Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in our ongoing series on crowdfunding. We recommend beginning with Part One.
When the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel on the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia was in need of funding for a restoration project, it truly was in need. The estimated cost of the restoration project was $8 million. Where would the college get this level of funding? Could the college take on additional debt to restore this cherished landmark? They could not, so they turned to Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform, for help. Was it successful? Although the campaign, which is now closed on Indiegogo, did not raise $8 million, it is considered one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever with more than $5 million raised. The college continues to raise funds for the project on its own website.
Crowdfunding for Non-profits
Like Morehouse College, non-profit organizations are turning to crowdfunding to fund their wish lists. Where charitable organizations may not choose to use crowdfunding for general fundraising or annual giving campaigns, crowdfunding does seem to work for special projects. Crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter are not known as non-profit platforms; however, other platforms and software, such as Fundraise.com, CauseVox, DoJiggy’s Pledge and Fundly, are used more in the non-profit arena. In a visit to any of these websites, the reader is treated to a wide variety of projects in areas such as community services, development, education, health, religious, and many more.
The Elements of Success
Most articles about crowdfunding seem to indicate that success depends on three main factors:
- The Campaign’s page must be compelling. An emotional webpage that evokes interest where pictures and videos are used to tell a story is a key element in a successful crowdfunding campaign.
- Utilize your own network. It is hard to get traction on your crowdfunding campaign. Getting the word out in your own network – donors, supporters, staff, volunteers, the board and others – will help start that traction. Ask everyone you know to email others about your campaign.
- Publicity. The crowdfunding campaign should be on the home page of your organization’s website. It should be linked on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Try to get the campaign into local media outlets. Take advantage of whatever resources are available to get people talking about your cause.
Non-profit organizations use different techniques in the format of their crowdfunding campaign. For this reason, running the campaign can be entertaining for the fundraisers and because its fun for them, their enthusiasm can motivate donors. Although the basic request for donations for your cause does work, sometimes being more creative can make the campaign more engaging. Some ideas that have worked for non-profit organizations are campaigns such as a talent competition where the donor dollars pledged determine the winner or a crazy wager where the crowdfunder will do something above and beyond if the goal is met. Another format that I’ve seen many times is a jailbreak where the crowdfunder is placed in virtual jail (or maybe actual, in the right environment) until a goal is met. Other campaigns may not have as crazy a format but can be just as compelling. These may be campaigns where the donor receives a token such as a tee-shirt or their name on a plaque or a certain goal results in a matching donation. No matter which format an organization chooses for their campaign, having their own staff or other insiders engaged in the cause can have a major impact on success.
Crowdfunding campaigns by non-profit organizations have had different levels of success, and the organizations running these campaigns learn what works and what does not work for their organization. Non-profit organizations new to crowdfunding can learn from the success and failures of others, so research is a key to success.
We’ll continue to explore the following question, among others, in future articles:
- What risks do donors and recipients face with crowdfunding?