Crowdfunding is Purr-fect Launching Pad for Flushable Cat Litter Box

Washing, scooping and tracking litter across the floor – the pet peeve of owners who love their cats, but hate the messy cleaning routine each day.

That’s what spurred a team of engineers to devise an automatic litter box that makes every day living for pet owners more efficient and comfortable. The idea of a flushable toilet for cats may seem ridiculous, but the fancy pet technology — dubbed Catolet — is currently crowdfunded at a price of $159.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free crowdfunding platform UHelp, says there is no shortage of entrepreneurs who are banking on crowdfunding campaigns on the internet to launch their new products.

“Crowdfunding is supporting inventions by securing capital beyond traditional means,” said Hikind. “The most effective campaigns will not only gauge the market for appeal, but actually build momentum behind an idea and connect backers directly to the new product.”

Catolet has done just that. Almost $61,000 has been pledged through the crowdfunding campaign and the new product's designers say they have amassed 100 percent of their required goal. The smart litter box automatically senses when a cat or small dog has finished its business and activates a self-cleaning conveyor belt that flushes away the waste. Like a human toilet, Catolet is connected to the local water supply and flushes into the sewage system

On UHelp when you have a new product design you can incorporate the first run of the new model into your Thank You Rewards.  Try to relate the perks to the item at hand, because they should match well to the interests of your target audience, that is most likely to contribute.

In this case, for example you might offer unique tee shirts or other items for animal lovers for lower price perks.  .

Every day after your campaign goes live on UHelp, campaign organizers and campaign team members receive a marketing tip – Day 3 is entitled, "Create Thank You Rewards (Perks for Contributions)" . Thank You Rewards are a great marketing strategy and an optional part of any campaign.

The UHelp system allows for up to five Thank You Rewards (Perks) for different donation amounts. Perk titles should be clever and clear. Be sure you can fulfill perks by calculating all costs to your campaign including shipping. Upload an image of the reward. Use words like “only 25 available” or “for the first 100 contributors” in your description. Connect your tangible and intangible perks to the purpose of the campaign.

For entrepreneurs, crowdfunding is another way of funding your ability to produce and market a new invention.  It is not a loan and does not have to be paid back. Crowdfunding is when a crowd of people believe in your ability to produce a well needed project and are willing to contribute their dollars to your campaign.  Why UHelp, above the other platforms? because you get to keep all the money you raise (no platform fee), with immediate access to your funds.


About the Author: Staff Writer for


Crowdfunding for Castles: Strangers Rally to Save 13th-Century French Chateau

A group of strangers have banded together to keep a fairy tale alive.

That’s the idea behind a crowdfunding campaign to preserve the Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers, a 13th-century castle that looks as if it was taken out of a Disney movie.

Rather than see developers destroy the building, backers have raised more than $1.3 million to save the historic home — complete with turrets, towers and a sizeable moat – located roughly 200 miles southwest of Paris in Les Trois Moutiers.

As little as $60 will entitle contributors to a share in the company that owns Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers. So far, more than 13,000 donors from at least 100 nationalities have become part owners, which offers them a say in the chateau’s development and the chance to be among its first visitors.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free cowdfunding platform, said nonprofit organizations have only begun to scratch the surface to crowdfund historic projects centered on restoration and renovation

“This crowdfunding project demonstrates the power of the internet to rally many people to unite behind a good cause,” she said. 

The oldest sections of the chateau were built in the 1200s. Since then, the building has survived two English occupations during the Middle Ages as well as an upheaval amid the French Revolution.

Major restorations, in 1809 and 1870, helped incorporate the original building into a more Romantic style home. The structure was already in a state of disrepair when a math teacher acquired the building in 1981. The owner did his best to preserve the site, but not enough to prevent nature from sprouting greenery from windows and rooftops.

Organizers of the crowdfunding campaign say another €500,000 is needed for essential work to make the building safe. The goal is to reach 50,000 visitors by 2021 and 70,000 by 2022. The chateau will also host exhibitions and historical re-enactments and seek extra funds by renting out the property to film and production companies.

Do you have a historic preservation project? How about using Uhelp, the free crowdfunding platform.

About the Author: Staff Writer for

Top 10 Crowdfunding Websites

Top 10 Crowdfunding Websites


If you have an idea for a new product, a start-up business or a compelling cause, you’ve probably thought about how to raise the funds you need, meaning you’ve probably thought about raising funds on the internet.

Crowdfunding has become an increasingly popular way for individuals and small businesses to raise money. As it grows in popularity, though, more and more fundraising websites become available. All crowdfunding platforms are not  created equal. Every crowdfunding platform is different, so you need to choose the one that is right for you. 

Which crowdfunding platform should you use to raise money for a charity, business, start-up, innovation or personal need? How to evaluate.

Consider the platform fees, credit-card processing fees, waiting periods to receive the funding and the types of campaigns associated with the website:


  • The platform fee is the percentage of the money you raise that the website charges you to raise that money. The average fee is 5%, though some platforms charge as much as 10%. However, there are a few platforms that don’t charge a fee at all.  
  • The credit-card processing fee is the charge that the bank puts on each credit-card transaction.
  • Certain platforms will only let you raise funds for specific types of projects. For example, some sites only allow creative projects, some only take small businesses or inventions and others won’t accept personal projects or memorials.


You want to look for a website with the lowest platform fees that best suit your unique fundraiser. That way, you can tell your potential contributors that 100% of the money you raise will go to your cause. Try to avoid the “all-or-nothing” approach, which requires you to meet your fundraising goal to receive funding, as opposed to receiving donations regardless if the goal is met.

You should also consider how much time you must wait to receive the funding you raise. Let's say you're raising money for a family whose house burned down. You would want that money immediately, not at the end of the campaign.

The following are some great websites for choosing the best platform for your campaign:



Who it’s good for:

Kickstarter only funds projects or inventions. At the end of your campaign, you need to have created something tangible.


  • Offers a Creator Handbook on how to get started
  • Allows you to test projects in a global market
  • Doesn’t charge funders’ credit cards until the project meets its goal


  • Limits campaign types (creative and performing arts only) 
  • Charges a 5% platform fee
  • Charges a 3.0% – 5.0% credit-card processing fee +$0.05 – $0.20 per donation
  • Implements an all-or-nothing approach (lose what you raised if goal is unmet)



Who it’s good for:

UHelp is open to all campaign types and provides immediate access to all donations. They also offer a discount for nonprofit organizations.


  • Doesn’t charge a platform fee (keep everything you raise)
  • Charges a discounted credit-card processing fee for nonprofits 
  • Is a service of GrantWatch, a trusted and ell-known website.
  • Offers Daily Marketing Plan to help start your campaign
  • Provides free consultations with a fundraising specialist
  • Has solid customer support (phone, email and live chat)
  • Gives you immediate access to funds


  • Is only one year old (product of GrantWatch)
  • Charges a 2.2% – 2.9% credit-card processing fee +$0.30 per donation



Who it’s good for:

GoFundMe has no restrictions on its website. Anyone who wants to start a campaign is welcome.


  • Offers 6 Steps to help you get started
  • Welcomes all campaign types
  • Is well known


  • Does not accept donations under $5
  • Charges a 5% platform fee
  • Charges a 2.9% credit-card processing fee +$.30 per donation



Who it’s good for:

Indiegogo only allows campaigns pertaining to creative, entrepreneurial or community projects.


  • Provides a Crowdfunding Field Guide
  • Has partnerships with businesses like Amazon and Brookstone
  • Offers reward and equity crowdfunding


  • Limits campaign types (creative, entrepreneurial and community projects only)
  • Charges a 5% platform fee
  • Charges a 3.0% credit-card processing fee +$0.30 per donation



Who it’s good for:

FundRazr has various tools, customizable options and support to help your fundraiser become successful. Anyone can start a campaign on FundRazr for any reason.


  • Offers a choice between “keep-it-all” approach and “all-or-nothing” approach
  • Accepts a variety of currencies
  • Offers good customer support with campaign advice           


  • Charge a 5% – 7% platform fee
  • Charges a 2.9% +$0.30 credit-card processing fee
  • Requires proof of your nonprofit status



Who it’s good for:

Classy offers a variety of features for nonprofits and individuals looking to raise money.


  • Is optimized for mobile devices
  • Gives you the option to tailor a vanity URL
  • Has solid customer service (phone, email and live chat)                  


  • Charges a 5% platform fee (basic package)
  • Charges $499.00 per month for a 2% platform fee (Classy Pro)



Who it’s good for:

Fundable is a crowdfunding platform specifically for businesses.


  • Connects you with backers looking to invest in business
  • Provides guides for startups, investors and crowdfunding   


  • Is not well known
  • Charges $179 per month
  • Limits campaign types (businesses only)
  • Charges a 3.5% credit-card processing fee +$0.30 per donation



Who it’s good for:

Patreon is designed for artists and creatives. This is a great platform for freelance artists as well as small-shop or Etsy-store owners.


  • Supports freelance artists
  • Offers monthly donation option
  • Provides content analytics


  • Is not well known
  • Limits campaign types (artistic and creative campaigns only)
  • Charges a 5% platform fee
  • Charges a 2% – 4% credit-card processing fee



Who it’s good for:

Charidy is a crowdfunding site dedicated to nonprofit fundraising.


  • Offers a wide range of campaigns (auctions, dinners, membership drives, etc.)
  • Allows personal campaigns for medical and disaster relief


  • Limits campaigns to 24 hours
  • Requires three donors willing to match smaller donations
  • Charges a 2.9% platform fee
  • Charges a 2.9% credit-card processing fee +$0.30 per donation



Who it’s good for:

DonorsChoose is a website where public-school teachers can start a campaign for necessary materials and experiences for their students.


  • Partners with individuals who may match donations
  • Has been supporting teachers and students since 2000
  • Offers gift cards for purchase (for use on DonorsChoose)


  • Limits campaigns types (classroom projects only)
  • Forces you to spend the donations on pre-approved classroom items manufactured by specific vendors
  • Requires school verification

Allocates 15% of each donation to overhead, teacher outreach, maintenance and buildout of the DonorsChoose website

In summary, choose the platform with the lowest platform fee (because that eats into the money your raise), immediate access to your funds, and the most marketing support.  

About the Author: A research associate prepared this document as part of her marketing fellowship activities.

UHelp | Crowdfunding on #GivingTuesday2017 Builds Holiday Cheer for Forgotten Children

Home for the holidays can take on a somber meaning for girls in theVillage’s residential treatment programs.

The nonprofit, organized to build healthier families and prevent child neglect and abuse, does its best to ease the loneliness and abandonment felt by the girls in-residence who either can’t go home or just don’t have a place to return to at all. But, too often, inadequate funds can get in the way of the best intentions of any charitable organization.

Jory Barrad, Vice President of Development and Marketing at theVillage, learned of UHelp while scrolling through mental health funding resources on Barrad's staff jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of the free crowdfunding platform to solicit support on #GivingTuesday for holiday trips and activities that will make the girls feel special this time of year.

“Blanket statements asking people to give to a charity don’t usually work very well.  People respond when they know where their money is going,” said Elizabeth Marafino Fiola, senior development coordinator at theVillage, in Bryn Mawr, Pa. “This year was our most successful #GivingTuesday campaign because we tailored our message to raise funds specific for trips and activities during the holidays.”

Since launching an appeal on UHelp, “Christmas at theVillage” has received more than $1,1000 in paid donations and with verbal pledges, is on its way to achieving its goal of $2,500. Fiola said the donations will help to sponsor trips for the girls, ages 12-18, to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, or places to ice skate or to see a live show, such as Panto at People’s Light, Disney on Ice, Stomp, and the Nutcracker.

“These normalizing activities are a great opportunity to boost self-esteem and make the holidays brighter for the girls in our care,” she said.

Crowdfunding is all about engaging potential donors and building momentum within “the crowd,” said Libby Hikind, CEO and founder of UHelp and Grantwatch.   

With limited human resources at their disposal, Fiola said past #GivingTuesday campaigns were somewhat overwhelming and produced less. UHelp, she said, simplified the process. Her task was much easier, using the UHelp platform, to draw attention to the crowdfunding page by emailing theVillage’s database, posting on Facebook and Twitter, and monitoring donations recorded to the tote board on the UHelp crowdunding page.

The mission of theVillage is to promote the healing of the spirits of children, families and communities broken by trauma including violence, neglect, addiction, poverty, mental illness, racism and other serious societal problems. 

theVillage provides a spectrum of child welfare and residential programs, as well as mental health and prevention services that help children impacted by trauma from abuse, neglect and mental health issues.

theVillage works with families to resolve the issues that lead to intervention and work toward a better future. Programs emphasize evidence-based methods and a caring environment that reflects our commitment to the Sanctuary Model of Trauma Informed Care. Programs include: Residential Programs; Outpatient Behavioral; Health; Foster & Kinship Care; Adoption; After School/Out of School Time; and In-Home Services.

About the Author: Staff Writer for Uhelp.


Is This The Hero of Pompeii? Archaeology Crowdfunding Holds Key to Unlock the Mystery

A skull belonging to the Hero of Pompeii, the Roman philosopher and naval commander who helped save thousands of lives in the famous city during the deadly volcano eruption of Mt. Vesuvius 2,000 years ago, is about to be verified.

But, before the remains of Pliny the Elder can be conclusively identified, Italian scientists need to raise enough money to carry out tests, such as a stable isotope analysis, to determine where the skull that now sits in a Rome museum came from and if it belongs to the fallen commander of the Roman fleet.

Because Italian cultural and scientific institutions are mired in a budget quandary, the mystery behind the man who lost his life leading history’s first large-scale rescue operation may rest with a profitable archaeology crowdfunding campaign.

Relaxed funding for excavations and government support for the study of ancient cultures like the Pliny project have sometimes put the onus on crowdfunding to engage the archaeological community and get potential donors involved to back proposals.

Most of the crowdfunding platforms for archaeology projects require a processing charge — about 10 percent to 15 percent – based on whatever money is raised, said Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free crowdfunding platform UHelp.

“With so many tasks needed to ensure high-quality work, some projects have difficulty obtaining funds,” said Hikind. “Crowdfunding has become a valuable tool to foster collaboration between historical societies and academic institutions that promote the sponsorship of those quality research projects they feel passionate about.”   

Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, and smothered Pompeii, a city of 20,000, in deadly hot ash before many people had time to escape. Pliny the Elder, who commanded the Roman fleet from across the bay in Naples, used his ships to sail into Pompeii and rescue local citizens to safety.

Pliny the Elder sailed into danger and, like some 2,000 others who are believed to have perished in the molten ash, never returned from Pompeii. A body found a century ago “covered in jewelry like a cabaret ballerina,” may have really been his. But, those beliefs have never been confirmed. 

Some skeptical archeologists have argued that a Roman admiral would never have appeared so heavily decorated, like a "ballet dancer." But, Gennaro Matrone, an Italian engineer who was involved in an early excavation at Pompeii and discovered the remains of 70 people near the shoreline, has a hunch that one of the figures found away from the others is Pliny the Elder.

Once an estimated 10,000 thousand euros from crowdfunding is found, Matrone believes testing the isotopes in the teeth of the skull will validate his claim.

About the Author: Staff Writer for UHelp

#GivingTuesday: The Power of Crowdfunding, Social Media and Collaboration

Without an operating room, anesthesia, recovery unit or air-conditioning, the small clinic in the town of Montrouis, Haiti makes the most of its limited resources to provide disadvantaged Haitians with medical care.

On a trip to Haiti that included a visit to the Life Connection Mission, Megan Silk found herself in the middle of a procedure to remove a local woman’s cancerous tumor that was larger than the volunteer American doctor and non-medical personnel on-hand had expected. Megan Silk can’t forget the woman, who died two months following the mastectomy. That’s why she gives to the Life Connection Mission, she says, “to change the lives of the people in Haiti and give back to the place that changed my life.”   

Megan Silk’s account, captured by #MyGivingStory, is a thread within the fabric of #GivingTuesday, a global charitable campaign designated for the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. Launched in 2012, #GivingTuesday is the brainchild of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, which, along with the United Nations Foundation, designated the 24-hour period as a time for consumers to encourage each other through social media to donate their time, talents or cash to a cause or organization. 

From cash to the American Red Cross to clothing for the homeless, #GivingTuesday has emerged as an annual international, philanthropic ritual falling on the heels of the busiest shopping days of the year. As a prelude to the frenzy of giving that takes place just before the end of the year, #GivingTuesday ignited $168 million in charitable donations worldwide last season, up 44 percent from 2015. Meanwhile, volunteers pledged thousands of hours to assist their neighbors and those in need.

With the clock ticking toward #GivingTuesday, Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free crowdfunding platform, said many businesses, nonprofits and civic organizations across the world are scrambling to put their benevolent campaigns in order. The key to finding the perfect place on which to host #GivingTuesday campaigns is research. Compare the options and select the platform best suited for the cause.

“#GivingTuesday is all about spreading the word,” said Hikind. “So, connecting with potential donors at the right time through email, social media and online content is a strategy in itself.”

The global day of giving, she said, is also a good time to integrate social media campaigns and evaluate current strategies, including branding measures, fees, data-gathering mechanisms and overall support.

“There are so many opportunities, including prizes and promotions, for groups to get more out of #GivingTuesday and raise extra funds,” said Hikind. “Send updates often and don’t forget to say thank you throughout the campaign.”

Megan Silk keeps a photo on the inside cover of her notebook of the deceased Haitian woman she had briefly crossed paths with at the Life Connection Mission. In the days since, the struggling clinic, as a result of crowdfunding, now has a full-time Haitian doctor and a nurse. Silk still wonders if the woman would have survived if she had regular access to hospitals and doctors.

“I hope to see it thrive and help more and more people,” said Silk. “That is why I give to Life Connection Mission."

Where should I start my fundraiser?

About the Author: This Research Associate completed a comparison of all crowdfunding websites.


Strategies for Moving Community Service into Action  

Taking initiative to give back to the community is rewarding and fulfilling in so many ways. Besides the altruistic reasons, personal benefits can be gained as well.

Amanda Chen, in the Huffington Post, finds that generosity can lower stress levels, and lead to more happiness at work and a longer life. Consider these strategies to utilize community service to help others as well as yourself.

  1. Volunteer time with the elderly: Many senior centers have programs that offer young people time to spend with the elderly in a community setting where visitors may not be frequent. Every nursing home or senior community center has different rules, but reaching out to staff to express a desire to volunteer is a good place to start. Stories that these older people share are often inspirational. I have volunteered in nursing homes and have found that these stories are abundant, interesting and educational.
  2. Offer free tutoring to elementary or high school students: One great way to give back may is offer expertise as a tutor in math, English or social studies. Many students need help with homework, or studying for a test. A tutor often increases both a student’s knowledge and confidence in the subject. Call the school’s tutoring center or responsible faculty to learn how to help.
  3. Volunteer with a nonprofit that sends packages to troops overseas: Many organizations including Operation Gratitude and Operation Troop Support collect items for servicemen and women. Men and women who serve in the armed forces sacrifice comfort and risk their lives to protect the freedom of all Americans. Coordinating the delivery of care packages is a great way to give back and show support and appreciation for all they do.

Don’t put off giving back. Create a community service crowdfunding campaign and invite close family members, friends and coworkers who are supportive of your cause to join your team. We recommend adding at least three members to help divide the work for your daily marketing campaign. Ask them to make a small $5 or $10 contribution to help kick off your community service campaign. You will always have the personalized support of UHelp, our free crowdfunding platform.


About the Author: Lianne Hikind is a staff writer for


There’s no Place like Crowdfunding: Smithsonian Clicking Heels to Hip Hop

When Hollywood’s most famous footwear needed a little polishing, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History turned to crowdfunding to rehab Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from the movie The Wizard of Oz.

The world’s largest museum and research complex is clicking its heels again, this time to the tune of hip-hop.

Energized by previous campaigns, the Smithsonian added some bounce to its fundraising steps earlier this month by surpassing a crowdfunding goal of $250,000 that is required to produce a major anthology of the history of hip-hop and rap.

The partnership with the National Museum of African American History and Culture seeks to create an anthology of more than 120 tracks on nine CDs as well as a 300-page book with essays, liner notes and never-before-published images – all examining the musical, cultural and social force of hip-hop.

Drawing upon the likes of old-school pioneers, such as the Sugarhill Gang and Roxanne Shante’ up through Kanye West and Nicki Minaj, the collection will offer a “perspective on the African-American experience and its impact on American culture.”

For a pledge of $10,000, donors can take one friend for a tour through the NMAAHC guided by Questlove, an American percussionist, DJ, record producer and journalist. Other gifts, including a copy of the anthology for a donation of $100, are more affordable.

“Smart museums and cultural organizations are taking advantage of crowdfunding to finance projects,” said Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the free fundraising platform UHelp.

Federal funds keep the Smithsonian afloat, but the national institution founded 171 years ago by a private donation to the U.S. government also relies on private support for large projects.

Prior to acquiring the $300,000 needed to rehab the nearly 80-year-old slippers worn by Judy Garland in the landmark 1939 film, the Smithsonian raised funds for the National Air and Space Museum to conserve the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore for his walk on the moon. The campaign attracted $719,779, well above the $500,000 goal. 

Hikind said crowdfunding is all about creating momentum and museums are in a unique position to feed off grass-root interests to acquire support.

In a shift toward the ways arts and cultural projects seek funding and find success, UHelp can be the first step toward centralizing the energy that builds publicity to locate the much-needed backings.


Smithsonian National Museum of American History

National Museum of African American History and Culture

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About the Author: Staff writer for