Last week I talked about the difference between donors and supporters. Being conscious of the difference is a great first step, but the knowledge is useless if you're not able to implement it and capitalize on it. I asked last week which of two scenarios is preferable: a donor who gives $500 once and disappears, or a supporter who donates $100 a year every year for five years? The answer, I hope, is obviously the supporter. So how do you get more donors to support you like this? The answer is simple: CONTEXT.
Let me pose another open question to the nonprofit world: What makes you somebody's favorite nonprofit? You obviously believe in the necessity of your mission, but there are roughly 1,600,000 registered 501(c)3 nonprofits in the United States alone - chances are there are at least a couple that have a mission similar to yours. So what makes a donor give to you, and not an organization that does something similar? Whenever we ask the nonprofits we talk to, they say the same things: "They know somebody at the organization", "We're from the same town", "Their parents supported the organization", etc. Basically, every answer we get comes back to the same thing - people donate because they feel contextually linked to the organization.
Crowdfunding is like the Apache helicopter of fundraising contextualization. Everything about it is designed to promote engagement. The donors are supposed to feel included, involved, and responsible for a campaign's success (or failure). First off, you reward your donors for their support. I've posted before about how to best reward donors in nonprofit crowdfunding campaigns, and the consistent result is that rewards make donors feel connected to the campaign. You also make a video for the campaign. People love videos. They like to watch them, and if the video's good they like to share them (who wants to be the only one who's seen a great video?). Videos also give you a chance to put your own face and voice on the campaign, once again making the would-be donors feel a personal connection to the people at the organization. You also encourage them to support the campaign through their social networks. There's no official label for the people who share the campaign, but they're essentially an online e-street team of volunteers. Take a minute to think about how much awareness they can build for you. You also house the campaign at a central online location where people can learn about the campaign, donate, find out information about its progress, and communicate with both the organization and other donors. Crowdfunding campaign pages are designed specifically to build a sense of community. Finally (and very importantly), crowdfunding campaigns offer context to donors because, by definition, they are context-based: they are fundraisers for a specific specific need at a specific point in time that require a specific amount of money.
Adding all of those specifics also makes crowdfunding unique because it puts consequences on the fundraising process - campaigns can fail. They can also succeed wildly. This empowers the supporters in your campaign with a shared responsibility. It's not exactly drop-in-the-bucket fundraising. If you do it right, your donors are hard-wired into not only your cause, but your organization specifically, because you've out-communicated every other nonprofit with a similar mission. You've let them know you appreciate them, that you're listening to them, and that through their engagement and participation, they can share in the results of the campaign and vis-á-vis the ability of your organization to carry out its mission. You've turned them from donors into supporters, and then from supporters into team members.
Suffice to say it goes a little bit further than asking donors to mail you a check.