In 2015 it was estimated that over $34 billion dollars was raised through crowdfunding and that number has continued to grow exponentially ever since. All of us would like to launch a crowdfunding campaign that catches fire and raises hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of dollars as a result of a viral explosion. Pebble Time Smartwatch did just that raising a little over $2 million dollars on Kickstarter.
Let’s begin with the fundamentals of a successful campaign. Like every successful fundraising endeavor, the most important part of the process is your story. I was reminded of this recently at a fundraising luncheon. Telling a compelling story is critical to your success and in today’s world telling your story includes pictures and video. Once you get your story down pat – here are some important keys to success.
Choose the right platform. Not all crowdfunding sites are equal. Some offer discounts to charitable organizations, others have incentive programs for meeting your goals. Make sure the platform matches your organizations vision, mission, and values. Oddly enough Quickbooks has an excellent article on their website about crowdfunding platforms – click here.
USP – Unique Selling Proposition. What, you haven’t heard that term in a while? It is still as relevant as ever. What is it that sets your organization apart from others? My ON/OFF switch is almost permanently off when it comes to online solicitations and social media. It seems like every friend I have on social media is pushing someone’s kickstart campaign and even if I had the resources to fund them all, I don’t have the time to sort through all the appeals. In other words – you better get my attention quick. My favorites include some form of humor in their initial approach.
Post updates. It isn’t enough for donors to return to the site to see how you are doing; as soon as you capture data on your donors be sure to follow up. Send a thank you, send progress reports, and ask for their assistance. “I want to thank you for your heartfelt gift of $25 towards our campaign to end poverty in Union County. To date we have sent home 273 backpacks filled with food for our weekend hunger-free initiative. If you have friends who are willing to sponsor a family, please share this link to our fundraising campaign.”
Now for the steroids-part of the campaign. EVERY, YES EVERY campaign should have the goal of expanding your donor database and prospect list. Crowdfunding platforms provide the avenue for friends of your organization to share the mission with others and serve as first-line recruiters. This is why a compelling story is critical. If your campaign catches fire (even just a small brush fire), it means new contacts, new donations, and new opportunities. I have watched far too many nonprofits wither and die because they have forgotten one of the key rules of a successful organization – you’re growing or your dying. Crowdfunding is just one more avenue in your diversity playbook for fundraising success.