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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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Crowdfundraising…How to make it work for you
By Amy Dameron Phipps & Priscilla Guajardo Cortez

August, 2014

If you’re a fundraiser, you know that “People give to people.”  And for years, that meant interacting with donors in person, by mail, or on the phone.  But a new day has dawned.  With the explosion of online giving platforms combined with social media, the world is full of potential donor prospects.  

Enter crowdfunding – one of the newest ways to connect with people who are passionate about your mission.  Crowdfunding is gaining popularity because nonprofits can easily solicit funds from a variety of constituencies for well-defined needs or projects within a shortened timeframe.  

We’re not suggesting you leave all the “old” fundraising ways behind, but crowdfunding can be an important fundraising tool for your organization.  How do you get started, you ask?  Consider participating in a giving day.  

A type of crowdfunding, giving days are sweeping the nation.  Giving days bring together nonprofits and individuals within a city, region or state for an exciting 24-hour period, or other designated timeframe, of online giving.  Many communities have found them beneficial in attracting and connecting new, often younger, donors, to local nonprofits, raising awareness of community needs, and teaching organizations to use digital tools effectively.  Let’s take a look at two cities that have recently launched giving days with great success:  Austin and San Antonio.

In 2013, I Live Here, I Give Here (ILHIGH), a nonprofit focused on increasing philanthropy and engagement in Central Texas, kicked off Amplify Austin.  In its inaugural year, Amplify Austin raised approximately $2.8 million in support of over 300 nonprofits, exceeding ILHIGH’s $1 million goal.  This past spring, Amplify Austin kept the momentum going and raised $5.7 million for nearly 500 local nonprofits, more than doubling funds raised in the first year and demonstrating just how generous Austin could be.  Tom Spencer, ILHIGH Executive Director, describes Amplify Austin as a fun hybrid that merges crowdfunding with a community-wide celebration of giving back.  “Our nonprofits love having a day when the entire community is focused on them and our media partners deliver the crowds. Once people get caught-up in the excitement of the day it almost feels like a philanthropy sale – donors shop for new causes to support and nonprofits are introduced to thousands of new investors. In 2014, 46% of the 34,000 donations made during Amplify Austin were first time gifts by the donors to those nonprofits! Now, that's a crowd!” 

San Antonio held its first giving day, “The Big Give SA,” on May 6, organized by the San Antonio Nonprofit Council, the San Antonio Area Foundation, the Genevieve and Ward Orsinger Foundation, and others.  With hopes for $1 million during the inaugural effort, local nonprofits were thrilled to raise more than $2 million, including sponsorship dollars and incentive prizes.  

“The Big Give S.A. is not only about fundraising – it also is about providing free workshops/trainings and webinars to help nonprofits build their knowledge of social media, marketing and donor relationships – all of which they can use in their development/communication plans,” said Scott McAninch, executive director of the San Antonio Nonprofit Council.

As you get started, make sure to check out crowdfunding sites, like Razoo, Causes, StartSomeGood, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Crowdrise.  And, consider some helpful advice from two Bacon Lee clients who have greatly benefitted from their involvement in giving days:

Camp CAMP, a nonprofit providing camping and respite programs for children and adults with severe disabilities or medical conditions, received 294 gifts totaling $21,275 and won an incentive prize for bringing in the most unique donors during the 5 a.m. hour during the Big Give SA.  “I really credit our success to three things:  we attended every training, used the online toolkit and made our communications plan something that was right for our culture.  We learned a lot of best practices in online giving,” said Laura Leach, CFRE, Chief Development Officer for Camp CAMP.

Austin Pets Alive! (APA!), a nonprofit providing the resources, education and programs needed to eliminate the killing of companion animals, received 1,280 gifts – the most donations received - totaling $87,275 during Amplify Austin 2014.  “We were thrilled that so many individuals donated to support our mission through Amplify Austin.  About 35% of these were first time donors who we have continued to steward and cultivate through our digital and social channels,” said Adrienne Longenecker, CFRE, Chief Advancement Officer for APA!


Now more than ever, nonprofits have to be creative in attracting new dollars and new donors.  Because of their ease and success, crowdfunding and giving days will continue to be useful tools for nonprofits to strategically engage their constituencies, raise awareness, and expand their donor base.  With so many opportunities and resources available, your organization can easily participate in this unique and technologically-driven type of fundraising.

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