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Just For Nonprofits: Crowdfunding Platforms: Blessing and Burden
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Just For Nonprofits: Crowdfunding Platforms: Blessing and Burden- Executive Leadership Articles

Just For Nonprofits: Crowdfunding Platforms: Blessing and Burden

Executive Leadership Articles

Just For Nonprofits: Crowdfunding Platforms: Blessing and Burden

A lot can be said about the online world putting distance between us, encouraging pseudo-relationships in virtual space to replace in-person conversation and reliance. There may be some validity in such arguments, but for better or worse, the Internet also allows people from far-flung reaches of the globe to connect with others who have common interests. A fringe issue when limited to physical geography can become a larger, unified community of concerned people in virtual space. You can see this reflected in the success of crowdfunding, that online phenomenon where projects in need of financial backing may meet their objectives through small contributions in large numbers, in place of large contributions in small numbers. Artists, inventors, and charitable organizations have tapped the power of the multitudes to find caring donors, and multiple platforms on the web are designed specifically to connect nonprofits with givers.

A search for crowdfunding websites reveals a wide range of choices for nonprofits, some specifically aimed at charitable agencies for social cause, others with more far-flung beneficiaries in mind. It may seem like an easy decision to go for the more specialized services, but look around at your options first: more specialization might mean an easier way to find your donors, but less specialization usually means a wider net with more untapped givers. Smaller service providers might make it easier for casual browsers to stumble upon your project, but larger providers are better known, often listing higher in web searches. Most of the crowdfunding sites offer advice and examples for successful fundraising, and some list clients who’ve met their targets. Before you leap into the crowdfunding space, take time to read the advice carefully. Find other organizations who match your profile (size, target amount, awareness levels, target donors) and take notes, or contact them directly to see if they have advice.

Many crowdfunding services allow for fundraising for individual, personal projects, such as hospital costs, dream vacations, scholarships, or new electronic devices. One hesitates to call these vanity projects, since the need is often serious and sincere, but in a large number of cases, this is exactly what they are. As you select your crowdfunding website, consider what your agency’s project will look like among these individual projects, and let this also influence your choice.

Other services work exclusively with licensed nonprofits, offering analytics and other tools to help you track where your donors are and what they respond to. These services also offer advice tailored to your type of organization, coaching you on getting the word out through social media, email, and your own website. This doesn’t necessarily make them more effective, but it’s another layer of involvement you might seek if your social media team wants more structure and guidance.

Be aware that the power of social media doesn’t drive itself. There’s a lot of noise out there, and if you want your signal to reach its audience, your team needs to do more than just set a fundraising goal and share a link on Facebook once or twice. Crowdfunding websites don’t take the job over; they merely provide a means to tap into a community of donors who increasingly expect you to reach them where they are, and to offer multiple avenues for giving. Most of your fundraising wisdom will still come into play: the power of story, the power of gratitude, the feeling a concerned citizen has that his contribution, no matter how large or small, is making a difference. Adding a crowdfunding project to your arsenal doesn’t create less work for your team; it creates more. But the increase in work can yield beautiful results, opening new doors and establishing new giver communities, connecting people who care with organizations working to address the issues they care about.

This short list is not an endorsement for any of the services, but a few places to begin your search, based on reputation and media coverage, are rally.org, classy.org, firstgiving.com, and causevox.com. Good luck, and happy fundraising!


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Just For Nonprofits: Crowdfunding Platforms: Blessing and Burden- Executive Leadership Articles

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