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Back in the summer of 2014 just about everyone was talking about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Dumping large buckets of ice water on the heads of your friends and family was the “in” thing to do that summer. The campaign went viral, and the ALS Association raised over $100 million from this single effort. Since its success, many nonprofits have been eager to get in on the action. Before diving in, nonprofits should take a step back and ask themselves a few questions:

What is Crowdfunding? First, let’s start with the true definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the practice of obtaining needed funding . . . from a large number of people especially from the online community.” Crowdfunding for nonprofits is about soliciting donations from as many people as possible. The real key to a crowdfunding campaign is spreading the word. While you can advertise your campaign, word of mouth is the most effective method for getting the message out. You will need a powerful message that people want to share with their friends and family. Having a presence on social media will help to make sharing easy for your target audience.

Is Crowdfunding right for my nonprofit? As you consider crowdfunding as an option for your nonprofit, you should also think about whether or not it fits with the goals of your organization. As the Veritus Group stated in their blog post, The Problem with Crowd Fundraising, “The concept, in its current state is about money – not lifelong partnership.” If you’re looking to gain donors who are committed to your cause, crowdfunding may not be the right fundraising method to use. Like event donors, individuals giving to a crowdfunding campaign are episodic with their giving and may be difficult to retain over time. If your goal is to gain long-term donors, you’ll need to focus on a targeted strategy that will convert these donors to multi-givers.

Can my database support my Crowdfunding event? As nonprofits evaluate their growing fundraising needs, the functionality of their database should always be a consideration. Before you delve into a new fundraising channel, like Crowdfunding, you need to consider how the information will be captured and tracked within your database. Ideally, you should able to link participants from any channel back to your database to allow for a 360-degree view of the donors’ activity with the organization. It is critical to determine how you plan to track the results of your campaign long before the launch so that you can make sure all of the necessary procedures and reporting are in place. A lack of tracking for the campaign will leave you with little insight into its success. While many Crowdfunding tools have reporting built in, it is important to link the data to your existing database so that you can determine the holistic impact on your organization’s fundraising.

How do I make Crowdfunding a success? There are a number of Crowdfunding sites that offer a venue for raising money from the online community, so the technical “how” is not a problem. The real key to success will be in the campaign itself. Most successful Crowdfunding campaigns focus on a very specific goal with a compelling story that will gain excitement and momentum. In developing this campaign, you’ll need to think about your donors and what compelled them to begin giving to your organization. Then you’ll need to consider how you can replicate that feeling in a campaign for the masses. Finally, keep in mind that Crowdfunding campaigns still conform to the Ask, Thank, and Report cycle. A successful campaign will let donors know they are appreciated and keep them informed on what is going on with the campaign and money donated.

If you’re interested in Crowdfunding and not sure where to start, we can help! Our cutting-edge fundraising platform, Innovairre MC, is integrated with one of the top Crowdfunding platforms available on the market today. Contact us to learn more.

Sara Rowland is a Business Analyst at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.