How Organizations of Every Size Can Raise Money Online
A form of sponsorship drive through which associations and non-profits can raise money by posting promotions online and garnering pledges from everyday Internet users, interest in the field is quickly skyrocketing. With over one million campaigns (over 80% of which raised more than $25,000) successfully funded to the tune of $2.8 billion in 2012, it’s easy to see why the industry doubled in size from the year prior. Letting entities of any size raise awareness and similarly expand their potential pool of contributors the world over, suddenly, individuals at every level have the power to enhance the bottom line by several orders of magnitude.
In actuality, four forms of crowdfunding exist across the over 525 online services now catering to every field from hospitality to real estate and academia – a full list of which can be found at www.crowdsourcing.org.
Thanks to growing public awareness, lending- (loans are provided in exchange for interest payments) and equity-based models (involving the sale of ownership in businesses) continue to grow in prominence. However, donation-based sites like Crowdrise, Causes.com and CauseVox as well as reward-based sites including Kickstarter, IndieGogo and RocketHub (wherein merchandise, collectibles, and unique life experiences are traded for contributions) look to provide the most promising outlets for non-profits today.
CREATING A SUCCESSFUL CAMPAIGN
Admittedly, crowdfunding sounds easy on the surface: Just post a pitch for a promising new venture and watch the dollars roll in. But with so many worthy causes now competing for attention, it’s imperative you also pair initiatives with extensive promotional support – visibility is becoming increasingly crucial.
Top tips when building a campaign include:
- Conduct extensive research – Study both successful and failed campaigns to see what worked and didn’t.
- Be singular and arresting – Stand out at a glance and quickly explain what sets you apart.
- Perfect your elevator pitch – Clearly explain what you’re offering, how funds will be utilized and the reason that projects need to happen now – including why you’re the right organization to pull them off.
- Know who your core audience is – Understand how to reach them online and how to keep their attention: Campaigns run 30-45 days on average, necessitating ongoing marketing and PR efforts to keep interest levels high – crowdfunding is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Secure support in advance – Reach out to your community and secure strategic partnerships up-front: Start seeding interest amongst thought leaders, influencers and potential donors long before hitting the launch button.
- Prepare assets prior to launch – Stockpile promotional content (video snippets, surprise rewards, testimonials from community thought leaders, promotional photos, etc.) in advance, as campaigns require constant work and upkeep – mid-session isn’t the time to be dealing with distractions.
- Offer compelling incentives – From unique giveaways to one-of-a-kind collector’s items or singular life experiences (be the guest of honor at our local gala!), incentivize donors to pledge by providing valuable returns at every tier.
Likewise, real-world events and programs can also be a powerful driver of interest in campaigns, helping grow support and awareness amongst the public and media.
Many organizations make the mistake of concentrating all their promotional firepower at launch, only to find interest has petered 48 hours into a six-week campaign. To maximize chances of success, instead look for new ways to consistently make headlines and stoke public dialogue throughout the duration of your programs – the goal is to create running conversation.
Meetings and events can be potent tools here, and not just as a venue for key announcements, when you can capture the attention of large audiences or prompt on-site donors to pledge en masse. All provide ongoing opportunities to engage with the media, provide high-profile reveals, and cement support from key influencers, or connect with current and prospective backers, all of whom can prompt added uptake and word-of-mouth. Savvy planners can also utilize these channels as a means of driving added publicty via planned stunts, or as content creation engines – countless photo, video and social media ops present themselves on-site.
Be sure to think on both grand scale and grassroots level as well. Regular meet-and-greets between community and staffers or behind-the-scenes sessions where organization members take press and public on frontline tours to understand the driving force behind each initiative may be impractical. But conventions, tradeshows, speaking appearances, and local get-togethers can all be powerful amplifiers for your message – if you can’t afford to create original ops, make a point of piggybacking on pre-existing promotional opportunities.
Letting you connect with many supporters and strategic partners in a single swoop, and generate a heightened sense of both empathy and urgency, all can produce a powerful echo effect when coupled with social and online outreach channels.
THE FUTURE OF FUNDRAISING
Far more challenging than it seems at surface value, crowdfunding is also far more empowering – over $136 million has been raised even on lower-profile sites like Razoo alone. From helping fund programs for special needs children to powering disaster relief efforts, it’s also helping bring out the best in us all: Even just the donation-based market is growing 50% annually according to research firm Massolution.
Tellingly, with dozens of sites increasingly springing up that cater to every form of non-profit and topic imaginable and the unprecedented reach they provide, successes to date are only the tip of the iceberg. As an adjunct to (not replacement for) traditional fundraising galas and events, crowdfunding solutions promise to become among tomorrow’s most powerful promotional tools for non-profits. Perhaps it’s time your organization set its sights online, and took the plunge.