Today it's my pleasure to introduce you to Dana Ostomel, the founder of Deposit a Gift.com. Deposit a Gift allows anyone - nonprofits, schools, or individuals - to raise money and even sell tickets to benefit events. I love that Dana's background is in marketing. She's developed solutions for brands like Snapple, Century21, The Home Depot, and DirecTV. With Deposit A Gift, she brings this experience to help people and organizations in planning and marketing their crowdfunding goal. Dana recently presented an entire session on how to do crowdfunding for The Nonprofit Academy. So I asked her to share some thoughts here too!
Crowdfunding - Not the Hail Mary You Think
by Dana Ostomel, founder and Chief Gifting Officer of Deposit a Gift.com
You've probably heard the buzz around "crowdfunding." But what is it, and how does it work?
Crowdfunding is quickly becoming the go-to approach to raise money online for many things, it's a way to raise money by leveraging your social networks, and it's probably been brought up in at least one board meeting as something your organization should try. But is it a good idea? The answer is yes, absolutely! The consumer expectation has fundamentally shifted for how they will be asked to support organizations in need. Interestingly, this shift has been driven by the for-profit and personal fundraising worlds, but it has strongly influenced the giving experience that people now expect to engage in when donating. Gone are the days of sterile transactional donation pages. People want fun, easy, shareable and social.
What does that mean for you? It's time to welcome a more interactive approach to giving called "crowdfunding"!
And though that might be scary to those who are unsure what this implies for their yearly campaigns, personal workload or approach to online community development, the reality is that it is here to stay, and when done right, can add a wonderful dimension to not only how the organization raises money, but how it engages with, and fosters, its community. However with all the hype about campaigns going viral without any effort (totally untrue!) there are a lot of misconceptions about what it actually takes to make a campaign "go." It's about more than just making a page and hoping that the Internet will shower you with money; you've got to have a plan.
Build a crowdfunding strategy and incorporate it in your overall fundraising strategy
Unfortunately, many are making the big mistake of treating their crowdfunding campaign as a one-off, strategic-less, "Hail Mary"'s. Not just because it is a lost opportunity to build relationships with donors, but because if it doesn't do well, it may mistakenly lead you and your board to think that a social approach to fundraising "isn't for us."
What does it mean to make this mis-step? It means merely creating a campaign page and expecting to get a response with little promotion or go-to-market strategy. Riffing off of something that may be more familiar to you, it's no different from doing a capital campaign – you've got to have a plan:
- a way of lining-up donors,
- a vision to get momentum,
- a strategy for the big community reveal.
10 considerations for a successful crowdfunding campaign
For those of you who intend to try a campaign this year, or want a do-over on one that didn't go well in the past, here are 10 considerations to help you plan for a successful campaign:
- You need a story that makes people care and share.
- The story is not enough. Successful crowdfunding is about marketing.
- You must have a network to market to.
- You will be connected to the majority of your supporters initially.
- To reach beyond your initial network, takes work and a strategy.
- Personal relationships will play a key role.
- You can't do this alone. You need an online "street team."
- The 'soft launch' is critical and will set the tone for the campaign.
- Frequent communication is everything: Lots of emails and postings.
- Don't expect people to share unprompted.
- Start a basic community engagement program: make sure you are sending out at least one e-newsletter a month sharing all the great things you are doing. Make them feel good for being a supporter and get them more engaged without asking for anything.
- Start planning the kind of campaign you want to do and back into the timeline and marketing strategy, which will also inform your approach to the community engagement program.
Let’s face it, we are not going back to the old way of fundraising. Though it may take some experimentation to find out what approach will work for your organization, it is important to start this journey now with an eye towards changing the culture of giving and online engagement within the next 2-5 years. That is a reasonable expectation if approached thoughtfully and methodically, and right NOW.
So, what next? Be honest with yourself: do you have a community that is engaged enough to launch a campaign to? If you do, great, start plotting out how you will motivate people to not only give, but also share with their friends.
If you don't feel your community is ready, pick a target date that you can work towards (maybe #GivingTuesday 2015 – that would give you about 6 months to plan). You'll then want to do 2 things simultaneously:
The key is that you can't launch to no network, or a dead network, so do what you think is necessary to create one that is primed (and pumped!) for the upcoming campaign. Remember that people who feel a part of the backstory are more engaged and more likely to offer their support.
So crowdfunding isn't just a "Hail Mary" pass. But one of the neatest things about crowdfunding is that it is something you can integrate into any campaign that you typically do each year. At it's most basic level, "crowdfunding" is simply "online social fundraising." So when you think of it that way, it's really about creating an online social home that you point all campaign communications to. The more people you can get to give through your crowdfunding campaign site, the more chance you have to get them to share – and that, friends, is the key to the power of the crowd!
For more crowdfunding basics, check out Deposit A Gift's blog at: http://www.depositagift.com/_/e/crowdfunding-basics/.
Dana also did an amazing 90-minute "Crowdfunding 101" webinar for The Nonprofit Academy. You can learn more about that by clicking on the image or by going to Crowdfunding 101 (And NPA members are offered a special discount.)