Crowdfunding Sustainable Enterprises as a Form of Collective Action

  • Helen Toxopeus
  • Karen Maas
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Sustainable Business In Association with Future Earth book series (PSSBAFE)


Crowdfunding is viewed as a promising source of finance for sustainable enterprises. We apply collective action theory to crowdfunding to better understand its expected potential for financing sustainable enterprises. By carrying out a rule classification analysis, we find three main mechanisms through which crowdfunding seems to facilitate collective action in funding, namely, through (1) use of social networks (2) heterogeneity of contributions and payoffs and (3) aggregation within thresholds. Our findings improve the conceptual understanding of sustainable entrepreneurial finance and provide guidance for sustainable enterprises looking to obtain funds as well as for sustainable crowdfunding platforms as intermediaries.


  1. Andreoni, J. (1990). Impure altruism and donations to public goods: A theory of warm-glow giving. The Economic Journal, 100(401), 464–477. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen, M. S. (2007). An introductory note on the environmental economics of the circular economy. Sustainability Science, 2(1), 133–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ansell, C., & Torfing, J. (2016). Handbook on theories of governance. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Balliet, D. (2010). Communication and cooperation in social dilemmas: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 54(1), 39–57. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Belleflamme, P., Lambert, T., & Schwienbacher, A. (2014). Crowdfunding: Tapping the right crowd. Journal of Business Venturing, 29(5), 585–609. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Belleflamme, P., Omrani, N., & Peitz, M. (2015). The economics of crowdfunding platforms. Information Economics and Policy, 33, 11–28.
  7. Block, J. H., Colombo, M. G., Cumming, D. J., & Vismara, S. (2017). New players in entrepreneurial finance and why they are there. Small Business Economics, 1–12.
  8. Brancati, E. (2015). Innovation financing and the role of relationship lending for SMEs. Small Business Economics, 44(2), 449–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bruton, G., Khavul, S., Siegel, D., & Wright, M. (2015). New financial alternatives in seeding entrepreneurship: Microfinance, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer innovations. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 39(1), 9–26. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Calic, G., & Mosakowski, E. (2016). Kicking off social entrepreneurship: How a sustainability orientation influences crowdfunding success. Journal of Management Studies, 53(5), 738–767. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Campiglio, E. (2016). Beyond carbon pricing: The role of banking and monetary policy in financing the transition to a low-carbon economy. Ecological Economics, 121, 220–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cheng, J., & Bernstein, M. (2014). Catalyst: Triggering collective action with thresholds. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on computer supported cooperative work & social computing (pp. 1211–1221). New York: ACM. Google Scholar
  13. Cincera, M., & Santos, A. (2015). Innovation and access to finance – A review of the literature. iCite Working Paper 2015 – 014.Google Scholar
  14. Colombo, M. G., Franzoni, C., & Rossi-Lamastra, C. (2015). Internal social capital and the attraction of early contributions in crowdfunding. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 39(1), 75–100. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cox, M., Arnold, G., & Villamayor Tomás, S. (2010). A review of design principles for community-based natural resource management. Ecology and Society, 15(4).
  16. Dóci, G., Vasileiadou, E., & Petersen, A. C. (2015). Exploring the transition potential of renewable energy communities. Futures, 66, 85–95. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Eccles, R. G., Ioannou, I., & Serafeim, G. (2011). The impact of a corporate culture of sustainability on corporate behaviour and performance. Boston: Harvard Business School.Google Scholar
  18. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2012). Towards a circular economy – Economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition. Retrieved April 11, 2016, from
  19. Faber, A., & Frenken, K. (2009). Models in evolutionary economics and environmental policy: Towards an evolutionary environmental economics. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 76(4), 462–470. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fehr, E., & Gächter, S. (1999). Cooperation and punishment in public goods experiments (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 203194). Rochester: Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from
  21. Fehr, E., & Schmidt, K. M. (1999). A theory of fairness, competition, and cooperation. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(3), 817–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fischbacher, U., Gächter, S., & Fehr, E. (2001). Are people conditionally cooperative? Evidence from a public goods experiment. Economics Letters, 71(3), 397–404. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frey, B. S., & Meier, S. (2004). Social comparisons and pro-social behavior: Testing “conditional cooperation” in a field experiment. The American Economic Review, 94(5), 1717–1722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Geobey, S., Westley, F. R., & Weber, O. (2012). Enabling social innovation through developmental social finance. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 3(2), 151–165. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Granovetter, M. (2005). The impact of social structure on economic outcomes. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(1), 33–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Granovetter, M. (1978). Threshold models of collective behavior. American Journal of Sociology, 83(6), 1420–1443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Giudici, G., & Paleari, S. (2000). The provision of finance to innovation: A survey conducted among Italian technology-based small firms. Small Business Economics, 14(1), 37–53. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hardin, R. (1971). Collective action as an agreeable n-prisoners’ dilemma. Behavioral Science, 16(5), 472–481. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hörisch, J. (2015). Crowdfunding for environmental ventures: An empirical analysis of the influence of environmental orientation on the success of crowdfunding initiatives. Journal of Cleaner Production, 107, 636–645. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Keser, C., & Van Winden, F. (2000). Conditional cooperation and voluntary contributions to public goods. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 102(1), 23–39. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kitsing, M., & Schweik, C. M. (2010). Applying Elinor Ostrom’s rule classification framework to the analysis of open source software commons (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2019697). Rochester: Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from
  32. Lehner, O. M. (2013). Crowdfunding social ventures: A model and research agenda. Venture Capital, 15(4), 289–311. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Levine, S. S., & Prietula, M. J. (2014). Open collaboration for innovation: Principles and performance. Organization Science, 25(5), 1414–1433. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maas, K., & Liket, K. (2010). Talk the walk: Measuring the impact of strategic philanthropy. Journal of Business Ethics, 100(3), 445–464. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mollick, E. (2014). The dynamics of crowdfunding: An exploratory study. Journal of Business Venturing, 29(1), 1–16. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mont, O., Dalhammar, C., & Jacobsson, N. (2006). A new business model for baby prams based on leasing and product remanufacturing. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14(17), 1509–1518. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moritz, A., & Block, J. H. (2016). Crowdfunding: A literature review and research directions. In D. Brüntje & O. Gajda (Eds.), Crowdfunding in Europe (pp. 25–53). Cham: Springer. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nowak, M. A. (2006). Five rules for the evolution of cooperation. Science, 314(5805), 1560–1563. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Oliver, P., Marwell, G., & Teixeira, R. (1985). A theory of the critical mass. I. Interdependence, group heterogeneity, and the production of collective action. American Journal of Sociology, 91(3), 522–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Olson, M. (2009). The logic of collective action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Ordanini, A., Miceli, L., Pizzetti, M., & Parasuraman, A. (2011). Crowd-funding: Transforming customers into investors through innovative service platforms. Journal of Service Management, 22(4), 443–470. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ostrom, E. (2010). Beyond markets and states: Polycentric governance of complex economic systems. American Economic Review, 100(3), 641–672. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ostrom, E. (2014). Collective action and the evolution of social norms. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, 6(4), 235–252. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ostrom, E., & Crawford, S. E. S. (2005). Classifying rules. In Understanding institutional diversity (pp. 186–216). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Polzin, F., Toxopeus, H., & Stam, E. (2017). The wisdom of the crowd in funding: Information heterogeneity and social networks of crowdfunders. Small Business Economics, 1–23.
  46. Poteete, A. R., & Ostrom, E. (2004). Heterogeneity, group size and collective action: The role of institutions in forest management. Development and Change, 35(3), 435–461. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rennings, K. (2000). Redefining innovation—Eco-innovation research and the contribution from ecological economics. Ecological Economics, 32(2), 319–332. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Scholtens, B. (2006). Finance as a driver of corporate social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 68(1), 19–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shiller, R. J. (2013). Capitalism and financial innovation. Financial Analysts Journal, 69(1).
  50. Stern, N. (2008). The economics of climate change. American Economic Review, 98(2), 1–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Toxopeus, H., Liket, K., & Maas, K. (2015). Innovating in impact investing: Financial institutions and beyond. In Principles and practice of impact investing: A catalytic revolution. London, UK: Greenleaf Publishers.Google Scholar
  52. Tukker, A. (2015). Product services for a resource-efficient and circular economy – A review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 97, 76–91. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vasileiadou, E., Huijben, J. C. C. M., & Raven, R. P. J. M. (2016). Three is a crowd? Exploring the potential of crowdfunding for renewable energy in the Netherlands. Journal of Cleaner Production, 128, 142–155. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vismara, S. (2015). Information cascades among investors in equity crowdfunding (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2589619). Rochester: Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from
  55. Vollan, B., & Ostrom, E. (2010). Cooperation and the commons. Science, 330(6006), 923–924. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wal, A. L. J. T., Alexy, O., Block, J., & Sandner, P. G. (2016). The best of both worlds the benefits of open-specialized and closed-diverse syndication networks for new ventures’ success. Administrative Science Quarterly, 0001839216637849.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Toxopeus
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karen Maas
    • 1
  1. 1.Impact Centre Erasmus (ICE)Erasmus School of Accounting and Assurance (ESAA)RotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Sustainable Finance Lab (SFL)Utrecht University School of Economics (USE)UtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations