Your staff and your budget are stretched thin. You need work done that no one at your organization knows how to do but that you can’t afford to outsource.What if there was a way to get creative solutions to the complex issues your organization is facing for free or at a low cost, while at the same time energizing your support base and strengthening their relationship with your organization?

It turns out there is a way: Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is a way of tapping into diverse ideas and insights by soliciting contributions from the public, usually through social media or other online avenues. In recent years, corporations from Dell to Starbucks have turned to crowdsourcing to generate new ideas directly from their customers. Fiat has used crowdsourcing to solicit ideas for a new car concept. GE saved millions in fuel costs through a contest to reduce the weight of a bracket on their jet engine. While the GE engineers had been stumped, the winning design was submitted by a young engineer who reduced the weight by 84%.

But crowdsourcing can work even better for a non-profit organization.

Why? As a mission-driven organization, you already have a strong base of supporters that love your organization, believe in what you do and want to help. Non-financial contributions can be just as beneficial to your organization as financial contributions. Supporters of arts and cultural organizations come in all shapes and sizes, and I would be willing to bet that somewhere in that group is an engineer, a graphic designer, a lawyer, an event planner, an accountant and a copy editor. All of the skills your organization needs to be successful are right there at your fingertips – you just need to figure out what you need help with and how to ask for it.

To get the creative juices flowing, here are a few ways to start leveraging crowdsourcing:

Redesigning your logo:

When it’s time to freshen up your logo, cultural organizations often don’t have staff with the skills to do the work. Hiring a design agency can run tens of thousands of dollars. Instead, publicize a contest on twitter and Facebook. Offer a cash prize, or just offer passes to your venue, for the individual that designs a logo that your organization will use. Not only do you get people talking about your organization online, you hopefully also get a fresh and creative new logo.

Photography for an event:

Can’t afford a photographer for an upcoming event but want to have to have quality photos to use for PR? Instead of having your staff trying to run around and take pictures while also managing the event, ask your attendees to be your photographers! Set up a site online for attendees to upload photos (you can even give out a password at the event to do so), and let them know ahead of time that you’re seeking submissions.

Voting to determine programming:

Can’t decide which exhibit or performance to schedule for next year? Feeling anxious about ticket sales? Ask your audience. Most people like to express their opinions and feel empowered by the ability to impact programming. By asking them what they want to see, you can feel confident about your ticketing revenue goals and your supporters will feel like you value their opinions.

Growing your members:  

You hope your members are already spreading positive word of mouth about your organization. Why not give them some incentive to encourage not only spreading positive word of mouth, but also asking their friends to become members too? Whether it’s a discount on their own membership for referring new members, or passes to a special exhibit, that added incentive will help them give their friends an extra push to sign up.

What other ways can you tap into the talents of your supporter base and encourage non-financial contributions?

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below or on twitter @laurabeussman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura joined Blackbaud in 2013 as the Senior Product Marketing Manager for Arts & Cultural Solutions. Previously, Laura spent two years at Dell, most recently as the Lead Pricing Manager for North American Consumer Desktops. Before receiving her Master’s of Business Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Laura worked for 5 years in non-profit arts. During that time, Laura worked as the Associate Director of Finance at Austin Lyric Opera and in Finance/Accounting at the Dallas Theater Center. Laura is also a proud graduate of Texas A&M, where she received her Bachelor’s of Business Administration, Magna Cum Laude and with honors.

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