaigns has improved from 15 per cent to over 30 per cent as people become acquainted with crowdsourcing.
He said if one can raise 30 per cent of the funding in the first few days of the project, they have between a 90 and 100 per cent chance of successfully reaching their target.
Whether it's raising funds for IVF treatment or to re-start a news website, Crabbe said the key is to do something that triggers an emotional reaction, like the KONY2012 video.
"KONY was very good at having some shared belief," Crabbe said. "It was all community-minded."
"If you have have publicly campaigned or made a difference in some way, people tend to believe in that and get behind projects."
Crowdfunding websites usually take a service fee when a project reaches its funding goal. In the case of Pozible, the fee ranges from 5 to 7.5 per cent.