Posted by Dana Ostomel

The typical story goes something like this: Nonprofit A catches wind about this fairly new trend in fundraising called crowdfunding. A few leaders in the organization do some research, learn the basics and decide to set up a crowdfunding campaign for a specific project on a well-known crowdfunding site, expecting that this will help cure their fundraising woes, at least for the month.

Nonprofit A chooses a project, creates a campaign for it, builds a fundraising page—and waits. Surely the money will start pouring in any day now, right? Because crowdfunding is the hip new thing and donors are always scouring the internet, looking for the next place to drop their hard-earned cash. And as long as you’ve created a somewhat compelling ask, random supporters will land on your campaign page and donate.

Crowdfunding is just supposed to work. Right?

Wrong. Crowdfunding is rarely, if ever, a “build it and they will come” type of initiative. To get the most out of a crowdfunding campaign, it requires work, strategy, engagement and a bit of creativity. Crowdfunding is a tool worth including in your overall fundraising plan, but you need to know more than the basics and have a realistic understanding of its role.

If you’re considering launching a crowdfunding campaign, here are six ways to get the biggest return on your investment.

  1. Create an engaging page.

    The best way to tug on your donors’ heartstrings is by creating a compelling fundraising page for your crowdfunding campaign. Use emotional pictures and video to tell an important story about the people you serve and explain exactly how much you need and what the money will be used for. Your video doesn’t need to be professional (you can just use your smartphone)—but it does need to be sincere and impactful. Your whole page should be. Take the time to create something that will evoke emotion.

  2. Write a compelling pitch.

    It should answer these questions for your audience:
    • Who you are. Introduce yourself—you want to humanize your organization.
    • What you are trying to raise money for. Be specific and include your funding goal as well as what the money will be used for.
    • When you need the money by. Set a deadline to create a sense of urgency.
    • Why you are raising funds. Explain the impact of your campaign and who will benefit from it.
    • How people can get involved. Beyond donating money, what else can people do to make a difference?

    The challenge is to tell your readers all of this in an authentic, compelling way—but in just a few succinct paragraphs. If you write too much, you may overwhelm them and lose potential donors. Most people won’t take the time to read an essay, especially online, so be concise. Share the important details.
  3. Start with your own network and community.

    You can’t do this alone—crowdfunding is one time when you’ll really need to engage your core group of supporters and brand evangelists, or your “street team” as I like to call it. They’ll be instrumental in helping you spread the word and raise awareness. Tell everyone you know about your campaign and ask them to share it with their networks—that’s one of the best ways to expand your reach. You won’t get many donations from new donors on a crowdfunding site until you have a good amount of traction from your own network showing others that you have a worthy cause.

  4. Promote your campaign everywhere.

    Put it on the homepage of your website. Post it on Facebook. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Send out an email blast. Take every opportunity you can to spread the word and get people talking about your project. Remember, this is not an “if you build it, they will come” type of initiative. Crowdfunding is only as successful as your promotional efforts—you have to make people aware that your campaign exists and that the opportunity to give is for a limited time only.

  5. Reach out to the media.

    Have you cultivated relationships with journalists or media personalities in your community? Leverage those by asking them to run a story about your campaign. Then think beyond traditional media and consider reaching out to radio, podcast services, niche bloggers, YouTube personalities or anyone able to spread the word to a large number of people. If you’re in a college town, call the student newspaper. Ask partners organizations to mention you in an e-newsletter or on social media. It’s all about expanding your reach.

  6. Get conversations going.

    You can broadcast your message to the masses, but back-and-forth conversations will really help create interest. Host a Twitter party or a Google+ Hangout to share background info or updates on the campaign and give supporters a chance to ask questions and get more engaged. Also, be sure to create a unique hashtag for your crowdfunding campaign and use it in all of your social media posts; this allows you to organize the posts into one topic page. With all of the conversations in one place, people can easily find them and learn more about your campaign.

Crowdfunding is an effective way to boost your fundraising efforts, especially if you know the tips and tricks for making it really work. We’d love to help! Learn more about crowdfunding and how Firespring can set you up for success.