Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What the heck is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is the aggregation of small amounts of money from a large group of people (via the internet) in order to fund a business or project. Backers on Catalyst fund projects they feel can have a positive impact, and get a non-monetary reward in return. More important than the reward, backers are enablers, allowing entrepreneurs and innovators to shake things up and make the world a better place.

What makes CSI’s Catalyst unique?

Projects listed on Catalyst must aim to have a positive social or environmental impact. However, Catalyst is much more than an online platform, it has the whole weight of the Centre for Social Innovation’s community behind it. Our community is more than 800 members strong, with shared workspaces for social innovators in Toronto and New York City. Projects on this platform can leverage CSI’s network of networks, shared services and support to accelerate their success. To learn more about how crowdfunding on Catalyst connects you to a dynamic community and helps you change the world read this!

What’s an Innovator?

An Innovator (or project creator) is the person that submits, creates, runs, and promotes their project via their campaign page. An innovator is an individual that has a vision of making real change where many people benefit. An innovator is someone that sees a solution, or sees a need, that ultimately helps our society or our environment. This platform is a catalyst for Innovators to practice and build their social innovation.

What’s social innovation?

Social innovation refers to ideas that resolve existing social, cultural, economic and environmental challenges for the benefit of people and planet. Social innovation can be a simple idea that works for the public good, or a paradigm shift that permanently alters the behaviours, perceptions and structures of outdated systems. Social entrepreneurs use entrepreneurial principles to achieve social change.

What does ‘keep what you raise’ or ‘all or nothing’ mean?

For a ‘keep what you raise’ campaign, Innovators receive the money raised regardless of whether their target amount is reached. Backers are helping the Innovators along an entrepreneurial journey and every bit gets them closer to creating impact. For an ‘all or nothing’ campaign the Innovator will only receive the money if their target is reached. The text above the “back this project” red button on the campaign page will explain the type of campaign it is.

What’s the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI)?

The Centre of Social Innovation (CSI) is a social enterprise with a mission to catalyze social innovation around the world. CSI is a shared workspace, a community centre and social innovation lab. CSI is where change happens. CSI creates and animates community workspaces, incubates emerging enterprises, and develops new models and methods with systems-changing potential. CSI was founded as a non-profit in 2004 when a small group of social entrepreneurs came together to re-imagine how work and space is thought of in the social mission sector. The model of shared spaces and services, community programming, venture support and a positive work environment has grown into three existing Toronto locations, with a 4th location opening in New York City in 2013. Please visit CSI’s website for more information.

Who is HiveWire?

HiveWire is a triple-bottom line enterprise that leverages the crowd to help allocate resources, build awareness and make a positive impact. We help organizations access the power of the crowd through the application of innovative technology. One of our goals is to facilitate connections between investors and opportunities by developing integrated ecosystems that generate shared value. HiveWire is pleased to have partnered with the Centre for Social Innovation to help catalyze social innovation via crowdfunding! HiveWire is based in Toronto, Canada. Please visit HiveWire’s website for more information.

Are there any financial returns for backing a project?

There are no financial returns for backing a project. This platform is exclusively for donations with the possibility of a non-monetary reward. It’s important to note that being a backer is more than just about getting something in return. For many people the intangible benefit of knowing that they helped an Innovator’s dream (which will have a positive impact) is a powerful return in and of itself. If you choose to back a project you should be commended for it!

What kinds of rewards can I expect?

The type of rewards that a project might offer depends on an Innovator’s creativity, what they are building/making/doing, and what’s appropriate for each level of backing. It could be a thank you tweet, a t-shirt, a physical item, access to an event, a unique experience, etc.

Are the projects screened before going on Catalyst?

Yes. When an Innovator submits a project, we carefully look at whether the project is ready to be crowdfunded and whether the project fits in with the criteria of social innovation.

How can I browse the different projects?

Our homepage has a brief list of some of the: featured projects, new projects, projects ending soon, and successful projects. By clicking Explore (or via the top menu) you can explore all the projects on the site via categories.

How much does it cost?

As a backer, there is no additional cost to back a project, other than the money you commit to give. If you want to run a crowdfunding campaign then there are fees. Please see: How much does it cost to crowdfund?

How can I join and sign up?

In order to either back a project or submit a project you must first sign up on the site by clicking ‘Join’ on the top menu. We have made it easy for you to join. You can join by using your Facebook account, Google account, or simply by using your email address. Once you are signed in you will also have the ability to leave comments on campaign pages.

Can anyone fund a project?

Yes. Anyone in the world can back (fund) a project. The only thing required is an internet connection and a credit card or a paypal account.

Can anyone submit a project?

Yes! CSI’s Catalyst is open to anyone, anywhere in the world, that is involved in social innovation. In order to crowdfund on Catalyst you do not need to become a member of CSI’s network – although we’d love to have you! If you submit a project on Catalyst we quickly review your submission to make sure that it qualifies before it gets posted.

My question is not answered in this FAQ?

No problem :) just send us an email at and we’ll be sure to get back to you.

General Member Questions

How do I edit my profile?

At the top right of each screen is the name you used to create your account (if you are logged in). Click on your name, select “My profile” from the list, and you’ll be taken to your profile page. Here you can update your profile information by clicking on the small pencil icon next to editable fields. You’ll also see any projects you’ve created and which projects you’ve backed. The projects that you have backed have social media sharing buttons where you can help champion the project by asking others to support!

How do I make a profile pic using Gravatar?

If you signed up via Facebook or Google then your profile picture will be automatically included in your profile. If you signed up via an email and password then you can use Gravatar to add a profile picture. Gravatar is a Globally Recognized Avatar, which is an image that follows you from site to site and appears beside your name when you comment or post. An avatar can help identify your posts on blogs, web forums, and websites. For more information visit

What information in my profile is public?

The information that is public in your profile is: your name, picture, description, what projects you have backed (but not amount you backed or what reward you chose), and what projects you have created. The information that is private (only visible to you if you are logged in) is your email address and details of the projects you backed (amount backed and what reward you chose).

How do I delete my account?

If you wish to delete your account, then please email from the email account you used to create your profile. If it comes to this, no problem, but we would love to know why you’d like your account deleted.

Backing a Project

Who is a backer?

A backer is someone who supports a project by making a financial contribution.

How do I back a project?

You can back a project by clicking on the large red “Back This Project” button at the right hand side of any campaign page. You’ll then be taken to a page listing the rewards offered and you can decide how much to contribute and which reward you want (you can also opt for no reward). After clicking the next red button you’ll then be taken to page for a final review of what you chose and then the next click will take you to a PayPal payment page where you can pay with a paypal account or simply by using your credit card.

When is my money taken from my account?

Your transaction is processed immediately through PayPal’s checkout process, once you have successfully entered your PayPal account information or credit card information. If you need to be refunded for any reason we would do this via PayPal.

Do I need a PayPal account to become a backer?

No, you do not need a PayPal account to become a backer. Simply click on the “Don’t have a PayPal account?” link on PayPal’s checkout page. You’ll be able to pay with your Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or Amex cards.

When I back a project, can I do this anonymously?

Yes, you can back a project anonymously by clicking the box next to “I want my contribution to be anonymous” at the bottom of the page where you enter in your donation amount. When you back anonymously your name will not appear publicly in the backers list on the campaign page, but please note that the Innovator (project creater) will know your name and your email, in order to ensure they provide you with the appropriate reward.

Can I communicate with a project creator?

Yes! We encourage you to communicate with Innovators (project creators) to provide them with feedback and information. You can reach them by clicking on the “Comments” menu above the video box on any campaign page. Please note that your username and profile image will appear publicly next to your comment.

I have backed a project, now what?

After backing a project you will be sent to a thank you page where you will see Facebook and Twitter buttons. So … why not champion this project by sharing it with your networks! It takes more than one person to change the world :) Note that you can also share via the Facebook and Twitter buttons on your profile page as well as directly from the campaign page, under the video. Champion positive change!

How and when do I get my reward?

We encourage Innovators (project creators) to be as timely as possible in delivering rewards after the conclusion of their campaign. Also, we ask Innovators to give a sense of when rewards are likely to be delivered in the reward description. If you’re concerned that the timeline for delivery of a reward is unrealistic, then don’t hesitate to provide feedback to the project creator by clicking on the “Comments” button above the video box on any campaign page. We ask the project creator to contact all of its backers at the conclusion of the campaign to discuss and organize reward delivery details.

Creating a crowdfunding campaign

Why should I crowdfund on Catalyst?

We take social innovation seriously, and are committed to providing the most effective venue for connecting our social entrepreneurs with people who believe in social enterprises. At the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) we have a real world network of hundreds and hundreds of organizations and individuals. This gives us an advantage by allowing our project creators to hold launch events in our locations, to connect with other creators who have successfully raised funding, and to find organizations and people within our network that can help support your project. All project creators become members of the CSI network and this will give them access to CSI’s spaces, relationships, knowledge, and will ultimately extend their own network to potentially increase their number of backers or increase support in other areas.

How much does it cost to crowdfund?

If you want to run a crowdfunding campaign then there are fees that will automatically be deducted from the total you raise during your campaign. If you successfully raise your target amount (or higher) then there is a 5% platform success fee (of total funds raised). If you raise an amount that is below your target amount then the platform success fee is 8% (of total funds raised).. There is also an additional payment gateway fee (PayPal) which is 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction, which usually equates to approximately 3-4% of the total funds raised.

How do I submit my project?

You should know exactly what your project is about, what you need funds for, and why people should support your project. Remember that we’re looking for projects that will have some sort of social or environmental impact. You should also be able to speak in detail about what you’re doing, why you are doing it, what you have done in the past, and what you plan to do or accomplish. Be realistic and transparent about your goals, and have a plan for the fun and exciting rewards that you’d like to offer. Once you have a good idea of all these details, then click on the “Submit” menu item at the top of the page (when you are signed in) and then tell us all about your project by filling in the form. That’s the first step to catalyzing your social innovation! We will contact you about the next steps after being accepted.

My project is accepted, now what?

This is when the fun begins! Now it’s time to get all the details for the content of your campaign; we will send you campaign guidelines to help you along in this process. You will also need to think about how to get your video done and what information to include. Catalyst integrates with Vimeo so you would end up uploading your video to Vimeo and then it can be linked to your campaign page.

Do I really need to make a video and how would I do this?

Our research indicates that making a video, particularly one that is engaging, honest, and clearly communicates your goals, greatly increases the chance of a campaign reaching its funding goals. We advise you to invest the time in making a creative video. Once you’re done, ask your friends and colleagues for an honest opinion!

What kind of Rewards can I give and can I limit quantities?

Rewards can be of any kind, provided they are not monetary in nature, don’t break any laws, and you can deliver them in a timely way. Think of them as being ‘reasonable incentives’ that are a positive way to say thank you. We encourage you to be creative, as stand-out rewards can really capture a person’s imagination and get them talking. Rewards can indeed be limited in quantity at your discretion.

Are there campaign guidelines?

Definitely! Once you submit your project and are accepted we will send you the campaign guidelines that should answer all your questions.


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