We live in a time in which the power to raise money to support a project, a cause, a dream is something we all share. It is empowering and incredibly liberating that little stands in the way between you and the funding you need to make dreams come true—be they your dreams or the dreams of the people you work for. Crowdfunding makes possible what wasn’t imaginable just ten years ago.
But it isn’t for everyone (or every nonprofit). Below are five questions to ask before you start crowdfunding:
Will it help your mission?
Most nonprofit crowdfunding campaigns (and, arguably, the most successful) focus on a specific and defined project. There is power in campaigning for just one cause, just one event, or just one issue with a well-defined start date and end date.
And, ideally, that campaign should support your nonprofit’s mission. Your crowdfunding campaign will become part of your story. It will carry your mission to new audiences and strengthen your narrative with existing followers. So before you begin, ask yourself whether you have a project or cause worthy of a crowdfunding campaign that directly supports your mission.
Remember, crowdfunding will not solve your budgeting woes and you should think carefully before crowdfunding to support operational costs. But, when done well, it will serve to boost your work, both in terms of additional awareness, engagement and financial support.
What are your goals?
Setting goals before you even give your campaign a name will serve you well in the long run. Your goals will help you frame your campaign, plan for it, and carry on after the campaign expires. Be sure to think beyond financials, and include the following in your goal-setting exercise:
- How much do you need to raise?
- How much do you hope to raise?
- How many people do you hope to engage in the campaign?
- Do you expect to engage new audiences with the campaign?
- What do you want people to say about your campaign?
- What happens if you don’t meet your goals?
Nobody wants to plan for failure. But thinking ahead to what happens if your campaign falls short will give you a game plan for the final days of your campaign and prepare you to cull the lessons from this experience before you begin your next campaign.
Do you have a crowd?
It goes without saying that part of the success of nonprofit crowdfunding lies with the crowd. You need a group of people who are excited to support you and your work, and happy to tell their friends to do the same.
A natural side effect of running and marketing a crowdfunding campaign should be audience growth. Ideally new people will become aware of your work, your cause, your mission, and begin to engage. But you don’t want to build your crowd while running your campaign.
If you don’t have a crowd right now, consider spending some time building your audience before you launch your first campaign.
How do I best tell my stories to engage supporters?
You tell stories everyday—about your work, your mission, your cause. Now it’s time to go back through those stories and find the ones that proved to be the most engaging. Which ones resonated most with your key audiences?
The stories you tell for your campaign need to:
- Grab attention
- Succinctly describe your campaign
- Be shareable
- Create interest in related work or causes
Before you begin, make sure you have one or two engaging stories to grab people right at the start. This will provide a tremendous launch pad for future stories throughout the life of your campaign.
What do you need to succeed?
If you’ve answered all of the questions above and feel ready to begin your campaign, then it’s time to outline what you need to succeed.
Think through the following list and identify the elements that you don’t currently have available to you in terms of technology, staff, or process:
- A platform to host your crowdfunding campaign (like CauseVox!)
- A marketing team (this can be small or yourself) to spread awareness of the campaign
- Compelling content and stories that attract and engage
- A process by which content and updates about the campaign will be shared
- A video describing your campaign
Asking (and answering!) these questions will help you assess whether you are ready to start your campaign and what you need to gather before you begin.