Is crowdfunding a good idea for your organisation?

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With innovation charity Nesta predicting that crowdfunding could be worth £4.7 billion to UK charities in 2016 and statutory funding stalling or being cut, digital communications consultant Harry Reid examines if it can be a potential lifesaving part of a voluntary organisation’s funding efforts


Indiegogo sounded to me like a really bad Eurovision act the first time I came across the moniker about five years ago.

Yet rather than a nul points scoring group of Norwegian would-be hipsters, checking it out online I discovered it was something called a crowdfunding platform that had been launched in 2008.

Back in 2010, when I first heard the term, I knew nothing about crowdfunding. As an independent fundraising consultant I was initially curious in a fairly lukewarm kind of way, suspicious of any gimmicky internet-based get ‘rich’ quick fundraising cure-alls. Yet by taking the time to become familiar with, and analyse, a wide range of crowdfunding initiatives on Indiegogo, and then over time on other similar sites such as Kickstarter, and Buzzbnk, as they launched and matured, I quickly became in turn intrigued, fascinated, impressed and then a dedicated fan – although like every other effective method of fundraising it is an actor in the drama not a one person show.

My enthusiastic advocacy wasn’t based on a belief that this digital communication channel – specialising in enabling charities; community groups; artists and others to raise serious money for projects of a genuinely innovative nature – could replace the traditional fundraising mix used by not for profit organisations to underwrite their work.

Rather, it became clear that crowdfunding campaigns, on Indiegogo and the myriad of other similar sites, can, if done well, significantly augment income from the tried and tested blend of charitable money raising activities.

Put simply, crowd funding has the potential to be another arrow for the fundraising bow in a charity’s quiver just like applications to charitable trusts and statutory bodies; business support through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes; money from the public through events, supporter schemes, legacies and the rest, and increasingly, the rewards from entrepreneurial trading through social business models. However, before rushing head-long to throw a crowdfunding initiative together, note well the caveats mentioned above, i.e. that done well, a crowdfunding campaign has the potential to raise serious money for specific projects.

Instead, if you’re serious about embracing crowdfunding as a part of your fundraising toolbox, I suggest that you;

One: Understand that done well, crowdfunding is not free – it requires significant investment in staff or volunteers’ time, and that they need to both know what they’re doing in terms of mounting an engaging, timetabled, nuanced campaign and working to a detailed plan agreed organisation-wide as a time-limited bookended priority. Additionally, resources need to be marshalled and invested in creating professional campaign materials – excellent audio-visual material in particular, such as live action video or animations, are essential but require specialist expertise to produce,

Two: Study and become familiar with the myriad of crowdfunding platforms, learn from what others have done on them to gain success or experience failure.

Three: plan your campaign by setting agreed start and end dates, ensuring that once up and running you can clearly and concisely convey your messages in terms of what you want the funding for, why your envisaged work deserves support, who will benefit and how. Attention spans are short on the eyeball competitive web, so you need to be punchy in how you inform and indeed entertain. Crucial too is the need to communicate what people will get by way of reward for specific amounts of donation, as is factoring in your costs for fulfillment of each aspect of such offers.

Four: Treat your crowdfunding campaign as the temporary flagship in your digital armada, complimentarily working in consort with your website content; social media feeds; Instagram or other photo-sharing output; material on your YouTube channel and in your regular e-zines. Additionally, while your crowdfunding campaign is live, if you don’t already, consider running a dedicated blog on the likes of Tumbl and putting out a podcast through Sound Cloud or similar.

Finally, while space here allows only a broad skim of the considerations, my central piece of advice is that while a DIY approach is ok for a small scale crowdfunding effort to support for instance a sponsored event you are running anyway, that investment to bring in on a short-term basis external expertise to help advise and co-ordinate is, if you can afford it, worth it to make any major crowdfunding initiative a success.

With rewards of £100,000 plus being realistic targets for imaginatively conceived and skillfully mounted campaigns, investment in consultancy time can bring a multiple return.

To ensure you don’t fall for the type of ‘consultants’ that ask to borrow your watch then bill you for telling you the time, seek the support of an individual or agency with the skills; knowledge and understanding to assist your crowdfunding effort.

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