Crowdfunding has its origins in churches and union halls, where a basket or a hat would be passed around to collect funds. In the Internet age, crowdfunding campaigns are also used to appeal for your community's financial support.
A crowdfunding campaign is anchored by a landing page on the web that describes the project and asks for the community's financial support. Visitors to the page are invited to make donations with a credit card, a PayPal account, a mobile phone payment tool, or even digital currency. Finally, the crowdfunding page has sharing features, so that visitors and supporters can spread the word about the campaign, thereby enlarging the crowd.
Here are eight ways to make your crowdfunding campaign successful.
1. Select a Crowdfunding Platform
There are many excellent vendor platforms to choose from, at a variety of price points to match your organization's budget. Here's a list of crowdfunding vendors that would be good to consider: Classy.org, Indiegogo.com, GoFundMe.com, CrowdRise.com, and Razoo.com. (Editor's note: TechSoup also offers crowdfunding plans from CauseVox.)
2. Highlight Your Brand
When you use an online vendor to host your crowdfunding campaign, be sure to highlight your brand as clearly as possible. This includes using your logo, your color scheme, and other key messaging elements so that visitors will know who they're supporting.
3. Tell a Compelling Story
You'll only have a few seconds to make a strong impression on your visitors, so write a short and compelling description of the project you're raising money for. Focus on a strong headline that summarizes the problem you're trying to solve and the solution you're proposing. Feel free to illustrate your story with testimonials that demonstrate the impact your organization can make to address this issue.
4. Use Photos and Video for Emotional Impact
A few photos will help you illustrate your story, and don't hesitate to use a short video (under one minute) for additional emotional impact. Videos have been shown to dramatically increase the performance of crowdfunding campaigns.
5. Offer a Variety of Giving Levels
Your crowdfunding campaign will be widely disseminated, so be sure to offer a variety of giving levels. Don't turn away small gifts ($5), since these donors can be moved up the ladder of engagement over time. Be sure to describe how certain donation amounts help your project — this can motivate donors to give at higher levels.
6. Consider Offering a Gift or Premium for Different Giving Levels
Many crowdfunding campaigns offer a gift or a premium that corresponds to levels of giving. This technique can be useful when you reach out to new supporters who will be more tempted to make a donation in exchange for a small gift.
7. Do Email Follow-up with Your Donors
All donors should receive an immediate email thank-you after they make a gift. It should also suggest that they spread the word via email and social media. Don't hesitate to email your donors with an update every few weeks, summarizing the fundraising total and asking for additional help with promotion.
8. Get Creative with Your Promotion
Crowdfunding success will depend on your ability to promote your campaign as widely as possible. Get your team together and brainstorm how you'll spread the word. Create a calendar to plot out your marketing activities: email blasts, website promotion, social media posts, flyers at your events, links in your staff email signature files. Contact your business vendors to see if they'll help with promotion (and a donation). Network in your community to spread the word.
Additional Resources on Crowdfunding for Nonprofits
- Make It Rain (PDF) is a detailed crowdfunding guidebook with lots of examples. I recommend it frequently
- Check out 5 Steps for Beginners in Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
- Watch Crowdfunding for Libraries: Technology Tips for Futuristic Fundraising (webinar)