Four times during the past several years, KLRU-TV in Austin, Texas, has turned to crowdfunding to raise money. “Part of it was we were interested in getting into web production but it wasn’t in our current budget. We thought it was a different type of project for a TV station, to try fundraising in a different way,” said Sara Robertson, vice president, production and technology. “It also happened to go outside our normal donor base. Because web is everywhere, these folks don’t care where you are, they just want good content,” she said.
KLRU-TV has raised some $73,000 in four crowdfunding efforts during the past three years or so. In one case, the station raised only $6,000 of a $25,000 goal, but still was able to put those contributions toward production of a documentary about the Supreme Court case, Fisher v. Texas. “In public television, when you do fundraising part of the messaging anyway is, you’re helping us sustain our production. We’re careful not to mislead anybody. We’re always going to do these productions. They weren’t in our budget but it’s important to us they move forward,” Robertson said. Grantmakers also liked the fact that they first tried crowdfunding.
All fundraising is hard but the crowdfunding market is even more competitive than it was two years ago, Robertson said. Crowdfunding “definitely will be one of our tools, I think we’re also constantly experimenting,” she said, adding that it also opens up opportunities for different methods and audiences are now receptive to different fundraisers.
As crowdfunding becomes more prevalent among nonprofits, the authors of a “Crowdfunding Bill of Rights” for donors have set their sites on crowdsourcing another version, this time from the perspective of the nonprofits and organizations involved. David Neff and Miriam Kagan presented a session together on crowdsourcing for the past two years at the Austin, Texas festival, SxSW Interactive. Neff is co-founder of Lights.Camera.Help, a nonprofit film festival in Austin, Texas, and manager, digital strategy, for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Kagan is senior fundraising principal at Austin, Texas-based fundraising firm Kimbia.
Last year, the duo put together a crowdsourcing “Bill of Rights” for people giving to a crowdfunder, explaining the basic engagement and rules, to offer a semblance of what should be expected. This year, they’re aiming to gather feedback on a draft of the nonprofit Bill of Rights soliciting input online through the end of this month via blog posts at Giving City and Kimbia.
The eight points in the draft Bill of Rights are as follows:
- Transparency is the responsibility of all three parties: Nonprofits, platform providers (if the nonprofit is using a third-party) and the general public. Transparency includes the fundraising costs, when appropriate, the risks associated with the project, if applicable, timelines and all parties involved in the project.
- Nonprofits are required to have full campaign transparency as funding progresses and fulfill perks, if offered, in a timely manner and in alignment with any platform providers perk fulfillment guidelines.
- Nonprofits should clarify upfront or develop a process for communication post-campaign fund allocation (or refund), should the project goal not be met or the project objectives change or realign.
- The data privacy, tracking and marketing rules should reflect the general organization policy on data tracking and privacy or otherwise be clearly disclosed.
- Platforms are responsible to let nonprofits know who’s using the platform for their benefit and platforms are required to let nonprofits fix issues, such as a wrong logo or mission statement, etc.. There should be a process for the nonprofit to request a funder be removed if he or she is not in alignment for nonprofit mission or infringing on mission/brand, etc.
- Individual nonprofits are required to list how designated funds will be used if funding is raised above and beyond the stated goal. It is the responsibility of the nonprofit – not the platform – to ensure designated campaigns set up by nonprofits comply with designated funding regulations and reporting requirements.
- Platforms should offer nonprofits clear, timely and accessible campaign analysis and reporting during and post campaign.
- The platform should allow nonprofits to reach campaign and donors directly with post-campaign follow-up messages, etc.