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Crowdfunding for Nonprofits: How to Succeed + 6 Platforms You Can Use

Author: Tatiana Morand
May 9, 2019
🕑 11 min read

Like most great ideas, Project EPIC is as simple as it is profound.

Co-founders Spencer Cromwell and Srivatsa Dattatreya founded the non-profit organization to provide Essentials, Provisions, Information and Care (EPIC) to homeless people in the New York area.

“These packs are not a solution to the problem of homelessness. They’re intended to help an individual clean up, hydrate and eventually make use of the resources of a larger-scale organization,” explains Dattatreya in their YouTube video for donors.

Fundraising has always been the foundation for this nonprofit organization, and they’ve needed to be strategic and creative to inspire donations to help them carry out their mission. One of the winning tactics was crowdfunding.

So, Project EPIC created a campaign to raise $25,000. Their engaging, Facebook-like home page:

  • offered supporters regular in-depth updates about Project EPIC’s work
  • provided descriptive giving levels so donors could see exactly where their funds would be directed
  • featured a brief video outlining the organization’s mission
  • allowed donors to easily share their support with their networks via social media.

And the result?

With 162 donors, they exceeded their fundraising goal by more than $5,000.

crowdfunding for nonprofits project epic

There are many other outstanding crowdfunding case studies. Wondering how you can see this kind of success in your organization?

That’s what this post is for!

If you read on, we’ll cover:

fundraising ebook

Wait, What is Crowdfunding – and How Does it Work, Exactly?

The principle of crowdfunding is to collect small donations from many people to fund a project, usually via the internet. There are dozens of crowdfunding platforms, including ones you’ve probably seen (or donated to yourself!) like KickStarter and GoFundMe, that individuals, nonprofits and start-ups can use to share information about a cause or company, and solicit and accept donations. They can even offer incentives for donors, such as swag or experiences.

Among organizations we’ve worked with, we’ve seen that crowdfunding’s popularity seems to lie in its simplicity.

It’s easy for your supporters to make a donation, understand its impact and potentially be rewarded for making a difference. It’s an efficient way to get their message out far and wide while also raising money. Everyone has lots of questions about crowdfunding that they need answered before implementing their first campaign, so just sit back and keep on reading!

Read More: Crowdfunding vs. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: Which One Is Right for You?

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Does Crowdfunding Work for Nonprofits?

You’ve probably seen a lot of startups, artistic projects and individual fundraisers on crowdfunding platforms.

But you might be wondering: could it also work for your organization? What’s the right strategy?

The truth is, we’ve seen more and more nonprofits, associations and clubs running fundraising campaigns this way. Statistics show that billions of dollars have been poured into crowdfunding campaigns around the world.

That’s because crowdfunding’s benefits extend beyond raising money.

Running this kind of campaign is also an effective way to raise awareness and empower supporters to share the message and expand the donor base.

We’ve found that, depending on the features of the crowdfunding platform, nonprofits can customize their campaign to regularly update their supporters, offer packages that clearly demonstrate the impact a donation will make, and spark conversations on social media.

However, it might not be right for everyone. Here are some things to keep in mind before you decide to try crowdfunding.

  • Creating and running a crowdfunding campaign is labor-intensive. It takes a clear vision, time and regular maintenance to execute.
  • It’s not free. Most platforms charge a percentage-based fee of all donations to host the campaign.
  • One size doesn’t fit all. Some crowdfunding platforms are geared to funding new products or companies, whereas others have features that cater more to social causes. It pays to research the capabilities of various platforms to find one that meshes with your nonprofit.
  • It has the potential to open up new donor streams. A well-run crowdfunding campaign can extend the reach of donors well beyond the usual pathways your organization runs along. Since supporters have the ability to share far and wide on social media, you may pique the interest of different demographics.
  • It’s not always the answer. Part of the excitement of crowdfunding for donors is getting to see how much is raised in real-time. If a campaign is slow to get uptake, it can signal it’s not a good investment or cause. A poorly-imagined crowdfunding campaign can do more harm than good.
  • You can also use it as research. Want to know what motivates your donors? Run a series of campaigns with different approaches and see what gets the best response. They can also be used as proof of demand when looking for grants or more sizable donations from philanthropists or foundations.

6 Best Practices For Nonprofit Crowdfunding

Ready to give crowdfunding a try? Here are 6 ways to do it right.

1. Keep it SMART.

Just like any fundraising campaign, it’s important to start with a well-defined goal. It may start with a dollar amount and a deadline, but it doesn’t end there.

You’ve probably heard this tip before, but it’s worth a reminder: don’t forget to create your goal using the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) method.

A couple of examples of a goal set like this could be:

  • “We want to raise $1000 over the next month to benefit our new hot lunch program.”
  • “We aim to raise $5000 over the next two weeks so that we can safely house the 300 cats we discovered this month.”
  • “This campaign aims to support our shelter by raising $10,000 over the next two months. By running it, we can afford to replace the existing beds in one room and house two new families.”

This formula can help you build on your financial goal to create a focused, campaign-specific and impact-related goal. Choose a dollar amount, a time span (e.g. one month) and be clear about where the funds raised will go and exactly who they will benefit.

2. Choose the Right Tool for the Job.

With so many platforms to choose from, selecting the right one can be confusing. Skip down to this part of the blog if you’d like to read our thoughts, or read through our selection tips:

  • Search the big names that have been around awhile first, then check to see if they’ve run nonprofit campaigns.
  • Research what other nonprofits are using – and how.
  • Check out the testimonials or success stories section of a platform’s website and then pore over campaigns that are similar to what you want to run to see if the platform has all the capabilities you need.
  • Look carefully for how they charge for their services. Some take a higher percentage than others.
  • Play around with the interface of current campaigns and ask yourself if your supporters would easily be able to navigate it and make a donation.

3. Tell Your Story.

The organizations we’ve seen have the most success shared their organization’s vision, mission or purpose in a prominent place.

You might only have one shot to tell potential donors your story — so make sure you do it right!

This is one of the most important parts of any fundraising campaign, but it’s particularly crucial for crowdfunding since many of your potential donors won’t have heard of your organization.

Although picking a crowdfunding platform is important, it can’t do its job if you write a flat, uninspired story on the home page.

Read More: An Introduction to Nonprofit Storytelling

Including lots of photos, videos and testimonials about your organization’s impact, as well as just how the donations will benefit you, is the main way you’ll see value from a crowdfunding campaign.

I’ve also found that organizations who include their logo, as well as any other materials that past donors will recognize (and new donors can associate with your organization) often perform better.

That’s because it allows you to build brand recognition, so new donors can continue to remember your cause long after this individual campaign has passed. It can also help reassure donors that their money is in safe hands by proving your organization is legitimate and not out to scam them.

4. Keep Them Posted.

Just like we saw in Project EPIC’s campaign, keeping your supporters updated is key to the success of your crowdfunding campaign.

Adding notes about the progress of your cause, and what the money donated has helped with so far, can help new donors feel motivated and incentivize past donors to share your campaign again.

One way to do this is by adding testimonials in the words of people who’ve benefited from your work. This gives donors a chance to see first-hand where their donations go and the impact they make.

Another way you could do this is by adding an ‘impact meter’ on your website that shows where you are on your fundraising journey, such as this one from Volo City:

crowdfunding for nonprofits volo city

5. Give an Extra Reason to Give.

Most donors are attracted to crowdfunding because they want to give back — but giving them a little something extra never hurts.

The nature of crowdfunding often includes a return on investment for donors, particularly when funding entrepreneurs — and even the most altruistic person appreciates getting something for their good deed!

Although the proliferation of swag can be an annoyance to some (not to mention an annoying extra cost) you can still make donors feel like stars.

Consider offering incentives for donating different amounts, i.e.:

  • $25 donations get a mention on social media
  • $50 donations receive a t-shirt
  • $100 donations get VIP seating at one of your events

I’d also recommend keeping the levels simple — adding in too many variations can confuse new visitors.

6. Don’t Forget to do This

I’ve donated to crowdfunding campaigns in the past… but I couldn’t tell you which ones.

Why is that?

Because there’s one final step that many organizations forget to do… but it’s crucial for turning one-time donors into happy supporters of your organization for years to come.

That final step? Following up with everyone who donated.

It’s easy to donate to a crowdfunding campaign, but that ease can also be a double-edged sword. If you’re not building a relationship with those donors, they’re likely to forget about your organization and move onto the next one the next time they plan on donating.

Although part of this can be accomplished by keeping your page updated as I mentioned earlier, never underestimate the power of a nice thank-you note (or email) to build relationships.

Following up with other opportunities for engagement, or simple updates on your organization, can allow donors who didn’t know very much about your organization to stay engaged and keep them coming back.

6 Crowdfunding Platforms To Consider

Most platforms are intuitive and provide the support you need to get your campaign off the ground, but there are a few differences between them that might affect your decision.

So, here’s what I found out about some of the most popular crowdfunding platforms for nonprofits, as well as screenshots from individual campaigns so you can see how their donation pages compare.

  1. CauseVox
  2. Fundly
  3. Causes
  4. Rally
  5. Crowdrise
  6. IgnitionDeck

1. CauseVox

causevox crowdfunding for nonprofits

CauseVox offers an expertly-designed, all-in-one solution that is easily customizable, complete with multimedia. Their online campaign builder helps you put together all of your elements quickly and with dynamic results. You can choose campaign enhancements like end date, financial goals, impact metrics, donation tiers, a custom domain and built-in updates for your supporters.

Pricing: It has two tiers: for start-ups and nonprofits, it offers 5% platform and processor fees for a custom domain page, unlimited campaigns and donation pages, but will accommodate a single user and a limit of 100 contacts. For growing nonprofits, plans start at $139/month plus variable processing fees for more features, including unlimited contacts, full customization and branding, monthly giving capabilities, expert support and resources and more.

2. Fundly

fundly crowdfunding for nonprofits


Fundly is a simple way to put together a captivating fundraising page and activate the power of crowdfunding. Every page has a video and photo gallery and you can create your own interactive slideshows and add your content from YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook or more. Add blog posts to share with supporters and use the Fundly Facebook OpenGraph integration to automatically broadcast key campaign activity.

Pricing: Creating and sharing your online fundraising campaign is free, but Fundly will deduct a 4.9% service fee + 3% credit card processing fee from every donation you receive. They offer discounts for larger campaigns.

3. Causes

causes crowdfunding for nonprofits


You’re in good company when you crowdfund with Causes. The platform boasts nonprofits like the Sierra Club and WWF, and has 186 million users in 156 countries around the world. Causes operates as a social network for campaigns focused on social, political and cultural issues. You can create your own crowdfunding page that collects donations and pledges and allows you to share important information to your supporters through social media. It’s also set up so that supporters may find you as they search categories for causes they care about.

Pricing: Causes is free to use, but each donation comes with a 4% payment processing fee per donation.

4. Rally

rally crowdfunding for nonprofits


Rally provides easy-to-use, eye-pleasing donation pages that help you communicate your campaign and share it with supporters and their networks. Your uploaded photos and videos will be front and centre and you’ll be able to take advantage of robust social-sharing features. Invite supporters by email, Facebook, Twitter and other networks. And an online dashboard and analytics lets you know exactly where you stand with your campaign activity.

Pricing: Rally charges a 5% transaction fee and a 2.9% + .30 cents credit card processing fee for every donation.

5. CrowdRise

crowdrise crowdfunding for nonprofits


Crowdrise is the nonprofit arm of GoFundMe since its acquisition in 2017, and focuses solely on crowdfunding for nonprofits. They also include peer-to-peer fundraising within their platform as well as integrated ticketing, so it’s a good solution if you want to do more than just crowdfunding.

Pricing: They have a free plan in which you only have to cover 2.9% + 30¢ per donation through GoFundMe, as well as more comprehensive plans ranging from a 5% platform fee but donor-covered fees, as well as more elaborate pricing schemes that you have to contact them to learn more about.

6. IgnitionDeck

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 9.13.07 AM


IgnitionDeck is the market leader for adding crowdfunding functionality to any WordPress site. It enables unlimited crowdfunding campaigns with essential features such as customizable fee splitting, multiple funding options (immediate capture, all-or-nothing funding, and recurring pledges), as well as custom e-commerce integration, and several premium themes if you don’t already have one.

Pricing: There is a totally free edition, plus $149 and $349 editions that include advanced functionality like social sharing, additional payment methods, and allowing your users to create their own campaigns so that you can collect fees from their projects.

There are lots more crowdfunding platforms available, such as Bonfire, but many of them offer more or less functionality than your nonprofit may need. It’s best to look closely at all they have to offer to determine the right fit for you.

Have you tried crowdfunding? Feel free to share your experience in the comments so other readers can learn what worked for you!

Additional Resources

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