What is Crowdfunding?

By Elizabeth Chung
Reading Time: 4 minutes

These days, crowdfunding needs little introduction. From wild Kickstarter campaigns to some of the nonprofit sector’s most successful fundraising endeavors, crowdfunding has become a central fundraising model.

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is simply the term used to describe the collective effort of pooling money together to fund an initiative.

When hosting a crowdfunding campaign, your organization sets up a campaign page and accepts donations, hoping to achieve a set goal. You’ll probably recognize brands like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which are crowdfunding sites largely geared towards technology, art and personal projects.

Here, we’ll break down all the basic elements of a crowdfunding campaign.

Getting a Campaign Set Up

Crowdfunding requires your organization to set up a single campaign page, come up with a comprehensive marketing strategy, and then reach out to friends, family, and supporters for contributions. A campaign’s success relies on a large number of (typically) small direct donations to the main campaign page.

Getting the Word Out

Campaigns launched on crowdfunding sites usually achieve success by appealing to either the mainstream masses or to very niche communities that share a specific interest. In the former case, a campaign goal that attracts the support of such a large audience can quickly generate buzz and donations across the Internet. In the latter case, a campaign goal is targeted to a particular group, whose members respond with enthusiasm and dedicated support.

A common misconception is that your crowdfunding campaign can gain wild traction simply by appearing on a particular fundraising website. In fact, most traffic to your campaign will not come from people randomly perusing crowdfunding projects – it is dangerous to rely on such an assumption for success. Instead, you should focus on driving traffic to your website with an effective content marketing strategy that will engage people and motivate them to take action.

Communicating with Supporters

Your campaign’s success is powered by your team, your marketing tactics, and your supporters. You have to directly appeal to donors. Your organization must create a marketing strategy that engages your donor base in a way that will motivate to contribute the campaign and spread the word.

Help motivate supporters to take action by consistently updating your audience on your campaign’s progress and sharing your campaign page, impact stories and blog posts on social media.

For your crowdfunding campaign to be a success, you’ll also need to encourage supporters to spread the word. Here are some ideas to encourage your donors to share the campaign:

  • Propel the campaign by announcing and hitting new fundraising targets
  • Calling donors out on social media
  • Using email campaigns to announce milestones and remind people to donate or share
  • Create a campaign hashtag so potential supporters can track its momentum and decide to donate when it’s reached critical mass.

Creating content before your time-based campaign launches is critical for crowdfunding success.

Prepare high quality content and media that will engage donors and demonstrate the value of your cause. Some content to consider:

  • Promo video
  • Media from the field
  • Blog posts
  • Impact stories
  • Testimonials from beneficiaries

Telling your story

Big audience, one story: As seasoned fundraisers know, storytelling is a huge part of creating meaningful connections with supporters. The idea of “show don’t tell” should apply to your crowdfunding campaign; rather than simply informing supporters why your campaign goal is important, you need to create a felt experience for your supporter that helps to establish an emotional connection. It is this emotional impact that drives a supporter to donate.

Because you directly appeal to supporters in a crowdfunding campaign, you are telling supporters your story. Make sure your content and email appeals pull readers into a more visceral experience that connects to their emotions. Demonstrate your organization’s passion, and pull readers into the field to show why you do the work you do.

Some storytelling tips to consider:

  • Use sensory language in your appeals
  • Tell the story of a specific beneficiary who was impacted by your work
  • Describe a recent victory or upcoming challenge
  • Film volunteer testimonials
  • Share a staff or board member’s personal story of why he/she got involved

Offline Events

If you’d like to incorporate a fundraising event into your existing campaign, you should provide an easy way for people to make donations directly to your online campaign page. Not everyone carries around a checkbook anymore, so allowing event attendees to pull out their credit card and make a donation is an imperative.
Make sure your campaign page is mobile responsive, so you or attendees can pull up an easy-to-use donation page on a smartphone or tablet. Many fundraising or crowdfunding platforms feature mobile-ready donation pages, so supporters can make a gift on the spot.

Let people know how to navigate to the page during your event by:

1. Giving a presentation/announcement about your campaign and cause
2. Making your pitch and asking attendees to make a mobile donation at this time
3. Directing them to the URL to your checkout page, which you can pull up on a large screen or poster for easy visibility
4. Giving a few minutes for people to immediately respond

Branding your Crowdfunding Campaign

Not all crowdfunding sites offer an ideal way to customize a campaign page. For example, some sites that have an established brand may require your messaging appear within their own design specifications. Unlike offhand or onetime projects you might think of with traditional crowdfunding (for example, funding an art project or a new technology product), nonprofits should insist on maintaining their brand. You work hard to build your brand and make sure its recognizable, so choosing a crowdfunding platform that allows you to do so is important.


It makes sense why crowdfunding has taken the fundraising space by storm. The ability to collectively pool donations from an entire community makes any project, program, or objective achievable. But, as this overview suggests, there’s a lot more to crowdfunding than creating a campaign page. Like any other fundraising endeavor, you must motivate your donor base to contribute and spread the word. Create engaging content, keep supporters in the loop, and remind them to donate and share, you can try your hand at crowdfunding success!

Image Credit: Flickr User CJP24 – Jean Pierre

The Anatomy of a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

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