Are non-profits getting serious about crowdfunding?

8661000014A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . we used to do a special themed blog post to start every week and it was called “Mondays with Marissa“. We haven’t run that series in a while because Marissa moved on to bigger and better things (and I should add that by bigger and better I mean “things that pay”). She got snatched up by one of the local Girl Scout councils to manage their online communities. However, in the spirit of “Mondays with Marissa,” I thought we would look back today at a previous post by Marissa, provide a little update, and spur additional conversation.

Crowdfunding is defined by Wikipedia as “… the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.”

Crowdfunding is a spinoff of crowdsourcing, and this YouTube video by does a really good job of explaining it:


In the last year or so, both Marissa and I wrote about crowdfunding in the following posts:

In spite of my confession that I was a doubting Thomas and suddenly “saw the light” when it came to crowdfunding, I have another admission to make today. I was still a little skeptical after writing that post a year ago.

However, just last week and almost a year after proclaiming Marissa “right,” I read in the Fundraising Digest Weekly published by that the Smithsonian plans on running its first crowdfunding campaign. Click here to read more about the Smithsonian’s efforts at

After reading this, I must admit that it is impossible to be a doubting Thomas about this ePhilanthropy tool.

The Smithsonian is no slouch when it comes to resource development and fundraising. Their decision to turn to crowdfunding validates this online fundraising strategy as something that is here to stay.

  • Are you still a doubting Thomas? If so, why?
  • Has you non-profit organization experimented with crowdsourcing or crowdfunding? What did you do? What did you learn?
  • Have you seen other heavy hitting non-profit groups use a crowdfunding campaign successfully? Who? What?
  • Have you looked into other crowdsourcing applications other than crowdfunding such as crowdengineering, cloud labor, or crowdcreativity? Please explain.

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Marissa was right . . . crowdfunding works

Let me take you back and set the scene. It was Monday, February 13, 2012, which can can only mean one thing at DonorDreams blog — it was “Mondays with Marissa”. On that particular Monday, Marissa wrote a post titled: “Can your non-profit raise $1,000,000 in 24 hours using a crowd funding site?”  I have a confession to make this morning. When I was editing that post, I was a little skeptical. I have seen crowdsourcing sites and know they be a powerful fundraising tool for certain types of projects, but I thought $1,000,000 was a bit exaggerated.

Apparently, I was wrong and Marissa was more right than I gave her credit for.

A few weeks ago that YouTube video of the bus monitor, Karen Klein, being bullied by middle school children went viral. Almost 8 million people have viewed the video, and every media outlet in America has been all over this story.  After hearing the story and viewing the video, a good Samaritan set-up an online campaign using a crowdfunding platform called Indiegogo with the intent of raising enough money to send Karen on a vacation.

As of this morning, the fund sits at $660,756, and I am wondering how close it will come to $1,000,000 before it closes down in 24 days.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that you rip up your organization’s written resource development plan and put all of your fundraising eggs in a crowdfunding basket.  Most of the crowdfunding campaigns that I’ve seen raise relatively small amounts of money. This situation was different (e.g. fueled by public outrage, the viral nature of YouTube, and an insane amount of media attention).

If you have the same ingredients for a project at your non-profit organization, then by all means double down on a crowdfunding strategy. If not, then I suggest recognizing crowdfunding is a viable fundraising strategy and placing it inside of your already crowded fundraising toolbox. Use that tool whenever the situation warrants it.

So, you’re probably asking: “When might the situation warrant a crowdfunding strategy?

I believe crowdfunding works for non-profit organizations when they are trying to raise money for a specific project from a specific audience. You may want to go back an re-read Marissa’s February 13th post because it contains a few fantastic pointers. Catherine Clifford at wrote a post titled “Want to Raise Money With Crowdfunding? Consider These Tips” that you also may want to check out.

Have you ever used a crowdfunding site to raise money for a non-profit project? If so, please share your experiences and lessons learned in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Can your non-profit raise $1,000,000 in 24 hours using a crowd funding site?

What a difference a day makes. This week, video game developer, Double Fine Productions, raised over $1,000,000 within 24 hours of posting their next project on the popular crowd funding site, kickstarter. That’s a lot of money in a short amount of time, and it got me thinking — if it can happen for video games, why can’t it non-profits do the same thing? Today we’ll take a look at two kickstarter-like options for you and your agency.

Helpers Unite

When you combine the entrepreneurial spirit of kickstarter with charitable giving, you get Helpers Unite. Helpers Unite creates opportunities to help businesses fund projects while registered 501c3 organizations collect donations.  According to an article from The Next Web, the process for nonprofits goes like this:

“HelpersUnite has Projects and Causes on the site. Registered 501c3′s can create a Cause profile, including their logo, and then send the link to their Cause on HelpersUnite to their donor list as part of any fundraising campaign. Causes can keep their profile on the site forever, at no cost to them. They do not have to align with a charity and donate part of their funds raised on the site to another 501c3′s. All the money raised, less admin fees to HelpersUnite and credit card processing fees from PayPal, go to the non-profit. HelpersUnite features Causes on its site and social media channels regularly to help further promote users’ work.”

Additionally, Helpers Unite will send the donor a receipt for tax deduction purposes, so you won’t have to.


FirstGiving is crowd funding through your current network of supporters. Supporters can create their own pages and raise funds through their social networks.  According to Crunchbase:

“FirstGiving partner’s with nonprofit organizations to allow them to plan, execute, and measure successful online fundraising campaigns. For individual fundraisers, FirstGiving aims to make the process simple, effective, and even fun.”

This approach allows supporters to tell stories and bring awareness to their cause. FirstGiving seems best suited when supporters are fundraising for a project that is connected to a nonprofit, such as running in a marathon.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Just like every other social media site, it is important to cultivate the community on each site. Make sure you have someone monitoring the interactions, engaging in those virtual conversations, and updating your profile often.
  • Spread the news. Not only announce that you have set up a profile on a crowd funding site, but announce the successes. People like to be a part of success.
  • Learn from others. Take a look around and see what other organizations like yours are up to. How are they using the site? Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
  • Be specific. We all know that donors like to know where their money is going. On these kickstarter-esque sites, details about how the funds will be used is more important than general fundraising.
  • As of the writing of this post, Double Fine Productions has raised $1,662,430 with 47,231 backers making an average donation of $35. The company only asked for a $1 minimum donation. 25,730 supporters donated between $15 to $30. You can check the current figures, here. It only goes to show that, every penny counts.

Non-profits always seem to be trying to diversify their revenue streams. Do you see crowd funding as another possible fundraising strategy for your agency? Have you used a crowd funding source before? What worked? What didn’t? Please join the  conversation by using the comment section below!