Do you know Stephen Colbert?
The comedian Stephen Colbert, recently announced that he would fund all South Carolina teacher grant requests on the crowdfunding site Donors Choose. This will total approximately $800,000. There are lessons here for nonprofit marketing.
What can you do if you’re not a South Carolina teacher but you still need innovative ways to get funding for your nonprofit?
The answer is to use one of the many available crowdfunding platforms. Crowdfunding is a growing and alternative form of financing that raises (generally) smaller contributions from a large number of people. It asks for money from the “crowd in the cloud”. There are many different platforms such as the previously mentioned Donors Choose, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, KickStarter, etc.
Crowdfunding for Nonprofits
More specifically, crowdfunding provides a way to raise money, increase awareness about your organization and its programs, and increase engagement among people who were already supporting you. Until fairly recently, crowdfunding has been mainly use by tech entrepreneurs and creatives. It can be a fertile source of dollars, awareness, and engagement for your nonprofit if done right.
Crowdfunding allows you to raise funds that aren’t restricted in the same way that government grants and foundation gifts are. I’ve run campaigns for a book, farm, meal delivery service and, soon, a tech startup. Each campaign has taught me something.
How do you do it right? Don’t rely on the crowdfunding platform to bring the people you need to meet your goal. You need to take your existing email list (you do have an active email list, right?) and get them warmed up about the launch of your crowdfunded project. Don’t have a list of supporters and interested people? Start today. Don’t assume that starting a crowdfunding campaign will build that list. It usually won’t.
You will also need to engage your followers in social media, and ask them to spread the word about the campaign. It should go without saying that the project you want to have funded, is something that will capture and excite people’s interests.
A lot of dry statistics won’t get it done. You will need to engage your audience and potential audience with individual stories. The stories will talk about the problem and they will talk about the imagined future once things are funded. It will highlight the people helped, the animals rescued, the environment saved.It’s never too early to start collecting those stories.
You will also need to have an engaging video for most of the platforms. This video should be short – no more than 2 to 3 minutes. Depending on the platform, you may also have to provide your crowd with a variety of perks. This is called “rewards-based crowdfunding”. The rewards could be T-shirts, personal interaction with staff, logo coffee mugs, etc. But you have to know your audience to find out what’s going to have them most interested.
I prefer a rewards based campaign. Some of the other platforms that are not rewards based, can make it seem like you’re a digital panhandler. With the rewards-based program there is at least some sense of an exchange of value.
Get Your Nonprofit Marketing Together
So as I stated at the beginning, you can use crowdfunding to bring in dollars, increase the engagement of your current supporters, and build brand and program awareness among new supporters. If you’re going to run a crowdfunding campaign, begin by defining what success means for you.
Get a team together and determine your goals, the rewards if you’re running a rewards-based campaign, develop a program for follow-up once the campaign is completed and have a plan forleveraging the campaign going forward.
P.S. If you’d like some help in figuring this out you can also get in touch with me at Hans@hanshageman.com.