25 March 2019
By Andrea Carta, Greenpeace EU Senior Legal Strategist
My collaboration with “The Crowd Versus” began in September 2016. At that time, I was providing EU law expertise to Greenpeace International, who had intervened in a case that Bayer and Syngenta had started against the EU Commission: the two agrochemical companies were trying to annul a regulation that prohibited the use of three active substances for pesticides (neonicotinoids), which the Commission found to be harmful for bees.
Together with other NGOs engaging in the protection of bees and pollinators (Bee-Life.eu, Bugslife.org, and Pesticides Action Network-Europe), we decided to intervene in the proceedings in support of the Commission’s ban.
The Crowd Versus made their platform available for a fundraising campaign, to help us pay the costs of the court intervention and to provide communication opportunities around the case.
Getting the fundraising campaign started was a relatively easy process. The Crowd Versus uses a simple and transparent standard agreement and it provides the parties with all the basic information to develop the crowdfunding page. At the design stage, requests for input on Greenpeace’s side were minimal, and limited to a short description of the legal case and to some pictures.
The Crowd Versus produced a dedicated webpage and a video. It also took care of the launch of the crowdfunding via social media like Facebook and Twitter. Communication was regular and all the adjustments that proved necessary (text, timeline and target) were made practically in real time.
On 29 September 2016 we were online and the campaign ended on 15 February 2017 with € 1.680 and 85 individual donors, most of which from the Netherlands, where The Crowd Versus is based.
Considering that we were practically running a pilot, and that The Crowd Versus was mainly counting on its own audience, I think the result of this short campaign was encouraging, even if it did not reach the target that we had initially set.
What could have we done differently to achieve the target?
Based on my experience with the bees’ case, I think that, beyond a thorough preparation, communication is the factor that can determine the success of a crowdfunding campaign. Here are my two advices:
Communicate frequently and widely around the case
This should be easier for grassroots organisations, whose main focus is on one legal cases (or a small number of them), than for large organisations like Greenpeace, who have many campaigns and initiatives running at the same time.
Find a way to make (administrative) law appealing
Administrative law is already boring for law students. Don’t expect it to be entertaining for the public unless you put some serious work on it!
Beyond a doubt, our case was important from both the legal and the environmental perspective. However, mobilising supporters was very difficult, given that cases before the EU Court of Justice are very slow, very technical and very quiet.
With a well-designed and planned communication strategy, a crowdfunding campaign can bring, in addition to the monies that are necessary to run a legal case, a valuable opportunity to mobilise around it and turn a lawsuit into a real campaign.
Andrea Carta works as Senior Legal Strategist for the European Unit of Greenpeace, where he advices on a broad range of EU environmental law issues, including pesticides, GMOs, energy, access to justice, illegal timber imports and trade policy.