Crowdfunding has been a recent revolution in fundraising, and continues to build a following by providing a funding platform for nonprofit projects, political campaigns, start-up companies, artistic initiatives, community preservation, and many more. Nonprofit and grassroots organizations can receive amazing benefits from crowdfunding that spans beyond raising the capital funds; the unique way these fundraising campaigns are marketed allows for the project to gain exposure and buy-in from the community-at-large to increase involvement and interest from a broader audience.
Communities of all sizes have been able to fund incredible projects through websites like Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Colorado’s own Communityfunded.org. There are a variety of crowdfunding websites, each with different benefits catered to different crowds. Browse through the different websites to find what best fits your needs and take note of which projects are currently being funded, and rules and regulations to determine what is best suited for your proposed project.
If you are considering a fundraising campaign for your community or organization, there are a few steps to follow to make your campaign truly successful:
1. Focus your goal. For which type of program or project are you seeking donations? Successful crowdfunding campaigns have a clearly defined goal, and are focused on one specific project, or a major step toward completing a larger project. For example, a campaign goal to save or expand a beloved community arts festival has a clear goal that potential donors (even those outside of your community) can relate to, whereas a campaign to develop a plan for growing tourism in your downtown is less appealing to a broad audience.
2. Determine your funding needs. If you have not done so already, create a budget for your project and determine the funding needs for completing the project. Make sure to include the costs of paid employees or staff time and overhead if this is needed for completion of the project. (Don’t forget including staff time devoted to planning and marketing the fundraising campaign.) Do you have other plans for raising a portion of the capital (i.e. grants, sponsors, fundraising events, etc.)? Include this in your budget and share this information in your campaign. This information gives the donors more insight into the motivation for your project.
NOTE: Some crowdfunding websites offer “All-or-nothing” type campaigns, where you only receive the donations if your campaign has reached its goal. Keep this in mind when determining which crowdfunding website you will use, and what your goal will be.
3. Decide which benefits donors will receive. Another intriguing benefit of crowdfunding websites are the gifts, or perks, that are offered to funders who invest in the project. You set the funding levels and decide what everyone who makes a donation at that level can receive. For example, if your campaign is to develop a mural project in your downtown, gifts could range from a handwritten thank-you card for a donation of $20 to an engraved plaque for a donation of $500. Make sure your gifts are related to your project and the cost of the gift (postage included) does not exceed the amount donated. Keep in mind that individuals who make donations typically care more about the completion of the project than the gifts they receive for their donation.
4. Nail your story and the nature of your project in a video. In order to make a campaign go viral online and attract more potential funders who want to invest in your project, you will need to tug at their heartstrings! Videos are not required, but are an added route to reach your audience. They show, first-hand, what your project is, who is working on it, and who is going to benefit from the completion of it. Campaigns with videos are more likely to reach their funding goals and are more likely to be shared among social media platforms. Campaign videos do not have to be cinematic or of high production value. You can use a simple digital camera or cell phone to create your video if resources are limited–The purpose of the video is to put a face with the project. Tell the history of your organization and project, why you need funds, and what would happen if you should not reach your funding goal. Be interesting, funny, and sincere.
5. Promote, promote, promote! Before your campaign is launched, start spreading the buzz about what you’re planning–get your community excited! As soon as your video is complete, post it to YouTube and share on your organization’s Facebook page and other social media sites. When the campaign is launched, make sure the video and link to the campaign is on the front page of your website, and the information is easily accessible so it is impossible for anyone to miss. Consider creating a logo or image that defines your campaign and add a link to the campaign in the graphic. Make this your social media profile or cover photos, and encourage all of your followers to change their profile picture for a month to spread the word. Are any downtown festivals or events planned during your fundraiser? Print flyers with the link to donate and distribute them to attendees and try setting up a booth or table with a computer so they can make a donation right then and there.
6. Update your progress after the campaign is over. Yes, your campaign may be complete on the crowdfunding website, but that does not mean those dedicated funders are not interested in the progress made when the work begins! Consider creating a sub-page on your organization’s website for project updates, or starting a blog that posts any major accomplishments and opportunities for volunteering.
Crowdfunding for your downtown or commercial district can be a great way to get the community involved and spread the word about the great projects in store. If you are considering a crowdfunding campaign, do plenty of research. Take a look through some of the crowdfunding websites and evaluate what campaigns are successful and see how your campaign can emulate that success! Want to read more about crowdfunding? See the below links for a few informational articles and websites that can help you to plan out your project:
4 Steps to Success in Crowdfunding
Community Funded: Road Map to Success
8 Crowdfunding Sites to Watch