Crowdfunding: Is it for You?

There’s a new trend in fundraising, and it’s called crowdfunding. Websites like Go Fund Me, IndieGoGo, and Kickstarter have been making waves for their ability to allow individuals and small organizations to raise money. Nonprofits and higher education institutions are getting in on the act too: with one-day giving events and campaigns to buy new equipment, raise support for a capital project, and more.

The key to a successful crowdfunding campaign is having an end date and being able to promote your campaign aggressively. Much like the traditional fundraising campaign, crowdfunding relies on building and fostering relationships. For many of these sites, the key to getting donations is providing a reward structure that gives the investor some buy-in while using your friends and supporters to encourage their larger network to also donate.

As higher education fundraisers, we are sometimes limited to what we can offer in return. Large donations often equate to naming opportunities: a new building, a professorship, a scholarship, and more. Crowdfunding holds an interesting premise: even the smallest donations get acknowledgment of sorts that can incentivize a donor.

For example, the “Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” indiegogo campaign of 2012 gave out glossy photos of Nikola Tesla in return for donations of $25; and to donors of between $3 and $25, it said, “If [Tesla] were alive today he'd totally high-five you and compliment your haircut and/or mustache.”

Another key element of a successful crowdfunding campaign is regular updates. Donors want to see where and how their money is being put to use. Sending the donor an email notifying them of what steps you have been able to accomplish thus far throughout the process is a far greater acknowledgment than a general thank you letter sent at the end of the year. It also reinforces what their buy-in has helped provide, and encourages them to keep giving or give again in the future.

When thinking about the smaller campaigns or projects we have going on at our campuses, or even a one-day event in the scheme of a larger campaign, crowdfunding could be a useful and fun way to raise money. Here's some further reading to get you started:

7 Top Crowdfunding Sites for Nonprofits and Higher-Ed Institutions

Using Crowdfunding to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit 

How to Successfully Crowdfund for Your Nonprofit

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