Crowdfunding campaigns have been attracting more attention in the past year. While a viral initiative like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge may seem out of reach for smaller organizations, nonprofits can still use the crowdfunding concept to make a big difference. Here are some tips for effective crowdfunding campaigns:
1. Use crowdfunding for a specific project, not your overall fund
Crowdfunding campaigns can seem like a magic solution to your need to increase donations. However, the viral nature of this technique works best when it’s going for a specific campaign or to raise awareness prior to an event. Crowdfunding campaigns should create a sense of urgency.
2. Realize that crowdfunding campaigns don’t run on autopilot
A major mistake some nonprofits make when they get involved in crowdfunding campaigns for the first time is the idea that they can start a campaign and leave it to run by itself until it reaches the goal a few weeks later. This is rarely the case. This is especially true if you set a high fundraising goal. Your organization needs to continually spread the word about the campaign to attract the initial awareness before supporters share with their contacts.
3. Overcome the initial hurdle and make it easy to participate
It can be difficult to convince donors to support your cause if they see a crowdfunding campaign with a large goal and no donations. It may lead them to worry the campaign won’t reach its objective in the allotted time period. To get your efforts to a good start, it may be a good idea to ask friends and loyal members of your donor database to contribute early in the campaign. This can make it more appealing for supporters who aren’t as familiar with your organization to get involved.
4. You don’t need to emphasize thank you gifts
Many crowdfunding campaigns for personal causes offer donors something in exchange for their support. Nonprofits typically can’t take this approach because it would cut into their fundraising revenue. However, this may be better news than you think. A 2012 study from Yale University cited by Forbes revealed that offering thank-you gifts in exchange for crowdfunding actually decreases donations. The researchers found that receiving something in exchange for a donation detracted from contributors’ feelings of being charitable. People often give because it makes them feel good, not to get something in return. However, some benefits can encourage gifts. Nonprofits need to acknowledge the context. Experiences, like invites to special events, are often more effective than tangible gifts.
5. Use video to tell your story across social media.
Crowdfunding campaigns with videos gain four times as many donations as those without. Video enables you to tell a story and this form of content is highly shareable on social media. Another tip for encouraging people to share is to use square images in your campaign. Facebook cuts the corners of rectangular images, so potential supporters may not see the full photo if you use the wrong format.
6. Emphasize fundraiser and donor cultivation
Crowdfunding fundraising is a powerful tool for raising a large amount of money in a short span of time (just look at these awesome examples if you’re not convinced!), but you’re missing a key opportunity if you treat these campaigns as a one-time interaction with donors. You can strengthen your donor database if you connect with contributors after they give. This helps ensure future fundraising efforts are more successful and gives you a sustainable donation pipeline. Crowdfunding should never be treated as a one-off transaction. Create an opportunity for donor loyalty.
MobileCause crowdfunding campaigns for nonprofits is different than traditional crowdfunding as organizations receive donations in real-time and full donor information.
By Sean MacNeill, MobileCause CEO