Digital Marketing, Strategy & Planning, Technology Evaluations

In this webinar, we cover Crowdfunding best practices. We discuss how to choose an appropriate goal, design a compelling page, and promote your campaign to your donor base.


All right. Hello folks. Hope everyone’s having a great day today.

My name is Ben Lamson. I am the VP of Sales at Allegiance Fundraising Group and the former founder of WeDidIt, a robust online fundraising platform for nonprofits that includes donation pages, crowdfunding peer-to-peer fundraising, and ticket event, registration and memberships. Today we are going to talk about an intro to crowdfunding, which is one of our specialties here at Allegiance Fundraising Group.

What is crowdfunding? Crowdfunding is the idea of accruing micro donations to reach a larger fundraising goal. Now a lot of times when we think about crowdfunding, we think about this kind of this newer form of fundraising that has popped up in the last 10 years. It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s cool. But really when you think about it, crowdfunding actually isn’t that new, right? It’s, just that the internet has changed it. For example, a telethon is really a form of crowdfunding. You are reaching out to a large audience trying to accrue smaller donations to reach a much larger fundraising goal.

And I personally love this photo because I think about me calling in and The Rock answers my phone call, and him intimidating me into making a gift. And I can’t help but chuckle every time I see this phone call because he’s got such an intense look on his face, like he’s maybe threatening the person on the other end of the phone to give.

But either way a telethon is really a form of crowdfunding. Radio-a-thon, again, is a form of crowdfunding. We’re reaching out to a large audience. We’re using the radio as our channel reaching out to a large audience. We’re not seeking major gifts.

We’re not seeking grants. This is not event-based fundraising. This is using the radio as our communication channel to reach out to a large group of people and seek small gifts to reach a larger goal.

Lastly, one that I know you’re all familiar with is direct mail. And when we’re talking about direct mail appeals to our existing donor base, most of the time that really is by definition a form of crowdfunding. But, what we’re here to talk about today is online crowdfunding. And where that really differs is how we reach our audience and what our audience can do with our message when we reach them. For online crowdfunding, our typical channels for reaching our donor base are things like email and social media. We’re using email as our marketing channel, we’re using Facebook as our marketing channel, we’re using Twitter as our marketing channel to reach our donor base. And once our donor base receives our message, the really interesting thing about crowdfunding is how we give them the ability to immediately become advocates. A donor that comes across your crowdfunding page because they got an email, can message their friends and send that link to them and say, Hey, look at this campaign. Now direct mail is still by far and away the largest channel for giving.

And here at Allegiance we do a lot of direct mail. We have an agency and direct mail is a huge part of our business. When I think about direct mail, one of the things that it’s missing is that viral aspect. How many times have you received a direct mail appeal and you go: Man, this is so awesome? This sounds like a great appeal. I’m gonna make 10 photocopies of this direct mail appeal. I’m going to share it with 10 friends. That’s just never happened. And direct mail obviously has its role, but one of the things direct mail can’t accomplish is getting in front of your existing donor base and allowing them to easily and quickly share your message.

One of the beautiful things about online crowdfunding is how you can put together a beautiful online crowdfunding page, share it with your existing donor base, so they can say this is great. And they can immediately post it on their personal Facebook, their Twitter, their Instagram, their LinkedIn, they can email it to their friends and family members.

One of the things I love about crowdfunding is how quickly you can reach a target audience of people that care about your mission. Today we’re going to talk through some of the best practices of a typical crowdfunding campaign and some of its common attributes and the best practices around those attributes.

So, what are those common attributes? Now this is not a hard and fast rule, many crowdfunding campaigns have a video call to action. It’s not required, but many campaigns do have a video. Many of them have a project-based theme. You’re fundraising for something.

Oftentimes they have a fundraising goal that is publicly available. The public can see how much are you trying to raise. They typically have a deadline. We’re trying to reach this amount by a certain time period. And in many cases now today, they involve a peer-to-peer aspect, which is that idea of your existing supporters fundraising from their own networks on your behalf.

And we’re going to go through some of the best practices of each one of these common attributes. And first up is video. And this is a quote that I love when I think about video. “People will forget what you tell them, but they will never forget how you make them feel.” And I think video is the perfect medium for pulling on people’s heartstrings for conveying a message that is something that they can relate to, they can connect with, they can see you, they can hear you. They can almost feel you in a good crowdfunding campaign video. And that’s something that I think you miss when it’s just words on the page and it’s just images. But we are in such a content driven society now where media is king, content is king, so putting together a really good video really will help you connect with your target audience as well as give them something to share within their own existing network of friends and family members. When it comes to video, there are some rules that we really suggest you’d like to follow. A crowdfunding campaign video, and I’ve made this red because I can’t stress it enough, should really not be longer than three to three and a half minutes.

Three to three and a half minutes. is the ideal length for a crowdfunding video. In that video it’s important that you want to say: Who are you? Who’s your organization? What do you do? Why do you need this money? And how can potential donors help? And what I mean by that is, what’s the money going to, what’s the impact it’s going to make.

And then what else can donors do to help other than make a financial contribution? Do you want them to share, do you want them to talk to a friend about your mission? What are you asking of them? And, believe it or not, all of that can be fit into three, three and a half minutes.

Once you get past that three-and-a-half-minute mark, you are highly likely to lose your viewer. We have over 2000 organizations that use our platform. And I have interfaced with many of those organizations over the years. And I can tell you so many of them want to put out an eight- or nine-minute video. And I get it.

You folks are passionate about your work and your organization, but sometimes we can’t see the forest from the trees. We have to understand that our potential donor audience might not have the same fire that you do. And because of that they want the bullet points. They want the cliff notes. We want to keep that into a short, consumable thing that they can, watch without having to set time aside to do. When creating these videos, we suggest, if you can, storyboard them. There’s a lot of great tools out there for storyboarding a video ahead of time and believe it or not, if you have a Mac even on a PC, there’s free video editing software. And between the free video editing software and all of the YouTube tutorials, you can actually produce a pretty great video with zero experience and zero budget. Remember, video is not required but it’s really valuable and really impactful. Then we also need to talk about a project-based theme here. Crowdfunding lends itself best to short-term campaigns, goal-oriented donation models, and they help capture support from people who want to make a powerful, immediate impact.

There are exceptions. One of those exceptions is a year-end giving campaigns. Year-end giving campaigns give you an opportunity to talk about how we just need to hit our year-end goal to make sure we stay in the black as an organization. Two examples of that exception would be that December 31st deadline urging people to get that gift in so they get their tax deduction for their tax year, or to keep your organization in the black which your diehard supporters are going to get behind. Let’s suppose your organization is already in the black, then what would the campaign goal be? Is there a new initiative your organization has been wanting to launch, some repair that you’ve been putting off to your building, dwindling school supplies, is there a specific clear purpose driving your fundraising campaign?

Crowdfunding can help you reach the goals for these things. And if you can’t explain the reason why you’re raising funds, then donors are going to have a hard time finding a reason to give. Once you figure out that theme, it’s really important to set a realistic goal that you can hit within a realistic timeframe.

Donors need assurance that their gifts will make a tangible, noticeable impact. Goals, like I said, that are vague and lofty might intimidate people from joining. Bringing your goal down to earth and making it something attainable gives donors something to believe in. It may help them I feel like they’re making a difference. What we have found is that donors can be like sheep. They want to follow the masses. If you have a really lofty goal and a donor arrives on your giving page and they see you’re on $0 raised of a half a million-dollar goal, it makes it feel like they’re not actually making a difference here. You really got to think about setting the appropriate goals and reaching out to the appropriate people at the appropriate time. Otherwise donors can get discouraged from giving because they don’t feel like they’re making an impact.

Again, we found that one to three months is the sweet spot for campaign lengths. Anything shorter than that might not allow you to generate the momentum that you need. And it might not give you enough time to communicate to your supporters. Now there’s an exception to this rule and that’s Giving Days.

I do want to say that Giving Days are a great way to drive donations. But keep in mind that you’ll need to promote the date of your Giving Day far in advance in order to prepare your donor base, so they’re ready to give when the campaign goes live. And back to the idea of this one to three-month sweet spot, I want to be clear, that’s how long the campaign lasts, but the planning and preparation for that campaign would have begun weeks or months before it launches. That’s just how long it’s live to the public and that’s the sweet spot. There are exceptions to these rules. But you also want to make sure that you understand that there’s work that needs to be done ahead of time in creating a video, and creating the copy around the donation page or the campaign page, creating the copy around the email appeals. That stuff takes time and that’s happening behind the scenes before a campaign goes live.

Now, as we mentioned, peer-to-peer fundraising is a big part of crowdfunding these days. If you’re not familiar with peer-to-peer, it’s the process of empowering individuals and groups to raise funds on your behalf by allowing or assisting them to communicate and solicit prospective donors from their own networks and communities. What we see on the screen here, this is an example of a peer-to-peer fundraising page. Jen Fee, she’s a supporter of a nonprofit that had the tools for her to go to their website, create her own personal donation page, set her own goal that she then sent around to her friends and family members.

Every dollar she raises moves up her thermometer on her giving page, but it also impacts the larger crowdfunding page. Why does this work? There’s some pretty great data behind peer-to-peer fundraising and why it works. According to the millennial impact study, 72% of millennial donors said they’d be willing to communicate with friends and family about ways to be involved in an organization they support. More importantly, 74% of those polled said they would be highly likely to donate to a cause if asked by a friend or family member. For your supporters that are going to go out and fundraise on your behalf, three out of four of their family members that they ask will give to the campaign.

And the numbers show this, the numbers don’t lie. On average, an individual person fundraising on your organization’s behalf brings in around $568 and introduces seven new supporters to an organization. You can do the math on this, right? Get 10 people to fundraise on your behalf, just 10. And they will net you $5,600 and 70 new supporters for your organization.

You can see peer-to-peer fundraising is a very low-cost way to acquire new donors. It may not be the key to raising a ton of money for your organization, but it is a great way to acquire a new donors that you then have the opportunity to work with and to cultivate and to turn into repeat donors.

So, how do you get a peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns set up? How do you be successful in it? There are a few bullet points we’d like to talk about. In the WeDidIt platform, we give you the ability to give your fundraisers fundraising templates, templates on what to say on their giving pages, templates on what to say on their emails to their friends and family members.

We take the guesswork out of fundraising for your peer-to-peer fundraisers. Because let’s face it, you’re probably a director of development, a VP of advancement, a development manager. Your aunt Betty, who’s going to create her own page, she’s not a fundraiser. She’s never been in fundraising; she doesn’t know how to communicate your message.

You want to take that guesswork out of it for her. Use the tools that the technology gives you to pre-write fundraising templates for their giving pages and for their emails. Provide them with those email and social media templates. Give them a fundraising calendar.

A fundraising calendar is one of those things to say this is what you should do and when you should do it. You should email your top 10 closest friends and family members on the first day. And then a week later you should call of all of them. And here’s what you can say.

Here’s the blurb about our organization you can read to them. Here’s how much you can ask them for. And last but not least check in on your peer-to-peer fundraisers throughout your campaign. They’re not you, they’re not professional fundraisers. They need to know that you’re there to support them, you’re there to answer their question, you’re there to motivate them, and checking on them while they’re fundraising. They need that support. You providing it to them will make a huge difference in their success as peer-to-peer fundraisers. How do you set yourself up for success when launching this campaign? Remember that supporting a cause is a really personal decision for somebody. It’s not as impulsive as buying a product or backing that new gadget on Kickstarter. You might find more success in identifying a small number of cause evangelists upfront that will use the trust within their personal networks to spread the word about your campaign versus maybe a big shotgun approach. If you can identify those people ahead of time, you’re much more likely to be successful. And one of the largest parts of managing the expectations around running a crowdfunding campaign for your nonprofit organization is pinpointing who you’ll engage with in that process.

It’s best. If you can identify your evangelists ahead of time and communicate with them about what your intentions are before going live. If you can do that work before going live, you’re much more likely to be successful in your fundraising campaign. In terms of campaign promotion and campaign planning, success is often determined before the campaign goes live. Like I said it’s, really in the weeks and months before you go live that you are determining your email frequency and cadence, you’re determining that copy, the design of the pages.

All of that being done beforehand will determine how likely you are to succeed. You want to do as much of that before launch as possible. You ideally create a campaign promotion calendar and stick to it. When are you going to send out your emails? When are you going to post to Facebook?

When are you going to post to Twitter? Pre-write those Facebook posts. Pre-write those Twitter posts before don’t write them on the day that you need to post on Facebook. Don’t say, sit down in front of your computer and… I got to figure out what I’m going to say on social media today. No, pre-write each post before the campaign ever goes live.

That way, once the campaign’s live, you’re only dealing with donors. You’re only dealing with their questions. You’re not coming up with copy and images to promote your campaign. And from there on out, once it’s live, it’s just plug and play. You might be asking yourself at this point: How can I use crowdfunding?

Here are a few examples. Emergency relief funds, perhaps your organization serves people experiencing homelessness and you want to provide shelter or medical services, cold beverage in the middle of a heat wave, or your building is undergoing emergency renovations due to sudden flooding. Creating a site explaining the problem with dollar specific goals helps demonstrate urgency of the need.

Another great way to use it would be seasonal or milestone funds. Hosting a giving campaign around the winter holidays is a staple for most nonprofits. But you can base campaigns around other specific events too, like anniversaries, school breaks, organization milestones, the election and more You can do these year-round. Making an annual giving campaign more dynamic by adding crowdfunding to the mix is really important.

You’ve heard all of this. You’ve started to get really excited about crowdfunding I expect. What are some of the potential downsides here? The number one thing I’ve seen over the years, the nonprofit crowdfunding Achilles heel is unrealistic expectations, especially if you’re a younger organization or you’re newer to crowd funding. You may have seen these crazy ice bucket challenges that have gone viral. You’ve seen these campaigns that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars, and you’re going I’m going to do that.

I’m just going to go viral. That’s an unrealistic expectation. At the end of the day, crowdfunding is not a silver bullet. The likelihood of you going viral is slim to none. But crowdfunding is a channel you need to plan because your donors are getting younger.

They’re giving online, they’re receiving their communication online, they’re consuming their media online. They’re making their gifts from their phone. It is a tool in your tool belt. It is not a silver bullet. It is not the only method you should be pursuing for fundraising, but it’s a tool just like events, and grants, and direct mail, and major gifts, and estate planning. Crowdfunding is one of many tools in your tool belt to help you reach your donor acquisition and your funding goals. But one of the greatest things about crowdfunding is how inexpensive it is to try. It’s much less expensive to AB test crowdfunding messages than it is direct mail campaign messages.

And even at the end of the day with crowdfunding, because the investment is so low, failure is rarely failure. You have a very low risk experiment on your hands when you’re trying to crowdfund. You might fail. But really at the end of the day, even if you didn’t hit your fundraising goal, you didn’t fail because you were able to tell a story.

You were able to build brand awareness with that media content and you were able to engage with your donors. I encourage you all, if you haven’t tried crowdfunding, I encourage you all to take some time to think about it. You can get in touch with the Allegiance team. Not only do we have a fabulous crowdfunding, peer-to-peer fundraising, online giving, ticket and event registration platform, we also have a team behind us that can run your campaigns for you. I would love to open it up for questions at this time. Casey Jones asks what’s the best method of crowdfunding through Allegiance, just a donation page.

So, Casey, you may not have heard yet, but Allegiance acquired a company called WeDidIt. I was the founder or one of the founders of WeDidIt. WeDidIt is a robust online giving solution that provides donation pages, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer fundraising, ticket and event registration, memberships, and donor research, and text-to-donate all in one place.

Steve asked if I’d be willing to share the millennial study that we referenced. Yes. I’ll make sure that gets sent around. That was the millennial impact study that was done a few years ago. Steve also asked when will WeDidIt be integrated with the CRM?

Steve, we don’t have a hard date on that. But definitely this fall within the next two or three months we expect the integration to go live.

How much does the service through Allegiance cost? It’s a variable pricing plan. It is a monthly or annual subscription fee plus a transaction fee. But that also depends on how much help you want. Allegiance not only offers the software, but if you would like, we also offer the service behind it, meaning we’ll design your pages, we’ll manage all of the email communication.

We’ll write all of the copy; we’ll handle everything for you. We offer that as a full-service option as well as just offering the software by itself if your team wants to manage it. If that is something you are interested in, get in touch with your account executive or reach out to [email protected]. And we’re happy to put a proposal together for you.

WeDidIt offers donation pages, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer fundraising, ticket and event registration, memberships, text to donate, and donor research all in a single platform.

Thank you all so much for joining us today. I hope you found some value out of this. I really appreciate you all signing up for this webinar. If you have any questions at all. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us [email protected]. And thank you all so much. I really appreciate it. And I hope you have a great day. Happy fundraising.