By Jeff Gordy, Co-Founder and CEO of Z2 Systems, Inc.
While “crowdfunding” may seem like a trendy term, it really describes something that nonprofits have been doing (often unconsciously) for years.
When running a crowdfunding campaign, nonprofits are relying on a large group of donors, each of whom make smaller contributions to reach a greater fundraising goal.
The main difference between crowdfunding and generalized online fundraising is that a crowdfunding campaign sets out a quantifiable goal and works toward a very specific cause or project.
Generalized fundraising, on the other hand, is usually more loosely defined. Donors can give to multiple campaigns and perhaps even multiple projects and causes within these campaigns. To top it off, sometimes these campaigns are rolling efforts that don’t set forth a clear end goal or date.
Because its goals are so concrete and it relies on a large base of contributors, crowdfunding is an excellent way to illustrate your work to plenty of new donors and get them on board with your cause.
It can also help your organization raise a lot of funds quickly, since donors can clearly envision what their contributions are going to achieve.
The bottom line is that crowdfunding is nothing to fear! In fact, it can be a great addition to any fundraising strategy, if approached the right way.
One of the ways to make your crowdfunding campaign more successful is to consult your donor data.
By using the donor information you have on hand, you can personalize your strategies to improve donor engagement throughout the campaign. That means better fundraising results both for this campaign and for those in the future!
In this article, we’ll go through some of ways you can use your donor data to help you improve the success of your crowdfunding campaigns.
Here are the topics we’ll cover:
- Study past giving and interaction history.
- Pinpoint communication preferences.
- Identify connections among your base.
Now let’s start crowdfunding!
1. Study past giving and interaction history.
Why it’s important:
One of the pieces of donor data that’s most valuable to nonprofits is past giving and interaction history.
By studying how your donors have previously engaged with your nonprofit, you can get a better idea of their habits and preferences.
Knowing how your donors have historically interacted with your organization will give you insights into which causes and projects have resonated most with your donors in the past.
Additionally, you can target which engagement opportunities your donors find most compelling, so you can provide them with the opportunities that are most likely to engage them in the future.
How it helps with crowdfunding:
1. Defining the cause and project.
One of the main challenges that nonprofits face when starting a crowdfunding campaign is defining a concrete goal and project.
Since crowdfunding campaigns are so specific, one of the downsides is that your donors won’t be able to choose the causes and projects they’re most passionate about.
That means it’s up to your organization to identify which cause or project will be most compelling to a majority of your donor base.
This is where donor data can really come in handy! By looking back on previous interactions, you’ll be able to get a feel for which campaigns were most successful in the past and center your crowdfunding campaign on similar projects and causes.
2. Structuring the format of your campaign.
Furthermore, evaluating your donors’ engagement history can help you structure the format of your campaign.
Crowdfunding campaigns are usually run in one of two ways;
- Solely online. Because they’re very social efforts and are easily shareable, crowdfunding campaigns are often run completely online. By using crowdfunding software, your organization can set up a campaign page where donors can give and share it with your supporter base through email, social media, and other digital channels.
- With an event. Many crowdfunding campaigns also include an event component. The crowdfunding can happen during the event, with someone from your organization requesting donations to meet a fundraising goal. Or, you can accept donations and pledges online first and host an event in tandem with your online campaign.
Studying past giving and interaction history will allow your organization to make a more informed decision about which type of crowdfunding campaign is right for you.
For example, if many of your donors prefer to give online and are very active on social media, online crowdfunding would probably be the best option. If, on the other hand, you see high attendance and participation at your fundraising events, you might opt to pair your campaign with an event.
3. Choose incentives for giving tiers.
Many crowdfunding campaigns also include incentives.
To encourage more donations, nonprofits will provide supporters who donate to their crowdfunding campaigns with incentives for giving at different levels.
Incentives can be anything from branded products to exclusive events. It simply depends on your organization and what would be most appealing to your donors.
That’s where your donor data comes in! Past interaction history can give you a window into what types of incentives will motivate your donors to give.
So, going back to our previous example, if your organization hosts stellar fundraising events that always see a great turnout, it would probably be wise to provide event-related incentives. You could offer donors in one tier admission to exclusive fundraising events and donors in another tier access to a VIP section at your traditional annual event.
The takeaway: Studying past giving and interaction history can help your organization structure your crowdfunding campaign in the way that would be most engaging to your donors. When you meet donors’ preferences with the causes that move them, your campaign will see more fundraising success!
2. Pinpoint communication preferences.
Why it’s important:
Appealing to donors’ engagement preferences is only half of the equation.
In order to present your donors with engagement opportunities, you have to communicate those opportunities through their preferred channels.
Studying your donors’ response to past outreach strategies will enable your organization to pinpoint their communication preferences.
When you communicate with donors through the channels they prefer, they’re much more likely to be receptive to your outreach (not to mention, read it in the first place!).
How it can help with crowdfunding:
1. Decide on the format of your campaign.
Communication preferences are another donor data point that your nonprofit can use to determine the format of your campaign.
Since relevant communication leads to heightened engagement, studying your donors’ communication preferences can be a great indicator of how your donors wish to engage with you.
So, for example, if you see high open rates from your email newsletters, there’s a good chance that your donors enjoy engaging with you online. If, however, you see a much greater response from your donors when you make in-person requests, it’s likely that your donors prefer events and other more personalized engagement opportunities.
Keep this in mind when deciding whether or not your campaign will take place completely online or if it will include an in-person component, too.
2. Create a successful marketing plan.
Of course, to have a successful campaign your organization must spread the word far and wide!
This fact is especially true for crowdfunding campaigns, which can take many contributors to see success.
In other words, crowdfunding takes proactive marketing and communication, not just before the campaign but during, too.
To gain as much exposure as possible, it couldn’t be more important to market your campaigns through the right channels.
Furthermore, evaluating previous interaction history and communication preferences together can help you develop a more effective marketing plan.
For example, say you have a high email open rate, but a low average online gift size. You can use email to market a higher donation tier. That way, you’re meeting donors where they want to hear from you, but you can still encourage them to take the actions that will most benefit your campaign.
The takeaway: By identifying your donors’ communication preferences, you can choose the campaign format and develop a promotions strategy that will provide the most visibility for your crowdfunding campaign.
3. Identify connections among your base.
Why it’s important:
While your individual donors are definitely valuable in and of themselves, your organization can develop more fundraising potential by evaluating the connections among your base.
Seeing how your base is related can help you leverage your donors’ personal and professional connections to get a head start on cultivating new prospects.
If you don’t identify connections among your base, you could be missing out on many valuable potential donors that could be easy to connect with, since you already share a mutual relationship.
How it can help with crowdfunding:
1. Pinpoint potential fundraisers.
Oftentimes, nonprofit crowdfunding can also have a peer-to-peer component.
Many crowdfunding platforms will allow your organization to build personalized fundraising pages that your donors can share with their networks to collect donations for your crowdfunding campaign.
Adding a peer-to-peer component can help your organization expand its reach significantly to acquire more new donors.
So where does donor data come in? By studying your donors’ personal connections, you can get a feel for which donors have expansive and potentially valuable networks.
You can then reach out to these donors (granted they’ve been regularly involved with your organization in the past) and see if they would be interested in reaching out to their networks and fundraising for your campaign.
Just remember: since you’ll likely be receiving a wealth of new donor data through your crowdfunding campaign, you should always be recording it in your CRM.
Staying on top of tracking your data will help your organization develop personalized stewardship plans, so you can start transforming new donors into recurring givers!
2. Find opportunities for fundraising matches.
To significantly increase the amount of funds raised from their crowdfunding campaigns, many nonprofits also incorporate a fundraising match.
Fundraising matches are exactly what they sound like. A donor will pledge to match the funds raised if you meet your crowdfunding goal.
Some crowdfunding platform vendors offer gift matching opportunities themselves; however, oftentimes the organization will need to find a company that’s willing to match the money raised.
If you’ve integrated a matching gift tool with your CRM, you should have plenty of data regarding your donors’ professional connections.
You can then reach out to these donors to see if they would be comfortable suggesting a fundraising match for your crowdfunding campaign to their companies.
Now watch those funds double!
The takeaway: One of the main benefits of crowdfunding is that it provides your nonprofit with an organic way to grow your network of supporters. By looking at your donors’ connections, you can more successfully connect with new prospects to raise more from your campaign.
Has your nonprofit tried crowdfunding in the past? How have you used donor data to strengthen your campaign? Let me know in the comments!
Jeff Gordy is the Co-Founder and CEO of Z2 Systems, Inc., the makers of NeonCRM for nonprofits. Jeff has been working with his team for the last 12 years on building the optimal fundraising, CRM database, and marketing solution for nonprofits. Before starting the company, Jeff worked for the Kidney Cancer Association and knew that nonprofits needed better software solutions to help with their many challenges.