Crowdfunding is one of the most exciting and accessible new fundraising tactics available to non-profit organizations. After consulting with dozens of non-profits on successful crowdfunding campaigns, I have found that there is one mistake many first time crowdfunders make: selecting the wrong project to fund.
Successful crowdfunding requires organizations to carefully choose the right focus for their fundraising efforts. If you want your campaign to be fully funded, you’ll need to select a project that is compelling to your donors and which complements the unique aspects of crowdfunding as a development strategy. Here are 5 tips for selecting a crowdfunding project that connects with donors:
#1 – Don’t Use Crowdfunding for General Expenses
Non-profit crowdfunding is best suited for funding specific projects. Crowdfunding generates lots of excitement by allowing donors to work together to achieve a specific goal within a specific timeframe. For this reason, it is generally not suited for funding general, ongoing expenses or overhead.
Great crowdfunding projects are things that move the ball forward for your organization and allow you to serve more people and do more good in the world. Of course, everything you do at your organization involves some overhead, and you can work that into your overall funding goal… but don’t make general expenses the primary focus of your crowdfunding campaign.
#2 – Pick Something Tangible
No matter what type of fundraising you are doing, people like to give money to campaigns that have tangible outcomes or results. This is doubly true for crowdfunding campaigns, where much of the enthusiasm is generated by donors wanting to accomplish a specific goal.
Choosing a project that has tangible outcomes, such as running a crowdfunding project to stage a new play, buy new computers, or give out 10 scholarships, will help your donors get more excited about your work. While your donors may never see the new computers you buy for your school through a crowdfunding project, they can easily understand the tangible benefit to your students.
#3 – Your Funding Target Must Be Achievable
Over the past 5 years, non-profits have successfully run crowdfunding campaigns in all shapes and sizes, including campaigns with goals as small as $500 and as large as $1,000,000 or more. That being said, right now, most of the successful, fully funded crowdfunding campaigns are in the $10,000 to $50,000 range.
Remember, a large percentage of the funding for your campaign will come from your own current donor base and their friends and colleagues. Thus, you need to make sure you are not setting a goal that is too high based on the capacity of your current network.
Each crowdfunding campaign you run builds a track record for your organization on the crowdfunding platform you choose. Success in previous campaigns makes fundraising for your newer campaigns easier.
My suggestion is that unless you are a very large, national non-profit, you run your first campaign with a relatively modest goal – perhaps something in the $10,000 – $20,000 range. If that is successful, you can set a higher goal for your next campaign. Thus, you will need to select a project that makes sense for that size goal.
#4 – Select a Project that Has a Real Deadline
One of the best things about crowdfunding is that it offers a solid deadline for your fundraising efforts – one that people can understand. Depending on the plan for your campaign, you might be running a 15 day campaign, a 30 day campaign, a 60, 90, or 120 campaign, or anything in between. No matter which you choose, people know that they must donate before the campaign ends to participate in your efforts.
I have found that it helps your fundraising efforts if you also choose a project that has a real deadline – meaning that you can show people why you need to raise the money in the next 30, 60, or 90 days.
For example, maybe you are raising money for a new play, and you need to start rehearsals in 2 months. Or perhaps you are raising money for a new boiler for your school, and winter is coming on fast. Or maybe you need money to buy malaria nets, and your team of doctors, nurses and technicians is leaving in 90 days.
Having a real world reason for needing to raise the money by a certain deadline will help you fully fund your crowdfunding campaign.
#5 – Choose Something that Directly Relates to Your Mission
Our fifth tip for selecting the perfect project to use for crowdfunding is to always choose to fund a project that relates directly to your mission. This helps for two reasons:
First, it makes it easy to appeal to your current donors to support the project. Your current supporters know you and your work, and presumably, they support that work, because they donate to your non-profit. Thus, it should be relatively easy for them to want to support this crowdfunding campaign as well.
Second, funding a project that directly relates to your mission makes it easier for those who do not currently know or donate to your non-profit to believe that you can successfully complete this project, because it is so clearly your wheelhouse… it’s closely related to what you do, and you presumably have a great track record of work in this field.
For example, if you are a scholarship organization, use your project to fund scholarships, or help kids prepare for college, or something else that is clearly related to what you already do. If you want to expand your profile and start doing research into educational methods, don’t fund your first foray into it through crowdfunding… people know that you can do scholarships, they believe that you can help kids get ready for college, but they have no idea whether or not you can put together a strong and valuable research project yet. Get a few research papers under your belt before using crowdfunding for research projects. Fund a project that directly relates to your current mission, and people will be more likely to give.
Crowdfunding can and should be a standard part of your non-profit’s development program. I recommend that organizations consider running at least one crowdfunding campaign each year as a complement to their other fundraising activities. If you haven’t yet tried crowdfunding, now is the time to launch your first campaign!
Photo Credit: Incase