Non-profit and charity organisations are asking the question; how do we engage and retain a younger, more digital savvy and inclined donor profile?
As those of you reading this would know, most Australian nonprofit organisations have an average donor profile aged between 40-60. This age group seems to be the sweet spot for getting people to pull out their wallets and donate to a cause.
As Australian donors in this sweet-spot bracket continue to age, the pressure is on to replenish donor databases with relevant and active supporters, which starts by growing awareness among and engaging with a younger audience and donor profile.
Crowd-funding is a great way to acquire and engage a younger donor profile, whilst simultaneously raising the much needed funds to go towards what you are trying to achieve, for example a mobile app that aims to eradicate animal cruelty by giving people the power to easily and quickly lodge animal cruelty reports to the RSPCA.
Crowd-funding is an interest and community group led initiative and there are various platforms both local to Australia and international that allow you to create a campaign to raise funds towards your project/need/objective etc…
Here are a few of the more well known platforms (most in this list are either Australian or American based platforms):
Crowd-funding’s digital manifestation is predominantly youth driven where campaigns consist of raising funds towards works and projects that have a larger impact on the broader community in some way. Doing so naturally engages a younger audience in Australia where young people are not afraid to voice themselves and actively get involved in what they believe in. Young Australians are in fact critical change agents when it comes to setting a trend or rallying support. As they see more and more of their peers engaging, they themselves get excited which gives them the energy and purpose to share and get involved in some way.
The mechanic of crowd-funding is perfect for the online environment and provides the platform to engage and grow awareness amongst a younger audience. To illustrate this, crowd-funding at the most basic level relies on funds contributed from individuals in the community. People however naturally form groups centred around common interests. Groups naturally share and talk amongst themselves on both common and unrelated subjects. In effect, this social interaction ingrained in humanity creates the reach and awareness that crowd-funding relies on for successful campaigns. Applied to the online environment, younger audiences and donor profiles regularly engage in the searching, consumption and importantly sharing of digital content. Most relevant and engaging digital presences today have social sharing functionality, making this easier. Fundamental to any activity online is a relevant reason for being there and an easy way to engage and participate.
So hence the question: if you are looking to try and succeed with crowd-funding online, what are the critical elements you need to know about crowd-funding to get it right.
To answer this, there is a wealth of knowledge and resources online that document what a successful crowd-funding campaign requires. In this post, we summarise the key points and apply them to the nonprofit sector so they are relevant and applicable to your needs now.
Phase 1, before you start:
- A Clear Objective. Set a clear objective that is relevant to a community/younger audience. Be clear about it – really clear. If it is not crystal clear, it will prevent your donors from quickly being able to imagine your vision and want to be part of it. Give people a strong vision to rally behind.
- Understand Your Audience. Be clear on the reasons various audiences may find your cause relevant for their participation and give them reasons to engage and participate with your cause. Really spend the time to test a few ideas and see what your audience responds to best.
- Develop Your Positioning. Remember, the crowd-funding community wants to back ideas and projects that inspire them and that they can see a direct relevance to. Your positioning and messaging will need to reflect this understanding. It is simply not sufficient to try to rely on guilt and feel good factor when it comes to successful crowd-funding. The tone and general feeling you want to maintain is one of excitement and positivity towards achieving something successfully as a community – it is WE not us and you.
- Have a Marketing Plan. A crowd-funding campaign is only as good as the promotion it receives. You will need to have a plan about how you are going to get exposure for your campaign. A ‘put it out there and hope that they will come’ approach rarely provides any real results and is at the very least a risky strategy. You’ll need to think about all the ways in which you can engage your supporters for example through your website, blog, email comms, social channels etc… and drive traffic to your campaign page.
- Prepare Your Channels. Make sure your campaign doesn’t negatively impact or conflict with any of your other major asks or initiatives. To get the best outcome, you will want to make sure you can utilise prime homepage real estate on your organisation’s existing web and social presence and you want people to focus on supporting or learning more about your initiative.
- Begin prepping your audience. Try to start getting people excited about your upcoming initiative. Through your existing channels and databases, tempt people to sign up to be notified when your campaign launches. This is a great way to generate some pre-campaign buzz. Use this opportunity to capture some additional contact info from existing donors and sign up new donors/supporters.
Phase 2, Setting up your campaign:
- Select a crowd-funding platform. Chose a crowd-funding platform most relevant for your campaign. Stick to using just one platform for the best results. Using multiple platforms can lead to confusion among your audiences and may risk your funds being spread too thin across both platforms. On top of this, as this article should have portrayed by now, there is an incredible amount of work and energy required to organise and deliver a successful crowd-funding campaign. Doing this across multiple platforms is increasing the efforts required of you and your team, dramatically.
- Create a campaign page. Sign up to your selected crowd-funding platform and create your page. Fill in all the info about your project or initiative. Think carefully about how people will engage with your page and information when they show an interest in your campaign. This will help you to decide how best to layout and present your content to potential supporters.
- Develop campaign collateral. A successful campaign requires a variety of multimedia campaign assets for the best chances of success. Tell the story of your initiative/project through video, write a blurb explaining the project, its background, its aims and what the future looks like if it is successful. Use relevant imagery to capture people’s imagination. Remember, be exciting and alive.
- Rewards. Create a rewards structure for pledge ranges. You need to incentivise people to get involved with your campaign on a deeper level. Think carefully about how you want your reward system to work. There are ways to set up rewards structures that have a higher success of converting supporters into bigger pledges of support.
- Exposure. Get as much interest in your campaign as possible. Prepare media releases to get some media coverage in relevant publications both online and offline, prepare campaign assets for use on your various promotional channels etc… The more the better but be clear and targeted.
- Campaign launch. Hit the go live button and launch your campaign. Make sure you make it big and generate as much buzz as you can.
Phase 3, Reaching your target:
- Agility and Adaptability. Be agile and ready to create content in response to your fundraising progress. Keep people up to date and excited about your progress. For example if uptake has been rapid, create an inspiring video or a visual to encourage continued fast-paced sharing and engagement with the campaign to help reach the funding goal. Distribute this content on as many channels as possible including your campaign page.
- Continued Exposure. Keep in touch with media contacts who cover your campaign, update them with results that they can use to re-engage with their own audience. For example, if a celebrity openly engages with your campaign, leverage this to gain further reach and exposure. Update your campaign assets with additional info and messaging to inspire continued engagement. Utilise the channels and interest you work so hard to get.
- Targets. Keep on top of giving people new targets to reach for as initial ones are achieved, this plays on the sense of community to achieve your fundraising goal.
Phase 4, After the campaign:
- Stay in touch. With all the data you collect, use it to continue to communicate with your new audience. Thank them for their involvement, share with them the results of the campaign and what you were able to achieve having raised the funds you were after etc…
- Fulfilment. Delivering on your part of the bargain is an essential part of successfully raising funds through crowd-funding. Make sure everyone that supported you receives the incentive you used to entice them to provide their support to you. A bad experience with your crowd-funding initiative can cause a ripple effect throughout communities and can have a detrimental effect on your campaigns chances of success.
- Promote, promote, promote. Do a thorough review of your campaign once complete. Reflect on the successes and downfalls and clearly capture these. It is important to share both the good and the bad, remember, people pledged their support to you because you inspired them to come along on a journey, so make sure you keep them part of it.
- Make it happen. Once you secure the full or partial funding you were after, make sure you spend that money in the most effective way possible to bring the promised project and outcomes to life. People won’t support campaigns that don’t follow through and by failing to follow through, you could jeopardise your reputation.
- Don’t let the journey die. Keep the journey alive for your supporters. Either way, they need to see the outcome of the journey they let you take them on.
To conclude, the above phases outline a clear structure to follow to ensure your crowd-funding campaign is given the greatest chance at success. There is a lot more detail to go into once you decide to proceed with your fundraising journey. It requires a lot of energy and a variety of skills and expertise to pull off a successful crowd-funding campaign, but reaching your funding target and being able to bring your project to life makes it all worth it.
Here are links to a few relevant crowd-funding resources for those of you interested in doing some further reading into some of the details.