How could an organization raise a roof for a beloved heritage home before the winter rains set in? A long-time nonprofit client of mine faced this question in spring of 2016.
The roof was going to cost $8,500. The organization had some funds put aside and needed $5,000. How could they gain this amount before winter? This was a modest amount to target and an excellent opportunity to explore crowdfunding and get the job done.
Crowdfunding has enormous potential for nonprofits. From a distance, it looks as though it could solve numerous challenges. But looking at it more closely, would the time and effort spent in learning this system outweigh the funds we gained?
On-the-ground fundraising requires steps, measures, reporting, acknowledgement, and transparent procedures for nonprofits. Would crowdfunding providers wrap those steps into their systems?
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?
Here’s how we began the search
We explored reviews from professional organizations and checked with colleagues who might already be using a platform to get their feedback. Few colleagues had tried crowdfunding.
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 would acknowledge the 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, seemed to be the right fit for the roof project.
FundRazr had established a partnership with PayPal early on and was 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 have excellent information sheets, tips, and videos and a responsive support team and a Crowdfunding Success Guide. The set up was quick.
One other plus for FundRazr was their awareness of the benefits of grassroots partnering in rural communities. FundRazr’s collaboration with InvestLocalBC, started by Community Futures Stuart-Nechako, focuses on crowdfunding for community initiatives.
No matter what your location, take a look at how much the platform is putting back into the community, it might make a difference to you.
We began the campaign on July 7 by sending out a lead-up article to newspapers about the history of the project and introducing the crowdfunding campaign.
We then edited that article down and distributed it through the society’s monthly e-newsletter with a link to the FundRazr campaign and to Facebook. Potential donors received the information and linked over to the FundRazr site.
We wrapped the tasks into daily operating and worked with the FundRazr team and site format to focus on the campaign and send out thank-yous.
By August 23, we had reached our goal and raised $5,262. The donations came from 32 contributors, all ages, with small and large contributions online and through checks and cash. The roof was up by October.
How did we reach people? We took some advice from Daryl Hatton, CEO of FundRazr, who stressed the need for telling our story in a succinct way. Perhaps our story about the roof of a legacy heritage home needing repair evoked concern, hope, excitement and a willingness to give. Contributing to this simple project made things better and solved an urgent problem.
An interesting point in the campaign occurred when we supported another community crowdfunding effort in our e-news simultaneous to the Capes Roof project. We received positive feedback from this gesture and donations went up.
Connectivity, enjoyment, and social investment thrive in local and rural communities, perhaps because there’s latitude to make independent decisions, shape progress, and collaborate. From our experience, crowdfunding has many levels of opportunities for nonprofits and donors and is the perfect platform for expanding these connections.
A few newbie tips
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.
Have a look at the campaigns the platform is already hosting. Find a few favorites, identify what aspects resonate with you and tailor them to your site. Use your best images for backgrounds and posting. FundRazr has the capacity to brand your crowdfunding site to match the branding on your home site.
Pin your project to the top of your Facebook page and provide share-worthy news about other subjects. This will lead people back to your information without overloading them with your campaign.
If you have incentives that you can provide to donors when they donate at a certain level, this can help. Some people just like to give, so incentives can be an option.
Be prepared. Line up some potential donors who would be willing to provide start-up donations beforehand. Some platforms suggest coming up with a third of your campaign total before it goes live. The funding traction you gain in the beginning phase will increase donations in the long-run.
Say a big thank you online. Then spend a few dollars and create simple thank-you cards with an image of your project on it. Then write a thank-you and personal note. People appreciate it.
To view this campaign in its entirety go to Raising Capes Escape Roof
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.