May 19, 2021

Business loan alternatives: Crowdfunding vs P2P lending


The terms “crowdfunding” and “peer-to-peer lending” often get confused as one and the same—and there’s a good reason for that. Both involve groups of people providing financial assistance in support of entrepreneurship. But peer-to-peer lending (p2p lending) is actually a subset of crowdfunding, and the terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Why? Because these two business loan alternatives offer different advantages and disadvantages, depending on your business type and goals. 

What is crowdfunding? 

Peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding, sometimes known as crowd financing, are often used as an umbrella term to encompass all sorts of group funding methods. In reality, however, crowdfunding refers specifically to when multiple businesses, organizations, and/or individuals provide funding for a project or venture, resulting in many smaller donations spread across multiple entities.

By sourcing from a “crowd”, these businesses are able to secure the boost in cash flow needed to get their project off the ground. The majority of these funding campaigns are run through crowdfunding platforms, with set time frames and monetary goals. 

What are the different types of crowdfunding?

Donation-based crowdfunding: This type of crowdfunding refers to receiving financial support, in the form of donations, in which the person or company donating receives nothing in return. One of the most popular donation-based crowdfunding platforms is GoFundMe.

Rewards-based crowdfunding: Unlike donation-based crowdfunding, participants in rewards-based crowdfunding receive a “reward” for their support. Generally, the reward varies based on the size of the contribution in order to incentivize larger amounts. Most crowdfunding campaigns of this type will offer a product—usually at a discounted price—or branded merchandise. Notable rewards-based crowdfunding platforms include Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Equity-based crowdfunding: As its name suggests, this type of crowdfunding offers contributors a portion of ownership in the business in exchange for financial support. Participants receive a number of company shares depending on how much they contribute. A prominent example of equity-based crowdfunding is Wefunder.

Debt-based crowdfunding: Debt-based crowdfunding refers to peer-to-peer lending, in which contributions are loans that need to be repaid with interest within a certain timeframe. Consumers can access a loan through a website like Prosper.

How does peer-to-peer lending work? 

Peer-to-peer lending, or debt-based crowdfunding, brings together a group of like-minded entrepreneurs who want to make contributions to businesses by loaning them small(er) amounts of money. Rather than owning a stake in the business, like in equity crowdfunding, investors loan the business a specific amount of money via an online platform like Upstart or Fundable. This amount is then repaid over a set repayment term, in which investors receive a return through interest payable on the loan. Some peer-to-peer lending platforms specialize in certain types of businesses or even types of borrowers—such as iFundWomen—whereas others apply to more broad demographics. 

P2P vs. crowdlending: Which loan alternative is right for my business?