Here's the Real Reason You're So Into Crowdfunding

As so many institutions go quiet, we rely more than ever on crowdsourcing big expenses for big leaps in our lives. Whether it's funding a project, recovering medical expenses, or even financing our first home, it's a totally normal thing to ask for personal donations, and to get them. Now we know there's more brand management to crowdfunding than you may think — not for the askers, but for the givers.

Economists at England's University of Portsmouth wanted to know what drives people to contribute to crowdfunding campaigns. They looked at Lendwithcare, a U.K.-based microfinancing platform that also allows individuals to show how many loans a user has sponsored, though not the amount of money. Their conclusion? We're really image-conscious about our giving online, and the more we care what people think of us, the more we make sure people know we've been generous.

"[W]e found no evidence of significant variations in lending behavior according to levels of income, social capital, or religiosity," said lead author Joe Cox in a press release. Basically, it makes no difference online whether you're well off, popular, or very involved in your faith community, whereas it does in offline philanthropy. If you give frequently, you may also have a fully filled-out profile, complete with photo.

The study doesn't cast doubt on donors' ultimate motivations; rather it highlights how crowdfunding and giving platforms might become more like social networks if it makes users participate more. It's not a bad thing to build your online brand as a generous person, though — if you can bring that image-making savvy to other professional arenas, you might open up some opportunities.