Nonprofit crowdfunding is a relatively new, but rising phenomena in fundraising.
At its heart, crowdfunding is about raising money from a lot of individual donors via an online donation page. These campaigns usually occur on a certain timeline, with a specific monetary goal.
Contrary to annual giving, crowdfunding focuses on small or mid-sized donations rather than major gifts. Though donors give smaller gifts, more donors rally together to meet the goal, allowing nonprofits to raise a lot of funds, quickly, from a variety of donors.
This fundraising model has expanded into different types of crowdfunding platforms, all of which seek to capitalize on the convenience of this unique online giving strategy.
Let’s break down the 6 most prevalent types of nonprofit crowdfunding platforms:
Plus, to help you make the most of whatever campaign you’re hosting, we’re providing you with a bonus section on prospect research and how it can help you raise more.
Individual fundraising occurs when a person seeks funding for a personal cause or project. The campaign creator may hope to fund a wedding, a medical procedure, a nonprofit organization, or a community project—people use individual fundraising for all sorts of things!
In this type of crowdfunding, individuals solicit donations from their personal and professional networks. If they plan on donating the funds they raise to a nonprofit organization, then they can do so once the campaign ends.
When picking out a platform, look for the following capabilities:
- Easy-to-use interface. If you’re fundraising to cover medical expenses or a community project, it’s likely that you don’t have a lot of time to fundraise. Choosing a crowdfunding website that’s simple to use means that you can create a campaign and start accepting donations within a matter of minutes!
- Crowdfunding updates. One way to promote your campaign is through crowdfunding updates. Most crowdfunding websites allow you to post updates that appear on your fundraising page, and if your Facebook and Twitter accounts are connected, some platforms will automatically post these messages to your social media accounts.
- Social sharing buttons. Sharing your fundraising page—whether it’s through social media or email—is the bread and butter of your crowdfunding campaign. Without social sharing buttons, your supporters won’t have an easy way to spread the word about your cause with their peers.
Not every crowdfunding website for individuals is the same, and some platforms specialize in specific causes or fundraising categories. As you begin your search for the perfect platform, keep in mind the reason for your campaign and the essential features that you want.
How It Works
Individuals create a campaign on a crowdfunding platform and solicit donations in any way they see fit.
Alternatively, nonprofits can encourage supporters to create crowdfunding pages on their behalf, providing instructions on how to create the campaign and suggested copy for how supporters should customize their pages.
Individual fundraising campaigns usually operate on a timeline and showcase a fundraising thermometer that fills up as supporters make progress toward the campaign goal.
Sometimes, individual fundraising campaigns have reward tiers that correspond with certain gift amounts. A donor may, for example, receive a product or prize if they give $50. The value of the rewards increase with the value of the donations.
Individual fundraising allows the campaign creator to control their fundraising strategy and reach out to their personal networks organically.
Nonprofits can benefit from personal crowdfunding efforts because the organization can receive all the donations without having to put in as much time and resources to do so.
Plus, the smaller donations that crowdfunding campaigns usually request are more accessible to a lot of people, which can inspire new donors to give (and after they’ve crossed the giving threshold and donated to an individual’s campaign, they may be inclined to seek out your organization on their own!).
Additionally, since individual fundraising can be high-stakes, a sense of urgency can inspire more donations. After all, friends and family members want to help someone that they care about accomplish their goal or receive the help they need. If they know this person is depending on their donations to further their personal cause, then they’ll be more inclined to give!
Our Top Pick: Fundly
Fundly is a versatile crowdfunding platform with features for both individuals and nonprofits who want to start a campaign. The campaign creator can upload their own photos and videos and tell their personal stories, all while using Fundly’s intuitive, coding-free service.
Why we love Fundly: Fundly’s nonprofit crowdfunding software is perfect for individuals and organizations of all sizes. They also have VIP packages (for an extra fee) that include training, support, and marketing and communications templates.
This fundraising model is crowdfunding with a twist!
A nonprofit organization offers products in exchange for donations to the crowdfunding campaign.
Products sold are generally popular and affordable, such as t-shirts priced at $25. That way, nonprofits solicit smaller (but still impactful!) donations while incentivizing more donors to give.
Since product crowdfunding websites are slightly different than traditional platforms, you should look for the following features:
- Product customization. Pick a platform that allows you to design your products and make them unique to your fundraiser. Additionally, the software should be easy to use.
- Risk-free model. Often when selling products, the individual has to purchase merchandise in bulk and, hopefully, sell all the product. However, with some product crowdfunding websites, you only pay for what you sell. That way, there is no risk of having leftover merchandise, and more of the money you receive can go towards your cause.
- Additional donations. Aside from buying your product, donors should have the option to make additional contributions to your campaign. This allows supporters to give more than the cost of the product if they’re feeling extra generous.
Finding a product crowdfunding website with those features will help ensure that your campaign reaches its goals.
How It Works
Nonprofits will either create promotional products on their own or create them through a specific platform. The nonprofit or the platform will set a purchasing price for each item.
Then, the campaign creator sells the product through a specific crowdfunding page or through an online storefront feature. Donors can see the product for themselves, which can inspire them to make a donation.
Donors who pay the purchasing price will receive the product (products may be shipped to donors directly or shipped to a central location, such as the venue of a fundraising event, where nonprofits will distribute them). Many platforms also allow donors to make an additional donation on top of their purchase.
Product fundraising is a great way to incentivize donors.
After all, many donors will be eager to buy an item that strikes their fancy, and receiving a product rewards them for giving.
When donors are given an item in return for their donation, they have a momentum that they can hold onto. These items will help your organization create a memorable impress and start the stewardship process in the right direction.
Plus, your nonprofit gains the opportunity to reach new donors and connect with them. Your nonprofit can brand your products so that donors have a tangible connection to your cause whenever they wear or use the product. Then, the product becomes free advertising for your cause when donors use or wear it in public!
Our Top Pick: Bonfire
Bonfire is a product crowdfunding platform that allows users to fundraise using customized t-shirts. Individuals or nonprofits can upload their own graphics or design new ones in Bonfire’s online designer. Sellers can promote their products on their social media accounts.
Why we love Bonfire: Bonfire isn’t just a t-shirt manufacturer, it’s a powerful product crowdfunding platform built for fundraising. Any size of nonprofits raising money for any cause can produce professional t-shirts for their supporters — and those supporters can donate above the cost of the t-shirts.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a variation on the traditional crowdfunding model. Individual supporters create personal campaign pages that are connected to your nonprofit’s main donation page.
Supporters solicit donations directly from their personal pages, and your nonprofit receives the funds.
Peer-to-peer pages are usually customizable, so that supporters can upload their own photos or explain their personal connections to your cause. At the same time, your organization has control over donation page templates and branding.
Peer-to-peer campaigns need to have features that work best for both your nonprofit’s fundraising page and your supporters’ pages. Here’s what you should look for:
- Fundraising thermometers. It’s important that your supporters can not only see their progress but also the overall progress of your campaign. The platform you choose should have a visual way—like fundraising thermometers—to see how far you’ve come
- Leaderboards and badges. The key to a successful peer-to-peer campaign is to keep participants motivated. One way to achieve this is by creating a little friendly competition. With leaderboards and badges, donors are showcased for being at the top of their game. Plus, competition can also help motivate donors. If their loved one is participating in your peer-to-peer fundraiser, they’re more likely to give if it means their friend reaches the top spot on your leaderboard.
- Fundraising page templates. While it’s important to have participants customize their fundraising pages, you also want to have a sense of unity among all the pages. By having 1-3 branded templates, fundraisers can still personalize their pages without deviating too much from your brand.
How It Works
Nonprofits will need to invest in peer-to-peer software to support this fundraising strategy.
Before making a purchase, nonprofits should consider:
- How many individual fundraisers the platform will support.
- The cost of the platform, as well as related processing fees.
- Donor response rates to current online channels.
- Platform features, such as social media integration and training.
- The breadth of customization options.
Additionally, once a nonprofit selects a provider, it needs to determine the campaign’s fundraising goals. Each individual supporter will have a campaign goal that they’ll strive to meet.
Peer-to-peer fundraising allows your supporters to reach out to their friends and family members on your behalf. These organic appeals are much more compelling than a nonprofit’s general ask for donations.
After all, your supporters are working off of established relationships of trust. People are more inclined to give to those who they already know.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is unique because or your organization has the opportunity gain many new donors in the process. These are supporters that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach (or at the very least, it would have taken twice as much time and resources).
Since your loyal supporters are doing all the fundraising, your organization can focus on developing relationships with new donors and welcoming them to your nonprofit’s family.
Our Top Picks: Giveffect and Salsa
Within their suite of fundraising products, Giveffect offers a peer-to-peer fundraising platform that’s fully integrated with the rest of their nonprofit solutions. You can build a fully branded peer-to-peer fundraising page, sell event tickets, host challenges, and more!
Why we love Giveffect: Whatever type of peer-to-peer fundraiser you’re planning, Giveffect has got your back. They offer specific features built for walk-run-ride events, workplace fundraisers, ticketed events, and even unique peer-to-peer-crowdfunding hybrids with perks and rewards for your donors. The more creative and engaging your fundraiser, the more money you’ll raise!
Salsa offers a peer-to-peer platform as a feature of its CRM software. Since every individual donation page is already linked to your CRM, data transfer is a breeze! Plus, your nonprofit can create branded templates for each supporter, so that even the most customized and personal donation page stays on-message.
Why we love Salsa: Salsa’s peer-to-peer software is completely integrated with the rest of their advocacy, fundraising, and communications software. If you’re already using Salsa for any part of your nonprofit’s fundraising, their peer-to-peer platform will be able to “talk” to your other software.
Pledge crowdfunding is a fundraising model used by nonprofit organizations to raise a lot of support quickly.
Pledge campaigns work similarly to crowdfunding because they rely on your ability to spread the word and raise awareness among your community. Pledge crowdfunding campaigns, however, allow donors to pledge their support to be collected at a later date. You essentially pool all of the support quickly before processing the donations.
These campaigns are often used in response to emergencies, disasters, or other crises because they can be launched relatively quickly and tap into a sense of urgency among donors. This means you should look for pledge crowdfunding tools that have a few key characteristics:
- Streamlined user experience. These campaigns are all about speed, so your crowdfunding and donation tools must be easy to use. You should be able to customize the amount of information that a donor needs to input to make a pledge.
- Full data reporting. Being able to follow up on pledges is essential for making these campaigns successful. Your donation tools have to provide you with all the data and contact information your team will need.
- Flexible options for donors. The most important element of pledge crowdfunding campaigns is their speed. But your tools should also offer supporters the ability to complete their donation if they want to. As long as it doesn’t slow down the pledge process, offering additional options can maximize the impact of these campaigns.
Pledge crowdfunding is a fast way to raise support, but only when paired with the right tools and a compelling underlying strategy. These campaigns can be very effective for organizations of all shapes and sizes, but they require more work after the pledge period ends than in other types of campaigns, so be prepared.
How It Works
Pledge crowdfunding campaigns are typically held to raise support or relief for emergencies or other urgent situations. These could include natural disasters, political developments, or crises that your own nonprofit is facing.
Many organizations have also found great success in hosting pledge crowdfunding campaigns as part of their annual fundraising practices. National Public Radio is a well-known example.
You’ll need to develop an underlying strategy to guide your campaign, invest in the right tools, and follow a fairly standard process of setting up the campaign’s conditions, promoting it, launching it, and energizing your community. This guide to pledge fundraising walks through the process effectively.
Pledge-style crowdfunding is effective in many situations because it’s all about energy and momentum. Tap into the urgency that your community feels around a recent event, or host an annual pledge campaign that reminds donors about all the important work you do.
Plus, once you have a toolkit of pledge fundraising and mobile giving built out, you can launch a pledge campaign relatively quickly.
Many donors prefer these types of campaigns because the bulk of the process stays focused on their passion for the mission, not on pulling out a credit card, thinking hard about how much to give, and then entering a ton of information.
Our Top Pick: Snowball
Snowball is an easy-to-use giving platform designed to streamline the entire giving process fast from start to finish, making it faster and easier for supporters to make a difference. Their pledge fundraising tools are particularly effective, helping nonprofits of all sizes secure more support than ever and expand their networks of donors and supporters.
Why we love Snowball: This suite of giving tools is changing the game of online fundraising technology with their competitive pricing and emphasis on the donor experience. Their core package of donation tools is free to use, and their complete Premium package is just $549/year.
Large-scale crowdfunding is similar to individual fundraising, but, as the name implies, on a larger scale.
Organizations solicit donations through a multichannel crowdfunding strategy, usually for a specific, tangible, and urgent cause that parallels their annual fundraising strategy.
This kind of crowdfunding is often used by universities as an integrated aspect of their overall fundraising strategy or by other organizations when an urgent need arises.
When searching for a large-scale crowdfunding platform, you should look for:
- Fully customized pages. When it comes to large-scale crowdfunding, the more customization features the better. When your crowdfunding page looks like an extension of your existing website, not only will it appear more professional, but donors will also be less hesitant about contributing if they know the page is legitimately yours.
- CRM integration. Your crowdfunding page is the perfect opportunity to collect information on your donors, but that data has to go somewhere. If your page integrates with your nonprofit CRM, your information will be transferred to a centralized location that you can easily access and organize.
- Technical support team. Having a strong, responsive technical support team behind you is crucial, especially when you’re planning a large-scale crowdfunding campaign. Find a platform that has a 24/7 support team that can help you solve any challenges that arise.
At its core, large-scale crowdfunding still consists of organizations collecting contributions through an online donation page.
However, large-scale crowdfunding may appeal for larger donations from key stakeholders and take place over an incredibly concise timeline, such as a giving day.
How It Works
Large-scale crowdfunding can be used in a multitude of ways throughout the year.
As mentioned above, an organization can host a crowdfunding campaign over the course of a giving day, or a 24-hour period, to gain urgent donations as quickly as possible.
Often, a giving day strategy is paired with other crowdfunding efforts that take place over a longer timeline.
Because large-scale crowdfunding is so versatile, its abilities and limitations will depend on the platform that an organization purchases.
Large-scale crowdfunding allows nonprofit organizations to engage their donors and supporters. In the case of universities, crowdfunding can keep alumni involved in an institution that they have a stake in.
Since crowdfunding is quick, convenient, and digital, it meets donors where they already are — online.
Additionally, nonprofits can pair large-scale crowdfunding with other fundraising projects like capital campaigns. When used together, your organization can raise even more awareness for your cause.
Nonprofits can also show quick results with successful crowdfunding campaigns, since they have very specific and tangible goals. As such, donors can receive quicker updates on the status of their gifts and the causes that they care about, which can help nonprofits retain them in the long run.
Our Top Pick: Fundly Pro
Fundly Pro is a combined crowdfunding and peer-to-peer platform designed specifically for large-scale crowdfunding efforts, especially those run by nonprofits. It has all the benefits of Fundly (discussed in section #1) plus peer-to-peer capacity.
Why we love Fundly Pro: Fundly Pro is a proven entity that has helped worthy organizations raise a lot of money (like Habitat for Humanity’s $13+ million). If you’re looking for a platform that can give you top-of-the-line crowdfunding tools that easily complement nonprofit fundraising, then Fundly Pro is a good option.
Direct Mail Crowdfunding
Direct mail crowdfunding is a unique type of crowdfunding model that leverages physical mailings to raise awareness and funding for any type of organization or fundraiser. When looking for the right direct mail platform, be sure to consider the following features:
- Customizable templates: One of the most important elements of any direct mail appeal is the message itself. Make sure you say everything you need to by working with a platform equipped with customizable fundraising letter templates. Then, tweak each mailing to address supporters by name along with any other personal information you have.
- Streamlined digital interface: Ensure the direct mail platform you choose offers a user-friendly experience for fundraisers who will be working in the back-end. It also helps if you select a crowdfunding platform with extensive support options to guide your path.
- Visual design help: The best mailing platforms incorporate design tips to help you create visually appealing pieces even if you and your team have no graphic design experience! Look for a solution with an easy-to-use, drag and drop web app to make the process as simple as possible.
When you select a powerful platform to send your direct mailings, you can set your organization up for continued fundraising success as the dollars begin rolling in!
How it Works
Once you’ve selected your direct mail crowdfunding provider, you’ll need to draft and upload the copy for your fundraising letter as well as your list of donors and their addresses. Then, your crowdfunding platform of choice will handle the printing, stuffing, stamping, and mailing of your appeals.
Once your donors receive the mailing in their mailbox, they’ll have the opportunity to learn more about your organization and choose whether they’d like to give to your campaign. Fundraising dollars are typically collected in one of a few ways: through a pre-addressed, prepaid reply envelope or via an online donation page.
Direct mail crowdfunding is a great way to set your fundraiser apart from the others.
Although crowdfunding is a traditionally digital form of fundraising, direct mail crowdfunding allows fundraisers to break through the digital clutter and grab their audiences’ attention more effectively.
Online, thousands of other organizations are vying for a piece of your supporters’ share of mind, including other crowdfunding campaigns. With a direct mailing, however, the recipient is more likely to stay focused on the item at hand, read more about your organization, and perhaps even take the next steps to support your fundraising efforts!
Our Top Pick: GivingMail
GivingMail is an effective and affordable solution for direct mail crowdfunding. With their easy-to-use web-to-print platform, you can simply upload your list of donor contacts and your fundraising letter template, and their team does the rest of the work. And if you don’t have an existing base of supporters to send your mailings to, you can even leverage one of their rentable donor lists.
Why we love GivingMail: Your fundraising team can actually save money by working with GivingMail, as their affordable direct mail packages end up costing less than it would to buy paper, envelopes, and stamps on your own!
Looking for additional crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising tips?
Check out these peer-reviewed sources that can help you raise more money for your cause, project, or event.
- Our list of best online donation tools. Looking for more ways to accept online donations? Check out our comprehensive list of crowdfunding platforms, online donation software, matching gift tools, and so much more!
- Double the Donation’s lists of the top crowdfunding platforms for individuals and nonprofits.
These two lists offer highlights of each crowdfunding platform and include platform costs and payment processing fees.
- Fundly’s list of 5 GoFundMe alternatives. This list of GoFundMe alternatives will take you through amazing crowdfunding sites that focus on specific types of fundraising, such as: for creative projects, for charities, and for schools.