For decades the job of fundraising for causes was placed solely on the shoulders of fundraising professionals, most of whom have carved out an entire career path within the nonprofit sector based on their specialized skill set. But with the advent and popularity of online crowdfunding, donors and volunteers are being turned into fundraisers now too.
Crowdfunding campaigns have become a valuable channel for generating much-needed dollars and can be used alongside traditional, tried-and-true fundraising methods. When executed well, a crowdfunding campaign can be a huge boon to an organization. Not only do these campaigns tend to reach new donors that would have been otherwise out-of-reach with traditional fundraising methods, but successful campaigns create strong advocates who will champion your cause long after the campaign has ended. These folks will also be more likely to return as fundraisers for future campaigns.
When crowdfunding is not done well, however, it can leave everyone who participated with a bad taste, and far less likely to take part again in the future.
How do you set your crowdfunding community up for success? Chances are that most of your advocates are not professional fundraisers, so setting up a crowdfunding platform and sending them off to raise money in the hopes that they will succeed is unlikely to yield the results you’re hoping for. These folks need guidance, training (technical training on your platform and fundraising coaching), encouragement and acknowledgment if they are going to successfully raise money on your behalf.
When you’re planning your crowdfunding campaign, you need to have a system in place for cultivating donors into fundraisers and providing resources, tools and regular support for the life of the campaign. Giving your fundraising community a realistic view of what it takes to raise money, while encouraging them to go after it with all their heart is a balancing act. Helping your fundraising community build momentum, and not become discouraged or lose interest part of the way through the campaign is a huge challenge.
Does that sound like a lot of work? It most definitely is. In fact, crowdfunding campaigns can be as much work (if not more!) than traditional fundraising methods like events and direct appeals. If your development team is already taxed for time and resources, it will be necessary to find additional support for them as they administer these campaigns.
The value of crowdfunding isn’t in the ease of the campaign, but in the unique access to new donors it gives through impassioned, motivated, perennial champions that are personally invested in the success of your organization.
If you’re planning your first crowdfunding campaign, or looking for ways to improve your approach to crowdfunding, here are five great resources to get you thinking:
Crowdfunding: Tomorrow’s Fundraising Models Today – NTEN Change Magazine
Crowdfunding for Nonprofits – Stanford Social Innovation Review
What Civic Crowdfunding Means for Nonprofits – PBS Idealab Blog