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From Overwhelmed to AI-nspired


More than $5 billion was given via crowdfunding in the last year, and it's growing even more this year. Crowdfunding—funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large group of people—is disrupting how donors want to give and shifting their preferences fundamentally. As a nonprofit, you have to change your approach to online fundraising just to keep up.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits are ill-equipped with the right tools to plan a crowdfunding campaign. It's different than traditional forms of nonprofit fundraising and requires a shift in approach. That is where digital marketing comes into play.

To plan an effective nonprofit crowdfunding campaign, you need the following.

1. Brand advocates

Savvy marketers know that they can reap huge rewards by cultivating brand advocates. Brand advocates amplify your reach, drive word of mouth, and get products sold.

As a nonprofit, you can get those same benefits of having brand advocates by creating a tribe of champions. Instead of targeting grants and major donors, look to create a community of individuals and organizations that are excited about your cause.

Typically, your nonprofit tribe can categorize into three segments.

  • Promoters: People that will share your crowdfunding campaign via email and social media. They're your megaphones; think of them as your own publicity team.
  • Fundraisers: People that will create a mini-crowdfunding campaign via peer-to-peer fundraising. They'll ask for donations from their friends and family on your behalf.
  • Donors: People that will pledge to give money to your campaign.

Your brand advocates are the marketing engine behind your nonprofit crowdfunding campaign. It'll be hard for you to get traction without their help.

2. A focus on storytelling

Storytelling is a persuasion tool that drives successful marketing campaigns. Johns Hopkins researchers Keith Quesenberry and Michael Coolsen conducted a two-year analysis of Super Bowl commercials. They found that—regardless whether the ad featured celebrities, products, or furry animals—storytelling predicted its success.

To reach your crowdfunding goals as a nonprofit, you need to focus first on developing a compelling story. By telling a story, you can communicate the services you provide and articulate its impact. That is how someone truly understands what your nonprofit is all about.

Stories give context and meaning to data and facts. They allow a donor to intimately and emotionally connect to your organization.

3. Continual testing

A/B testing is an easy way to figure out how to optimize for better results. Marketers constantly test their ads, emails, and offers to see what small changes can lead to more clicks, opens, and purchases.

Instead of relying on intuition and guesswork for your nonprofit, you can test every aspect of your crowdfunding campaign to validate your assumptions as well as optimize for donations.

Four things that you can test are...

  • Email newsletters
  • Your social media (Facebook/Twitter) copy
  • Your donation button call-to-action (color/text)
  • Rewards or donation tiers

4. Someone else's audience

Even though creating brand advocates pays huge dividends for marketers, creating a community can be a long process. But there's a shortcut—use other people's audiences. What you do here is connect with the influencers that are connected with your desired audience (online and offline).

As part of your nonprofit crowdfunding campaign, you can identify social media influencers with large engaged audiences, journalists who report in your area, and community leaders who care about your cause. That gives you access to their audience, and it can help you build a list of supporters quickly.

* * *

Getting started with crowdfunding is easy, but you need a digital marketing mindset to reach your crowdfunding goals.

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What Nonprofit Crowdfunding Can Learn From Digital Marketing

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image of Rob Wu

Rob Wu is a founder at CauseVox, an innovative online fundraising platform that empowers non-profits.

Twitter: @robjwu

LinkedIn: Rob Wu