The COVID-19 pandemic saw nonprofits turn to online fundraising. But nonprofits embraced crowdfunding long before the pandemic closed down live fundraising events. And while many organizations turned to traditional mail and email appeals, others entered new territory by creating an online campaign through crowdfunding — and found success.
These new-to-crowdfunding nonprofits may not have realized they were part of a growing trend. According to the Council for Nonprofits –a 501(C)(3) nonprofit itself — “Crowdfunding is projected to become a $90-96 billion dollar industry by 2025, and is being touted as a valuable tool for fundraising for charitable nonprofits. The largest crowdfunding effort in the US, as of August 2018, raised $41.6 million to assist people affected by Hurricane Harvey.”
There are different ways to approach online crowdfunding but they all have three common elements. that are unique, or partially unique, to online crowdfunding
1. Know Your Audience — Then Grow It.
Where does your target audience land online? Are they on social media? If so, which platforms? Are they diehard email users? Or do they communicate through direct messaging and texts? For a successful online crowdfunding campaign, you can’t know enough about your audience and potential donors’ browsing habits.
This is not as difficult as it may appear. If you have fundraised before, start with your donor list. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? In addition, if your organization has a Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media page, you can start building an audience from those who have responded to your organization’s posts.
Also, an online campaign makes it easier to grow your audience because you can reach different and more demographics than ever before. For this, you want to tailor your appeal to specific target audiences. Successful crowdfunders find that a large-scale mass appeal typically won’t bring the same results as several targeted appeals to different groups.
But you don’t have to target all audiences at once. Depending on your campaign window, you can target one audience, then move on to the next. As you move on, your last audience is likely growing on its own through social media shares.
2. Consider Using a Crowdfunding Coach.
There are different platforms available for crowdfunding. But do they offer coaches? If you have a nonprofit with a skeleton staff, a crowdfunding coach will streamline the process to help keep you from pitfalls and sidesteps that can slow your campaign.
And, if you’re starting a crowdfunding campaign for the first time, a coach will show you the ropes, direct you to resources, and offer tips you might not find through your own research.
“If you are actively trying to get a business off the ground, it’s difficult to pursue education at the same time. A crowdfunding coach can help you manage both,” YouHelp Coach Yitz Friedman said, based on his own experience working with new-to-crowdfunding nonprofits.
“To be clear, your coach is not there to handle funding for you,” he noted. “But he or she can certainly help to streamline the process.”
3. Make Your Donors Happy.
Just as there’s a story behind every crowdfunding campaign, each donor has a story of their contribution to your campaign. Help them make it a great one!
Donors create their own stories from the moment they discover your campaign. Exploring your mission, deciding on their contribution and sharing their own story along with yours will mean they may donate again –and grow your campaign audience.
Visually showcase the impact each gift will have on your mission on your crowdfunding page. This provides more meat to your donors’ own stories that they can share and feel good about. You want to acknowledge the pride they feel in donating to a worthy cause. So offer an easy way for them to share their story directly from your campaign page.
You can also allow supporters to create their own unique fundraising page directly from your platform. This can have a ripple effect of many smaller, personalized fundraisers donating to your overall goal.
And, while you may not reach your ultimate goal, you bring what you’ve learned to your next campaign. Success is usually not quick, and this is true for crowdfunding, as well.