Crowdfunding In Every Day Giving

September 29, 2015       The NonProfit Times      

Crowdfunding is no Field of Dreams: If you build it, they might not come. If you build it, you need to push it out and tell everyone about it, and then they will come, according to nonprofit technology and fundraising experts.

If your organization is dipping its toes in crowdfunding, it probably has some base of support from traditional fundraising efforts. But, what if it doesn’t have that base?

The process and results from two organizations were showcased during a session at fundraising conference.

One organization started in Washington, D.C., with seed money from a few foundations and corporate partners. When organization leaders wanted to start a crowdfunding program, they found themselves hampered by having no prior donors. The problem managers had never developed a base of support. Insiders were also concerned about the organization’s image.

Another problem the organization is that it nonprofit was sent small, unsolicited gifts and fundraisers didn’t know what to do after they received them. The key was donor stewardship, making sure they don’t lose these donors.

Fundraisers decided to go with a crowdfunding platform to take the place of an everyday online giving function. The organization raised $17,000 in its first year. It was a quiet stream from minimal effort. The only expense is the platform’s administration fee.

Another advantage of using crowdfunding for everyday giving is the ease of creating min-campaigns. It gives the opportunity to create opportunities to give.

Mini-campaigns can work, and so can major campaigns, as managers of a major museum found out. The organization raised $176,000 from 617 donors, 75 percent of whom were new to the organization. Online engagement was through the roof and there was a lot of media attention.

There are a number of lessons to be learned.

You will need more time than you think. One organization pulled it off in six weeks but officiual said six months would have been better.

You will need more staff than you think. The project won’t manage itself and technology can’t do everything.

A campaign kick-off event is a great cultivation tool. Some managers found it better than a thank you event at the end of the campaign.

Social media is crucial for awareness, but email drives donations. The museum had a response rate of 0.07 percent and an open rate of 13 percent. Run email and social media campaigns concurrently.

Crowdfunding campaigns in general have big spikes in the beginning and at the end, but valleys in the middle. The museum planned a matching grant in the middle of the campaign to drive donations.

Curveballs will happen. The last, strongest email might not get delivered. Other curveballs (that not every campaign might experience) included the government shutting down and a controversial celebrity announcing his involvement at an inopportune time.