The Crowd is Funding, the Crowd is Funding! | npENGAGE

The Crowd is Funding, the Crowd is Funding!

By on Aug 20, 2014


crowdfunding ideas and tips

As viral fundraising campaigns continue to make headlines and top our social media feeds on an almost daily basis, it’s hard to believe anyone would be unfamiliar with the idea of raising money online.

Specifically, crowdfunding has opened up a world of new opportunities for individuals, groups, and even charities to bring in donations for projects and causes they care about.

As a proud professional who works in the nonprofit industry, I am thrilled fundraising is making headlines.  

While some fundraising buffs might look down at the DIY nature of crowdfunding, it’s important to put the impact of this fundraising strategy into perspective.

According to Fundly, over $34 billion has been raised worldwide through the power of crowdfunding!

That’s $34 million helping fund entrepreneurial endeavors, giving sports teams the money they need to travel to competitions, and keeping medical costs low for families. (And that’s just a sampling of all the causes that crowdfunding can assist with.)

And crowdfunding isn’t just limited to personal fundraising! Organizations have hopped on the crowdfunding bandwagon as well, with many online platforms created specifically to help guide nonprofits to online fundraising success.

With so much to be gained, it’s time for nonprofits to take notice of the appeal of crowdfunding and learn how to tap into that power themselves.

So, as a professional in nonprofit management, what do you do?

Here, we’ll go over 4 vital steps necessary to making the most out of a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign:

  1. Partner with the right crowdfunding technology.
  2. Set reasonable goals for your crowdfunding campaign.
  3. Be open to new fundraising ideas.
  4. Be informed about the world of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding could be the perfect step in the right direction for your nonprofit, so let’s not waste any time.

Step 1. Partner with the right crowdfunding technology.

With crowdfunding being as popular as it is, there’s no doubt that the number of online crowdfunding platforms have expanded beyond belief in the past few years.

In fact, there are a number of reputable sites dedicated to serving specific fundraising niches (like funding a honeymoon or wedding) or raising money more generally.

Blackbaud of course has a lot of good options to facilitate do-it-yourself campaigns and our newest service, everydayhero, is an excellent option.  

Because there are so many options when selecting your online crowdfunding platform, you’ll want to keep certain considerations in mind before deciding, including:

  • The cost of the service, including initial platform fees, payment processing costs, and service charges.
  • Whether the platform allows all campaigns to keep their donations, or just fully-funded ones.
  • If the site caters to individuals, nonprofits, or both.
  • Design, branding, and other customization options for individual fundraising pages.
  • What social sharing, updates, and commenting features the site allows.
  • If the site offers additional fundraising capabilities, such as peer-to-peer fundraising or team fundraising.
  • How much training, fundraising assistance, and support the platform offers.

Of course, no matter what site you choose, any online crowdfunding platform will equip you with the tools you need to set a goal, collect donations, and fulfill your fundraising needs.

The key to a good crowdfunding partner is accountability. The right technology can help you track the results of these campaigns and help make them successful.

Step 2. Set reasonable goals for your crowdfunding campaign.

It would be fantastic if every online campaign went viral immediately (or at all), but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Instead of abstractly hoping that your campaign will be the next Ice Bucket Challenge, take some time before the launch of your campaign to establish your desired outcomes and determine how you’ll get there.

Here are some solid examples of questions to jumpstart the goal-setting process:

  • How much money do we want to raise? If you’re funding a specific project, consider how much it will cost to fulfill those needs. Don’t forget to account for costs you’ll accrue throughout the campaign, including platform fees and any event-planning costs.
  • How many new donors do we want to reach? Since crowdfunding typically relies on a large number of small gifts, it’s the perfect low-pressure situation to attract new supporters. Set a tangible goal of new donors you can reach through social media sharing, word-of-mouth, or other means.
  • How can we raise awareness for our cause? Less tangible but equally important, qualitative goals such as bringing greater awareness to your mission are harder to measure, but not impossible! Use metrics such as new social media followers or engagements and public attention (i.e., online mentions) to track the impact your campaign is having in your community.

To make sure your goals are attainable, check that you have a way to track and follow up on each goal. While some ambiguity is okay, you want to at least have one or two primary goals that are well-defined and clearly measurable.

Step 3. Be open to new fundraising ideas.

Once upon a time, the idea of an online personal fundraising webpage would have never crossed a fundraising professional’s mind. Luckily, times change and innovative technologies make our jobs much easier (and more profitable).

With that in mind, it just doesn’t make any sense to take an antiquated approach to fundraising. New ideas and techniques have the potential to streamline our strategies and generally improve our outcomes—why wouldn’t we take advantage of them?

Even so, a lot of nonprofits are closing their eyes to the potential and by time they get on board, a new trend may have surfaced.  

To avoid missing out on the next great fundraising movement, make sure your team stays open to innovation and looks for ideas in unexpected places.

Since technology and innovation go hand-in-hand, let’s explore a few areas where your team might be able to update your fundraising strategy through implementing nonprofit tech:

  • Online and mobile giving. Whether you’re revamping your online donation forms or taking on a new text-to-give initiative, the way that your supporters give is changing—and you should be prepared to shift with them! Invest in online and mobile donation tools or fundraising software to give donors more options than ever before.
  • Event technology. Event fundraising is as old as time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a modern twist to amp up your next fundraiser. Event fundraising technology can help you plan your event, register guests, sell and track auction items, and follow-up with guests afterward.
  • Donor management software. With more comprehensive features than ever, the right donor management solution can give you access to much more than just donor names and email addresses. Use your software to get to know your donors; then use that intel to plan profitable campaigns and track your progress (all with the help of your trusty donor management software).

Technology isn’t the only way to stay on the cutting edge of fundraising, but with the right tools on hand, creative, exciting fundraising campaigns aren’t far behind!

For more information on the best emerging nonprofit resources, check out this master list from Double the Donation.

Step 4. Be informed about the world of crowdfunding.

My friend Dan has been following this latest trend with great interest. On NPR, a high ranking nonprofit executive was confused about a campaign that had gone viral for their charity.  

Don’t let that happen to you.  

Crowdfunding campaigns start as a whisper but can quickly become a roar, and you don’t want to miss out on the next crowdfunding phenomenon simply because you weren’t paying attention.

To stay ahead of the game, keep an ear to the ground by following these tips:

  • Stay vigilant on social media. Viral campaigns and new trends thrive on the Internet, so be proactive in tracking fundraising trends on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more. Go even further by dedicating a short period of every development report for a social media briefing to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
  • Learn from the best at nonprofit conferences. Professional fundraisers gather at nonprofit conferences for the purpose of discussing new trends and helping each other grow as organizations. Don’t miss out on these invaluable opportunities to meet with others in your field and get an idea of what’s working for them (and what isn’t).
  • Ask your supporters (and listen to them!). Your donors are the ones who’ll ultimately make your campaigns successful, so find out what piques their interest and gets them excited to support your cause. You might be surprised what valuable insight you’re able to glean from a simple survey or one-on-one conversation.

Staying informed on the latest in fundraising doesn’t have to be an all-consuming task. Instead, simply make it a daily practice and get into the habit of learning wherever you can.

Crowdfunding is nothing new.

As a nonprofit leader, you want to be in front of the conversation, not hiding behind the door. Have fun with it, and make your next crowdfunding campaign one to remember!

This post has been updated to reflect the latest crowdfunding best practices.


Debbi Stanley is manager of the Blackbaud client success team. As certified fundraising executive, Debbi has raised more than $15 million for nonprofit agencies and is a recognized expert in strategic, succession and resource development planning. During her nonprofit career, she served in many positions including development director for health and human services agencies and she was a successful consultant teaching nonprofits approaches to organizational development that properly leverage resources for project sustainability. Her expertise in situational leadership and her knowledge of funding strategies has helped hundreds of nonprofits do more for their communities. An avid fan, Debbi is blessed to have two sons who are great athletes at both forms of football – the American and the International version.

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