7 Crowdfunding Tips Demystified

Have you had a chance to check out the stellar infographic, Cracking the Crowdfunding Code, by the Rad Campaign? It concludes with seven traits of a successful nonprofit crowdfunding campaign.

We realize that there’s a lot to unpack, and it might even be intimidating -- your expertise lies in serving people, and all the marketing speak might as well be Greek to you. (Unless, of course, you are fluent in Greek…)

So we’re spelling out those tips for you below to help you raise as much as you can through a crowdfunding campaign of your own!

1. Tell engaging and personal stories to connect people to their fundraiser in an authentic way

Storytelling isn’t just a creative endeavor reserved only for artists, designers, musicians, and writers. Everyone has a story and anything can be used to tell stories -- advertising and marketing professionals do this well to sell products.

Your nonprofit should do likewise -- not necessarily to sell something, but to advocate for your cause. Erica Elmenhurst raised over $11,000 for WorldHelp’s Operation Baby Rescue. On her personal crowdfunding page, she shared her first-hand encounters with young children suffering malnutrition.

Her compelling experience made her a passionate spokesperson for the cause and inspired her friends and family to join her.

By sharing personal and engaging stories, the campaign becomes a bridge to people; fundraising becomes more than just a means to money, but a way to connect deeply with a mission. 

2. Set realistic fundraising goals

When we say “realistic,” we mean SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely. And what’s “SMART” for one organization might not look the same for another. One man raised over $8,000 in twenty-four hours (with plenty of help) for autism research.

As a novice fundraiser, his initial goal was a reasonable $2,000 -- what we’d call a stretch goal: within the realm of possibility. Raising $2,000 in a day wasn’t out of reach, but it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk either for an individual. 

3. Develop a plan to promote the fundraiser and rally their personal networks via multiple channels.

Successful crowdfunding isn’t like Field of Dreams; you have to do more than just build a fundraising site and expect people simply to come. You’ll have to coach your supporters to success.

Here’s how you can do it:

Guide - Show them how to set up their campaign page; without direction, good intentions lead nowhere. Author Daniel Pink illustrates the need for an “off ramp” to drive people to action. In this study, college students were divided into two groups, each comprised evenly of those least likely to contribute to a food drive and those most likely to donate to the drive. Members of one group each received a personalized letter with explicit, detailed directions on how to donate and a follow-up phone call to remind them; the other received only a generic letter about the food drive. Among the students deemed most likely to donate who were given little guidance, only 8% donated. However, among the students thought least likely to give but given specific directions, 25% contributed to the drive.  

Empower - Give your supporters-turned-fundraisers pre-made content: for their website; social media channels, namely statuses and tweets; an email they can send their friends & family

Coach - Walk them through the campaign: appraise them of the timeline, troubleshoot whenever necessary, and most importantly, remind them of the importance of their role.

4. Demonstrate impact

To play a character as well as possible, actors ask themselves, “What’s my motivation?” Your fundraisers and donors will ask the same; clearly show where the money will go. Why the need to convert currency to results?

As Wired Impact’s David Hartstein wrote for the Stanford Social Innovation Review:

"It’s far more difficult for me, as a donor, to grasp the benefit to my life of making a donation. The feelings associated with making a positive impact in the world are tough to weigh. Even more difficult is predicting the quantity of future warm feelings I’ll have as a result of making a donation today.

As a nonprofit trying to garner donations, it’s your job to make these vague positive feelings as concrete as possible, both immediately and on into the future."

Australian startup nonprofit One Girl understood this well and created donation tiers for their campaign, showing how much impact a certain amount would make: a $10 donation provide a girl a schoolbag, a $250 donation cover’s a student’s tuition for a year. Seeing this encouraged a number of donors to give the latter amount.

5. Keep their community updated on their fundraising progress through email and social media

Communication is key in crowdfunding; if you want engagement, you’ll have to engage by keeping everyone in the loop. We’ve observed that there are three kinds of effective communication during a successful campaign:

Updates on the campaign’s progress. Use social media for succinct, daily updates, and emails and blog posts for meatier, weekly updates. Don’t be afraid to share that the campaign is lagging behind -- it might help spur people to action.

Appreciation for participating in campaign. Thank fundraisers and donors en masse with emails and social media posts; this will happen towards and after the end of the campaign. Thank donors who made major contributions and fundraisers who exceeded expectations on a more personal level - an email just for them, a tweet or status highlighting them individually, a handwritten note, a phone call, or even a brief meeting over coffee.

Encouragement for fundraisers and for donors. This kind of communication happens during the campaign to cheer everyone; most likely halfway through then onward, this kind of communication will happen with increasing frequency. Some of the tweets above are an example of encouragement – notice that there are elements of updating to lend a sense of urgency.

6. Brand their fundraising page

Simply put, to brand something means to mark or to identify it. This means that your fundraisers’ campaign pages should be distinctive in the quality of their design.

Customize the template for the fundraisers’ page so that it blends in with your organization’s online presence. Notice the example from the first tip: the organization, WorldHelp, created a subdomain for their crowdfunding campaign (, which integrates seamlessly with their main website ( Erica’s campaign page matches the look of WorldHelp’s homepage: the logo, the color palette.

Studies show that better design & branding eventually leads to more donations.

7. Stand out by making it fun to grab people’s attention

Your core supporters will probably be the first to dive into crowdfunding – or any chance to promote your mission, really. Volunteer fundraising may be a labor of love, but the best campaigns will make it so effortless and enjoyable that it doesn’t even feel like work.

Some examples include:

You may find that the activity associated with the campaign is a bigger draw for some fundraisers and donors than the cause itself. It’s possible to attract donors or fundraisers who were less likely to donate because they’re into the novelty of the activity.

Wrapping it up

To summarize, a successful crowdfunding campaign hinges on clear and consistent communication with fundraisers and donors about the:

  •      Purpose of the campaign
  •      Intended impact of the campaign
  •      Timeline of the campaign
  •      Progress of the campaign
  •      Actual results of the campaign

A very successful crowdfunding campaign will not only meet your fundraising goals – it would exceed the goals and expand your supporter and donor base.

For a detailed guide on crowdfunding, download our introduction to crowdfunding ebook and planning a crowdfunding campaign ebook.


Sara Choe is a Customer Advocate for CauseVox. As a social-good jill-of-all-trades, she enjoys sharing stories of people making the world a better place to live.



Tools Galore: How To Track What Content Resonates With Your Audiences

Do you know what types of content or campaigns resonate with your audiences on your website, email list, and social media channels? Perhaps you have a hunch, but the only surefire way to know this info is to develop a tracking and measurement plan.

To help get you started, here is a list of some of my favorite measurement tools. This will help your organization improve your understanding of what your audience responds to.


  • FanPage Karma: This tool helps you analyze your organization's page and those of your competitors. It also produces reports that you can share with colleagues.
  • Twitter Ads Dashboard: Twitter has made its Ads Dashboard available for regular use beyond advertising tracking. There are several valuable reports available including:
    • Website conversions from Twitter, and tools to verify your website with Twitter;
    • Timeline Activity: The timeline activity dashboard complements the Promoted Tweet dashboard by showing you what's working, Tweet by Tweet, for both your regular and Promoted Tweets.
    • Follower Data: This has information about your followers’ interests, location, gender, among other insights;
  • TweetStats: Graph your stats by tweets per hour, tweets per month, tweet timeline, and reply stats.

  • Spout Social: This tool has easy to read social media reports.

  • A URL shortner that also tracks how many times the link you shared was clicked on, what networks the link was shared on, and which social media users shared the link and who generated the most clicks on the link.

  • Wildfire Monitor: This is a great tool for historical comparisons of the growth of your organization's social media following vs. other organizations on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

  • Inspired Actions: I recommend this for engagement scores that identify your most engaging social media posts. Your organization can also use this tool to analyze your competitors in the space.

What are your favorite tools to track what content and campaigns resonate with your target audiences?


Are your constitutents still engaging on Facebook?

Earlier this year, Adobe released a Social Intelligence report based on consumer data from Adobe Social, Adobe Media Optimizer, and Adobe Analytics. While the data's comprised of both aggregated and anonymous data from retail, media and entertainment, and travel websites during 2013 - 2014, the data is also useful for nonprofits to examine. This report answered a question that has come up for many of us, are our constituents still engaging as frequently with us on social media?

The information from the study includes:

  • 260 billion Facebook ad impressions
  • 226 billion Facebook post impressions
  • 17 billion referred visits from social sites

Some key findings that might be useful to your nonprofit:

  • Friday may be the ideal day to release content on Facebook as 1/4 of videos played on FB occur on Fridays, and over 15% of FB post impressions happen on Fridays (FYI: Sunday's the least likely day to receive a comment on a post).
  • Facebook ad click through rates are up 160% year-over-year and are up 20% quarter-over-quarter.
  • Facebook ad impressions are up 40% year-over-year.
  • Facebook's cost per clicks have lowered considerably since end-of-year fundraising has ended. This will make ads much more affordable for your org.


Photos and videos have increased in popularity on Facebook. Engagement with video posts is up 25% year-over-year. Recently, Facebook implemented auto-play videos, and this exponentially increased the amount of videos being watched. Video plays are up 785% year-over-year after auto-play was incorporated.

Posts with images are still receiving the highest levels of engagement. Text posts, on the other hand, have declined in both shares and engagement. Stick a link in that text post, though, and there's been a 77% year-over-year increase in posts with links.

So to circle back around, the answer is yes. People are still very engaged on social networks, and Facebook is still playing a very prominent role in your constituents' lives.

Where are you seeing the most growth online?


New Study: How Much Money Do Peer-to-Peer Fundraisiers Raise For Charity?

Loyalty, donation levels, and fundraising performances is just some of the data unveiled in Blackbaud's 2013 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising study. The study looked at peer-to-peer giving across 39 organizations over the last 3 years (from 2011 to 2013). Combined, these organizations hosted more than 44,000 events and raised more than $1 billion online.

The study looks at trends across four event types — Cycle, Endurance, 5K and Walks — and looks at different types of participants — participating donors (those who participate and donate, but don’t fundraise), fundraising self-donors (makes a donation AND fundraises) and non-self-donors (fundraises but does not make a donation). 

The goal of the study was to understand the value of true fundraisers. This begs the question, who is really raising money? And just how much are these individuals raising?

Key Findings From The Study:

  • Endurance events generated the most revenue from fundraising efforts at 94%, while 5K events generated the least, 33%. The endurance event stats are not suprising. In the book Social Change Anytime Everywhere, that I co-wrote with Amy Sample Ward of NTEN, we disucss the pyschology of fundraising. The more you ask people to suffer, the more money you will raise for charity events. This is one reason that endurance events like the Boston Marathon raise over $10M a year for charities.
  • Cycle events got the most participants in online fundraising at 70.57%.
  • The percentage of people raising money has remained flat across all 4 event types the last three years, but donors gave more each year.
  • The average online gift for Endurance events was the highest at $80.05, while the lowest was 5K events at $54.96. Cycle events saw the biggest percentage jump year over year in average gift size at 9%. The average Cycle gift is now $73.42.
  • Returning participants significantly outperformed new participants across all events when it came to fundraising. For example, the average amount raised by a returning participant for Endurance events is $1,150.22 — for a new participant, it’s $694.18.

It's important to note that returning participants raised more money than new participants (more than double), this is because returning constituents have been moved up the ladder of engagement and are even more committied to raising money for charity. They are also more exprienced in peer-to-peer fundraising and understand what brings in more money from donors.  

Email's Impact On Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

  • While there’s been an overall decline in email activity, we don't recommend closing the door on email. Email marketing is still a very effective fundraising tool for participants. Across all events types, participants who send email messages raise more than their peers who do not send email messages. Why the decline in email acitivity? There are more channels at fundraisers disposal so they are using multiple channels to reach their donors. Some people may find it easier to focus their fundraising pitches on social media and tag people directly. Their hope is that this public pressure will "inspire" people donate money. Does it work? Sometimes. My advice. Ask people on both channels.
  • Good and great fundraisers are email senders. On average, across all 4 event types, 68% of great fundraisers send emails.

This steady growth of peer-to-peer fundraising is a good sign for nonprofits, and Blackbaud asks you to consider a few insights to really evaluate the giving within your own organization.

  • How much are your event gift amounts compared to your org's general gift?
  • Does your average gift amount change by the participation type or the participant's connection to your nonprofit? What's your average self-donation?

What events have been the most successful in raising money for your org?


Are Email and Click-through Rates Heading South?

It's no secret that the nonprofit community has seen a steady decline in email open rates, click-through rates, and email page completion rates, which was also confirmed by the 2014 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study. The report, which analyzed data from 53 nonprofits, over 2.1 billion email messages, 5.6 million donations, and 7.5 million online actions shed light on valuable information for nonprofits and their messaging. This information will be a great place to begin evaluating your own online progress. For example:

  • Fundraising messaging response rates were down 11% from 2012 levels to 0.07%.
  • Advocacy messaging declined 25% to 2.0%.

Don't panic though, there are a few bright spots in the midst of all this decline: email lists, online giving, and website traffic are still growing.

  • Email lists are up 14% over 2012 levels.
  • Online giving among study participants increased 14% since 2012.
  • Monthly giving revenue grew 25% in 2013, and accounted for 16% of total online giving.
  • Monthly website traffic for study participants grew by 16% in 2013.
  • On average, 0.69% of website visitors made a gift, bringing the average value of a visit to $0.60.
  • Visitors who made it to a nonprofit website’s primary donation page converted at a rate of 15%.

Check out the email list growth over the last few years of different sized nonprofits (orange: 2011, yellow: 2012, and blue: 2013) -

This is great news for your organization. Even though fundraising message responses are down, online giving is up, so there's a lot of hope and real value in the investments you're making online.

Speaking of online, what about social media? What's going on there?

  • Social media audiences continue to grow at a much faster rate than email or website traffic.
  • Nonprofits who participated in the study grew their number of Facebook fans by 37%, and Twitter followers by 46%.

Despite the surplus in social media growth,  email continues to dwarf social media. Email surpasses social media channels both in audience numbers and in revenue acquisition.

Where did you see the most decline and the most positive growth in 2013?


5 Analytic Tools to Track Your Organization's Metrics

If your organization is struggling to find the right analytic tools to track your website traffic, social media presence, and how your reports, campaigns, or infographics perform across the web, check out this list of 5 helpful analytic tools. It won't fulfill all of your data analysis needs, but if you use some of these tools together, they will provide a decent baseline.

1. Google Analytics Report with Visually

Looking for a report that combines your Google Analytics stats in a visual format? This is a great tool, especially if you need to produce reports weekly and present them to senior leadership.

2. Simply Measured

This tool monitors your organization’s social media presence and gives you the ability to produce reports that can be exported to Excel, Powerpoint, and HTML.

3. Link Tally

Do you have a big report or infographic that was recently released and are looking to track how much it was shared on social media? Check out Link Tally. Just enter the URL and it will count up how many times it was shared across the social sharing sites: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. Here's an example of the data Link Tally compiled for an infographic around voter supression my firm Rad Campaign designed and researched for Craig Newmark of craigslist and craigconnects.

4. Keyhole

Use this tool to track hashtags and data associated with them such as impressions, which users on Twitter had the most retweets, what domains mentioned the hashtag, etc. In the example below I searched for the hashtag #fundraising.

 5. SocialMention

Looking for an alternative to Google Alerts? Check out SocialMention, which searches the web to identify mentions of a topic, hashtag or person. It also tracks sentiment, but since it’s based on an algorithm rather than an actual real person, take that data with a grain of salt. Case in point. As millions of viewers await the Game of Thrones Season 4 premiere, SocialMention says that the majority of the sentiment is neutral. There is very little positive sentiment. #OhReally



New Report Shows Largest Increase in Charitable Giving Since the Recession

Should nonprofits be less panicked now that the latest report by Blackbaud report shows that charitiable giving is finally up for nonprofit sector since the recession? While this trend is good news for the sector, don't throw a big bash to celebrate this milestone just yet. As Amy Sample Ward and I discuss in our book Social Change Anytime Everywhere there are over 1.6 million organizations in the United States. This means that there are hundreds or even thousands of organizations working on similar issues with similar names and missions competing for donor dollars. It's time for nonprofits to start diversifying their revenue streams all year round.

As Steve MacLaughlin puts it:

“Nonprofits have many opportunities to diversify their giving throughout the year so they aren’t so dependent on year-end fundraising. As evidenced by giving days like #GivingTuesday and end-of-fiscal year campaigns in June, nonprofits have the opportunity to drive donor behavior by shifting their fundraising strategies.”

#GivingTuesday saw an immense growth in 2013, as evidenced by Craig Newmark's recent infographic, Cracking the Crowdfunding Code. Check out these key findings from the 2013 Charitable Giving Report:

  • Online giving (13.5%) grew more than overall giving (4.9%).
  • Small orgs saw the greatest increase in online giving.
  • Faith-based organizations experienced the most online giving of all the sectors.
  • It's ideal for your nonprofit to implement a monthly giving program.

2013 Charitable Giving Report by Blackbaud