by Deborah Griffiths — author of The Grant Writing and Funding Coach
Do you work with a nonprofit organization? Have you thought about crowdfunding for special projects? Does the time you would put into learning about it or building the board’s confidence in it seem too time-consuming?
From a distance, crowdfunding looks as though it could solve numerous challenges for nonprofits. But looking at it more closely, would the time and effort spent in learning and managing this system outweigh the funds gained?
On-the-ground fundraising requires steps, measures, reporting, acknowledgement, and transparent procedures for nonprofits. Do crowdfunding providers wrap those steps into their systems? I had a chance to explore all of these questions and more with a long-time nonprofit client of mine in need of a roof for a heritage building.
Looking for the Right Fit
There are thousands of crowdfunding platforms from which to choose. How would we find the right one for this project and for future projects for the client? For staff time and management agility, we were looking for a partner we could count on for more than one project.
Exploring Reviews and Associations
We explored reviews from professional organizations and checked with colleagues who might already be using a platform to get their feedback.
We then checked-out crowdfunding associations: the US-based National Crowdfunding Association, the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada and the UK Crowdfunding Association. These sites discuss industry standards, best practices, and have excellent tutorials, current stat reports, and interviews.
Why Go through This Vetting?
Because any donor who is serious about clicking on “contribute” to invest in a project wants assurances that their information is secure. They also want to know that the organization will acknowledge their donation and use it as intended.
Our goal was to develop an enjoyable, long-term relationship with a platform that remains current, user-friendly and understands nonprofit business. The platform would have to offer solid payment privacy. Transparency, accountability and donor acknowledgement functions were necessary.
There are many quality platforms from which to choose. FundRazr, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and launched in 2010 by CEO Daryl Hatton, was the right fit for the roof project.
FundRazr met the society’s transparency and reporting needs. They had established a partnership with PayPal early on and had one of the first platforms to set up a system that embeds into social media. You can link your updates and posts directly into that system and members and followers can spread the word through their communities. They also have excellent information sheets, tips, and videos and a responsive support team and a Crowdfunding Success Guide. The set-up was quick.
We began the campaign on July 7 and by August 23, we’d reached our goal and raised $5262.
An interesting point in the campaign occurred when we supported another community crowdfunding effort in the client’s enews simultaneous to the roof project. We received positive feedback from this in increased donations. You can read more about the details of the campaign in the Grant Writing and Funding Coach- Target and Acquire the Funds You Need.
That Double Win
Aside from the success of the campaign, I learned that crowdfunding is a double-win for nonprofits.
Why? Because, aside from donations, a community nonprofit gains significantly from a crowdfunding portal’s technical team. At least, this was our experience with FundRazr.
How does this work? From the very start, FundRazr included collaboration with a technical team that supported the campaign’s progress, advised on maximizing site use and expanding the campaign to social media.
The inherent success principle for crowdfunding providers is that, if the client does well, so do they. Thus, they build a platform that solidly supports you, the client. For the five percent that FundRazr charged, we gained an expanded professional virtual team. If we had contracted this work, the campaign wouldn’t have been feasible. The very idea of having an adjunct fundraising team opens up new possibilities for nonprofits.
A Few Newbie Tips
* If you are thinking of trying out crowdfunding, here’s five tips for crowdfunding newbies.
* Check with an accountant before you start. Stay current with information on tax sites to ensure that your campaign fits well within provincial and federal guidelines for donations and providing charitable tax receipts.
* Try out a small feasible project first to get your bearings and to gauge what you might need for a larger campaign.
* Review the fees that the crowdfunding service provider charges and make comparisons between platforms. Some platforms have monthly fees while others charge a flat rate, a portion of which goes to the provider and a smaller percentage to the payment system. Note that you could be paying out, on average, five percent of the donations to your provider. For my client, having an extended technology team from FundRazr made this a solid investment.
* When you’re searching for a platform, ask the same questions donors would ask. How legitimate are you, how private will my information be?
* Consider whether you have enough staff to crowdfund. The process requires some time to set up and, to be successful, you’ll need follow-through. If you work with a board and volunteers these people can join your “team.” Platforms like FundRazr have a format for connecting your team and followers.
For more tips, see the Grant Writing and Funding Coach — Target and Acquire the Funds You Need.
Deborah Griffiths is a museum director, curator and author. Owner of GNG Communications she works with clients to create proposals and narratives. With an M.A. in Learning and Training, she’s authored five books and was a 2016 finalist in the BCHF’s Lieutenant Governor’s historic writing award. Self-Counsel Press Int. released her new book, The Grant Writing and Funding Coach in May 2017. Connect with Deborah via: GNG Communications and LinkedIn