November 20, 2017
 
Tips for a Nonprofit Crowdfunding Campaign

By Julia Campbell

Julia Campbell
Nonprofits all over the world are using "crowdfunding"—which often relies on websites and social media to enable individuals to network and pool their money—to support efforts to raise millions of dollars and spread awareness of their cause.

According to Crowdsourcing.org, in 2012 crowdfunding platforms raised $2.7 billion to fund more than one million campaigns. Online giving is the fastest growing method of giving in the sector (although still a small percentage of total gifts), with 62% of Millennials giving through mobile and online platforms.

Using crowdfunding effectively can be the key to getting sums of money fast and increasing a nonprofit’s donor base. However, just as many crowdfunding campaigns fizzle out or go nowhere. Simply setting up an account on a crowdfunding site and then expecting the donations to pour in is guaranteed failure.

Here are my 14 steps to running a successful nonprofit crowdfunding campaign.
  1. Understand the pros and cons. Crowdfunding has many pros for nonprofits—increased donor base, raised awareness, quick turnaround—but just as many cons. Cons include strain on already limited resources, a requirement of a certain level of staff tech-savvy and a big time commitment.

  2. Create your plan. Like any successful event or fundraiser, you need to invest time—weeks, or even months—and resources into planning for the crowdfunding campaign. Planning includes setting a goal, a deadline, and responsibilities for each step of the timeline.

  3. Set your goal and deadline. Crowdfunding campaigns are NOT your annual appeal and they are not to be used for “general operating” funds. The goal needs to be specific ($5,000 for a new playground) and have a deadline attached (we need to raise this in 3 months to build the playground before the spring).

  4. Craft the pitch. The pitch should answer the questions – WHY now, and WHY you? You need to demonstrate the urgency and the impact a gift will have. The pitch is where you need to spend the most time. It needs to be concrete, clear and concise.

  5. Incorporate video. This is absolutely vital. Tell your story through visuals, which are more likely to resonate and be shared on social media platforms. Razoo found that fundraisers with videos raise four times more than those without. For more information, see The Starter Guide to Nonprofit Video Storytelling.

  6. Choose your platform. Only after you have created a plan, set a goal and a deadline and crafted your pitch should you choose a crowdfunding platform. Indiegogo is one of the most popular with nonprofits, due to the fact that they can keep the money raised, even if the total goal is not met. Find listings of popular platforms in this blog post and this article.

  7. Set everything up. Set up your campaign – make sure it looks visually appealing with your nonprofit branding and contact information front and center. Upload the video and photos. You have one chance to grab people – especially those who will be coming to your campaign and not know much about you. First impressions are everything.

  8. Identify low hanging fruit. Ideally, in the planning stage, you will already have secured pledges from the “low-hanging fruit” at your organization – people who already know and love you. Ask staff, donors, board members, volunteers, friends, family members, city officials, partners, anyone and everyone. As an added incentive, create teams to see who can raise the most money, with a fun incentive at the end, like a half-day off or a cocktail party.

  9. Use online brand ambassadors. Online brand ambassadors are those advocates who share your information online, via social media, email, or blogging. Reach out to them for help with the campaign, and make sure you give them the tools to ask others and spread the word. Create a folder in Dropbox with sample tweets, Facebook posts, and graphics so they can just cut and paste the information.

  10. Work with influencers. Conduct online research to find others who can help spread the word or donate. Don’t just assume that just because someone has a lot of Twitter followers they will be interested in your cause (just as you wouldn’t assume a millionaire you have never met would donate a large sum to your organization). Approach influencers personally – never send out an impersonal group email. Let them know that you want their help specifically, and why you think it would be a good match. They are looking out for their online networks also, so be polite and be convincing.

  11. Spread the word! Use your email list, your own network and your nonprofit’s online communities to spread the word. Online fundraising platform Fundable found that social media is a critical factor in crowdfunding success – for every increase in Facebook friends that share the information (10, 100, 1000), the probability of success increases drastically (from 9%-, 20%, to 40%). Blog about the campaign. Work with local reporters. Shout from the roof tops!

  12. Don’t set it and forget it! Acknowledge people as they donate, retweet or share information about the campaign.

  13. Acknowledge milestones. Send out an email or a Facebook post when you get halfway to your goal or when the campaign is half over. People need to be reminded several times before it will stick, and creating momentum and publicizing successes will make others want to get on board, i.e., We are halfway to our goal! This is what we need now!

  14. Celebrate! Continually update and acknowledge throughout the campaign. But the work isn’t done once the deadline is met. Let supporters know what happened. Did you reach your goal? If yes, celebrate and make sure to tell them you couldn’t have done it without them. If no, let donors know what the money raised will be able to accomplish, so they don’t feel as if their money is going to get lost in the shuffle.
Getting the results you want from a crowdfunding campaign is a serious investment in time and effort, but can be well worth it in raised awareness and an increase in donors. If you continue to showcase the impact of your organization and the funds raised, you will grow a dedicated base of online supporters who will be more than happy to help you on your next project.

Julia Campbell, principal at J Campbell Social Marketing, helps nonprofits reach new supporters and strengthen relationships with current ones using online tools. Email her at julia@jcsocialmarketing.com or call 978-578-1328.
January 2014

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