Crowdfunding for Nonprofits: 5 Tips to Get Up and Running

7 min
woman with glasses sitting in front of a laptop and looking at a mobile phone
profile picture of Classy blog contributor Will Schmidt
Will Schmidt

The technological world we live in helps make our lives easier. For example, companies can be run by a distributed workforce from all corners of America, meetings incorporate high definition video calls, and marketing software can automate a week’s worth of messages with a few clicks.

In the past, crowdfunding has been used offline by politicians all the way to school bake sales. The goal was simple: raise capital for your cause, no matter what it is. Today, like many of our other processes, crowdfunding has adapted well to online use.

Beyond that, it’s become a staple of success for modern fundraising strategies. However, you can’t simply create a campaign page, set it, forget it, and expect donations to roll in. Like any fundraising campaign, there’s a fair amount of work and strategy behind a successful crowdfunding campaign.

To help, we outline some tips and tactics below to ensure you get the most out of your next campaign. Keep these in mind as you work through your next crowdfunding initiative to build an engaging page and drive donations for your mission.

Crowdfunding for Nonprofits Tip #1: Know Your Audience

One of your first steps towards building, launching, and sustaining a successful crowdfunding campaign is knowing your audience. To help pin this down, ask yourself some important questions like:

  • Who will we market this campaign to?
  • What does our average donor look like?
  • Who typically engages with our fundraising campaigns?
  • Do we have more success on certain channels, like email over social media?
  • Are there demographics we haven’t appealed to before that might like this campaign?

It can be difficult to gather insights like this around your audience, especially if you’ve never segmented your supporters before, but the benefits are worth it. For example, if you identify a large group of supporters who frequently donate to your nonprofit, you know they care about your nonprofit.

You can consider soft-launching a crowdfunding campaign to this group of frequent donors, who are likely to make a gift. Not only does this targeted appeal resonate with them, it also establishes early momentum and social proof for your campaign before general release to the public.

It’s important to drill down into your audience because blanketed mass appeals don’t typically generate the same results as their hyper-targeted counterparts. That is, if you’re blindly sending emails to a segment of your audience that responds to direct mail they may not donate at all because they’re unaware of your campaign.

Crowdfunding for Nonprofits Tip #2: Choose the Right Platform

You shouldn’t choose an online fundraising platform blindly because a platform alone won’t drive traffic to your page. The place you choose to host your crowdfunding campaign should, without question, match the needs of your nonprofit.

Remember, a campaign’s success is driven by your staff, powered by your supporters, and guided by your fundraising and marketing strategy. Focus on what your team needs and wants.

For example, if you have a limited staff you may need to consider a fundraising option that minimizes time in-product. Likewise, you might want establish that consistent branding, ways to showcase impact, and donor experience are important to your organization. Then, let that steer your ship.

It’s better to go with a platform you and your staff trust can help you achieve your fundraising goals. From there, you can comfortably take the time to create great elements, stories, photos, and videos to populate the page and drive donations.

See How Classy Can Suit Your Crowdfunding Needs

Crowdfunding for Nonprofits Tip #3: Empower Your Donors

When it comes to empowering your donors, there are a few things you should remember. First and foremost, you need to guide people from discovery of the campaign, through exploration of your mission, to completion of a donation.

One way to encourage donations is to showcase just how much their gift will impact your mission, work, and beneficiaries. Classy’s impact blocks are a great tool for this, as you can customize them to include specific dollar amounts and copy detailing where that money will go. For example, look at the impact blocks on one of Convoy of Hope’s crowdfunding campaigns:

Campaign page with impact blocks for impact transparency

When someone donates to your crowdfunding campaign, they’re saying that your cause is important to them. So, help your donors spread the word that they’re making a difference.

Consider sending them special resources in follow up emails after their donation is complete. For example, you might include custom social media profile photos or an easy-to-digest version of your nonprofit’s story.

What’s important here is that you help them feel proud of their donation, so they can spread word of your nonprofit, mission, and campaign to their friends, family, coworkers, and beyond. This also goes a long way toward stewarding them to return for future campaigns.

A completed donation shouldn’t be the end: look at it as the beginning of a long-term relationship. Seize the opportunity to interact with them, learn more about them, and keep them engaged with your work for years to come.

Get 13 Free Donor Retention Email Templates

Crowdfunding for Nonprofits Tip #4: Try Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a specific type of crowdfunding that your nonprofit can use which allows supporters to align with your cause in personalized ways. You still create a main campaign page, but individuals who land on your page can either donate or create a personal fundraising page.

Through this page, they can express a direct connection to your mission, promote it to their direct networks, and raise money on behalf of your organization. What’s more, peer-to-peer fundraisers can raise more money for your nonprofit than they could donate out of their pockets.

On average, a typical one-time donor on Classy makes a gift of $120. Peer-to-peer fundraisers, however, raise an average of $559 through their personal fundraising pages: that’s 365% higher.

Download The State of Modern Philanthropy for More Insights Like This

In addition to the financial return, peer-to-peer fundraisers have the potential to bring in entirely new audiences of supporter due to their self-promotion of your mission. In fact, in a recent survey Classy conducted, we found that 46% of respondents choose to donate to a cause if a family member or friend asks them to.

Get the Full Survey Results Now

Crowdfunding for Nonprofits Tip #5: Leave Room to Grow

Getting any kind of fundraising campaign up and running, let alone bringing in donations, is a lot of work. At this point, you’ve had to:

  • Identify and drill down into who your audience is
  • Choose an online fundraising platform that meets your needs
  • Empower your supporters with resources
  • Learn how peer-to-peer fundraising fits into the picture

After all this, it’s important to understand that you may not reach your ultimate fundraising goal. However, that’s not a bad thing: fail fast, fail forward, and carry your learnings into your next fundraising campaign with you.

Success doesn’t happen overnight, and it could take your organization a while to build a crowdfunding engine that engages supporters, elicits donations, and stewards donors into future campaigns. Be patient, and before you know it you’ll be a pro.

As you go through your crowdfunding campaign, take time with your team to plan, lay out a robust strategy, and create thoughtful content that speaks to your audience. If you’d like to dig into even more details around crowdfunding, make sure to download the guide below, The Anatomy of a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign.


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