Sometimes looking at the reports on fundraising results can be depressing. Studies show that nonprofits are projecting smaller donations and fewer donors. The funding environment feels uncertain and nonprofits are struggling to make ends meet.
But there is a bright spot in the midst of all these gloomy reports. Study after study show that online fundraising is on the rise. I mean serious rise. Exponential rise – especially compared to the growth in traditional fundraising. While online fundraising is increasing, online fundraising platforms are proliferating.
This is great news! Online fundraising brings all kinds of potential benefits to your cause. Benefits like eliminating geographic barriers on community building, enhanced ability to connect with potential donors… anywhere at anytime! And now you have easy access to any number of online platforms to help you do this.
Whether you are a first time fundraiser, or a long-established cause, the right crowdfunding platforms give you access to previously unavailable new donors and new funds.
But before you throw your hat in the online fundraising arena, there are a couple of things you need to know. Most believe fundraising platforms are similar enough that selecting one over the other won’t make a difference. Well, au contraire, mon frère! When it comes to crowdfunding platforms, one size DEFINITELY does not fit all.
Most people launching online fundraising efforts don’t realize that the success or failure of their crowdfunding campaign is often decided before they even type the first word on the campaign page. It happens when you choose which platform you’re going to use.
Here are the 3 things you need to know that can make or break your crowdfunding effort before it gets out of the gate.
1.) Setting your goal amount and campaign timeline
This is the sneakiest one to figure out and the most important factor in your online fundraising success. Now I can hear you say – Hang on a second! I thought I was in charge of setting these items no matter what platform I’m using. Yes you are – but because these two variables are set in the first few moments of building your campaign, your online success with your platform has NOTHING to do with the factors you control.
There is a skillful art to setting campaign goal amounts and timeframes. If you are a seasoned fundraiser, then you have the skill and experience to set strategic goals. But… most people DON’T have years of fundraising experience under the belt. Most people might take a quick look at the basic guidance available in the how-to section of the fundraising platform and then and set their campaigns goals and timeline according to the general recommendations of the platform. On many platforms, once you’ve built your basic campaign structure, you are stuck.
Which is why we specifically break out the strategies for setting successful online campaign goals in our Crowdfunding Mastery module of our Fundraising with Social Media series. We help you set the goal that is right for your cause and the best fit for your online campaign so you can be on your way to your victory lap!
Too long, too short, too much, too little?
The truth of it is you’re going to learn as you go if your time frame is too long and the campaign is losing momentum. Likewise, you’ll learn pretty quickly if your timeline is too short and you won’t be able to reach your goal in the time frame you’ve selected. Some platforms are “all or nothing” in releasing your hard-won fundraising money and others take a higher percentage out of your funds if you don’t reach your goal amount in the timeframe you’ve set.
If you whip through your fundraising goal too quickly you risk losing potential supporters while you set up a new campaign. Think about all the links you’re going to need to update and all the traffic you’re going to need to redirect to your new campaign site. Some platforms do allow you to overachieve goals, and others shut down once you’re your goal is reached – be sure you know how your platform handles over achievement.
Similarly, you’ll also see if you’ve set your goal amount too high and people are reluctant to support because the goal amount seems unachievable. Don’t forget, people get excited about a successful fundraiser. The more successful your campaign looks while it is in progress, the more people will be encouraged to help you reach your goal.
Get it juuuuust right!
A bad choice in setting your goal amount or your timeframe doesn’t have to be life-threatening to your campaign effort. So make it easy on yourself. Before you choose your platform you need to know how simple it is to adjust your goal amount and timeline on your platform once you have launched your campaign.
Some platforms require you to build an entirely new campaign. Some platforms will change the payout amount of what you raise. Look for a platform that allows you to finesse your goal and timeline with minimal effort and no loss of raised funds.
2.) Who’s at the table?
Some online fundraising platforms serve as a kind of fundraising marketplace, highlighting and promoting campaigns to their subscribers and within the platform. This is a great advantage if you are less than rock-star-status when it comes to social media and if your campaign resonates with the platform’s community.
Platforms with communities tend to have a “sweet spot” – a kind of cause that its community really likes and those campaigns tend to be successful. Even if you have a fabulous cause and a well-conceived campaign, if you are counting on your platform to expose your campaign to a new audience but the community doesn’t match your cause, your campaign can fail. It won’t matter how many people see your campaign if they don’t care about the contents. If you don’t resonate, it can really suck the life out of your fundraising and your effort gets buried among the myriad of others competing for airtime. You need to connect with the right community.
Find the tell-tale clues
It can sometimes be difficult to figure out your platform’s sweet spot when it comes to community. Some platforms use a special formula to select which causes appear in their “browse campaigns” area so looking at the platform’s activity may not be enough. If exposure to a community is a priority for your cause, it’s time to put on your detective hat to find out who’s at your platform’s table.
Look at the donors supporting projects that are similar to yours on the platform – Are there similarities that you can identify? Are they from a specific geographic area? A certain culture?
Check out your platform’s “story” – how it was conceived, tested and adopted. Did it come from a certain kind of fundraising like health, events, start-up projects, films, political candidates, a-thons?
These are both important clues in figuring out whether the platform’s community matches your cause. Choose the platform that gives you a sympathetic community advantage, not just a “big” base of new exposure.
If you’d like to find out how to create online campaigns that really resonate sign up here to receive an invitation to the introductory session of Fundraising with Social Media. The session is free and I know you will see dramatic results by implementing this technique across all your online fundraising efforts.
3.) Where’s the money?
I know it seems obvious, but you need to know how you’ll receive the money you raise and from whom. When you are checking out the costs of using the platform be sure to not only review the percentage the platform receives from your fundraising, any monthly fees, or set up charges, but be sure you know how you’ll receive your funds. Some platforms require you to have a specific payment processor like PayPal or Amazon.
Keep in mind that payment providers also take a percentage of any money that flows through their accounts and into your bank. So that small percentage your fundraising platform company earns may not be the only cost you will incur for your online fundraising efforts. If your platform requires you to have a payment processing account or a merchant account with a bank, be sure to add those fees to your platforms fees to arrive at your total online fundraising cost. Look for a platform that provides easy access to your funds.
It’s time to jump in when it comes to fundraising online! You don’t want to miss out on the single area that is rapidly growing new funds and new supporters. By taking these three areas of ‘behind the screen’ information into account you will be leaps and bounds ahead on your way to successful crowdfunding campaigns.
greatergiving.com, hl.co.u, phillipscollection.org, geronimocoachingnow.com, wikipaintings.org, nationalgeographic.com
Great post…thanks for giving us some positive news in the midst of all of the current fundraising gloom! I especially love your second point. So much of our success relies on knowing and targeting the right market. I often say the hard truth is that not everyone will care about our organization and our messages no matter how important we believe them to be. This means it’s that much more critical to find those people who will read through our messages and be inspired to give. Otherwise it’s a waste of time.
Thanks Deirdre! We ARE passionate about our cause and sometimes that can lead to a blind spot with other people's priorities. When it comes to fundraising, who has time to waste? ;)
So well explained! Everyone should read this post. Where do you think most organizations go wrong in this process?
Thanks Natasha! It breaks my heart when a cause tries online fundraising for the first time... and fails because the platform was not a good fit. Online fundraising is here to stay in a major way and a little early strategy can go a loooong way!