Crowdfunding is a form of fundraising that is very popular for nonprofits, artists, and startups because it depends on support from a community. This form might be better for some nonprofits, instead of depending on other funding sources such as large donations from a handful of philanthropists or foundation grants.
Public funding for the arts has declined in recent years, so crowdfunding has been a great way of empowering the larger community to support the causes that they believe in. Even donations of $5 or $10 can be powerful when you have a huge group of supporters chipping in to help your nonprofit!
On the agenda for this article:
- When to launch a crowdfunding campaign
- What amount should your nonprofit crowdfund?
- How to present a compelling story
- Which perks to offer to donors
- Mobilizing your community
Let's explore how to use the crowdfunding model for your nonprofit!
When to Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign
You should plan well in advance, because all fundraising campaigns work best when you build in enough time!
Depending on the crowdfunding platform you choose to use, you may need to go through some steps first. For example, you might need to provide documents to prove that you are a nonprofit.
Then, it'll take some time to approve your project proposal. To reach your fundraising goal, you have enough time to reach out to your potential supporters.
In general, fundraising campaigns are often launched a couple months or even a year before the project or initiative that you are fundraising for.
As far as the duration of your campaign, this will depend on the amount you’re aiming for and whether you will be actively calling and emailing your supporters.
It may be difficult to collect $50,000 in two weeks. On the other hand, raising $500 over the course of 6 months may tire your supporters out or undermine the credibility of your project.
It is important to know that a long campaign is not necessarily more successful. Some platforms place a maximum length to crowdfund -- usually 2 months.
What Amount Should Your Nonprofit Crowdfund?
This is a very important question to consider.
Some crowdfunding platforms operate on an all-or-nothing basis, which means that the funds will not be paid out unless your objective is reached. For these platforms you want to ensure that you will be able to attain this goal.
Therefore, your budget should be as transparent as possible! Showing your donors exactly how their donation will be used can help to increase donations.
Pro Tip: If you plan on using all-or-nothing platforms, consider crowdfunding for smaller things like events, specific tools, or even certain aspects of programs. This will help you to reach your objective.
Don't forget to include the operational costs linked to delivering the project! Consider whether you need to include shipping, buffer time, and staff hours for the budget.
Choose a Crowdfunding Platform
There are two different types of crowdfunding for nonprofits:
Donation-based. This is the simplest way to fundraise. People donate to an individual or organization.
Reward-based. Donors receive rewards based on the amount donated.
Depending on your organization’s needs, you should ask yourself these questions to determine which crowdfunding platform is best suited for you:
Is the platform adapted to the nature of my project? Are there other fundraising projects on the platform similar to mine? Are organizations like yours (arts, startups, or public health) also using it?
Does the platform help promote fundraisers to its users or are fundraiser organizers solely responsible for increasing visibility?
Is there a fee to use the platform?
What happens if the goal amount is not reached? Can you still receive the amount that was raised?
A popular crowdfunding platform is GoFundMe, a donation-based platform. You can fundraise as an individual on behalf of a nonprofit organization. GoFundMe displays how much is raised in real time, which is really useful!
If you are fundraising for a creative project that has a “deliverable” product, such as an album, film, or book, Kickstarter is well-known for crowdfunding. You can create donor perks for increasing donation levels. This will encourage donors to bump up their donated amount, by offering exclusive benefits.
Read on for more information about offering donor perks!
What Perks to Offer for Your Nonprofit’s Crowdfunding Campaign?
One aspect of crowdfunding that is similar to existing membership or donor models is that some organizations offer some “perks” to donors supporting the nonprofit.
Keep in mind that you should offer perks that correspond to the donation amount, so they will change depending on if the donation was $5, $20, $50, $100, $500, or more than $1,000+!
You will want to set up an incrementally increasing number of perks, so that donors are enticed to donate more in order to receive exclusive benefits or access.
The higher amount the donor gives, the more “VIP" treatment they should receive!
Some examples of great donor perks include:
- Exclusive event for donors only
- Swag with nonprofit logo (tote bags, T-shirts, and reusable water bottles)
- Early access to ticket sales or webinars
Just be sure you’re offering perks that you know your nonprofit can deliver! You should make sure that the perks are inexpensive, but will be viewed as a benefit to the donors.
Let’s say you offer an exclusive party for your VIP donors. However, the cost of renting a venue, paying for food and drinks, and hiring staff to work the event is actually the same cost, or more than the amount you received from all the VIP donors. This is a classic case of not planning ahead for all costs, and weighing the donations against delivering perks!
The opposite is also true, make sure to spend your precious money on perks that are beneficial to your donors. If you find inexpensive little trinkets that you can give to all of your VIP donors, but if they either aren't useful or come across as cheap, you are better off not purchasing them at all. Be sure to think in the brains of your donors to find something that is both budget friendly and adds value!
How to Present a Compelling Story
The more human-centered and transparent you are in the crowdfunding proposal, the more you will maximize its attractiveness to prospective donors.
When you’re brainstorming how to create a compelling story, consider how your nonprofit began, why the nonprofit is unique in its mission, and what to show as its track record of accomplishments.
Tell your nonprofit's "story" so that potential donors want to support your nonprofit's mission! Feel free to add photos, short videos, and infographics to really catch attention.
Mobilize Your Community
Start by mobilizing friends and family members who are closest to you. They will be inspired to donate, because they know how important it is to you!
After mobilizing your first circle of friends and family, the second circle (the acquaintances of your friends and family) will also be interested. This will create buzz that might even inspire a third circle to also donate to the crowdfunding campaign.
Sometimes, for smaller fundraising goals, mobilizing the first circle is enough. Start getting your contact lists together!
Feel free to segment your community by whether they already know your organization, whether they have attended an event before, or used to be a donor, in order to personalize your messages and present your project in the most favorable light.
Crowdfunding is a great fundraising plan for you, if you want to add an opportunity for your community to feel ownership of the cause and contribute to the success of the organization.
However, as discussed in this article, your budget and operations must be carefully worked out in order to be as transparent as possible with your donors.
Then, you just have to choose the platform that is best adapted to your needs.
Ready to begin crowdfunding?
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