Guest Post: How to Put the “Fun” Back in Fundraising

9 November 2015 | 8 Comments

On this blog I almost always talk about rewards-based crowdfunding (i.e., you pledge $40 and you get a board game in return). But there are other types of crowdfunding too, like equity-based crowdfunding and nonprofit or charitable crowdfunding.

While my previous job before Stonemaier was at a nonprofit, I know very little about nonprofit crowdfunding. So I invited reader Liza Baskir (SPUR) to share her experience with it. The story she tells at the beginning of this post and the key lessons at the end are relevant to all crowdfunders, not just nonprofit crowdfunders. Thanks Liza!

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Fundraising isn’t fun.  You know those people that bug you on the street and ask you for money, I was one of those people.  My first job out of college was as a canvass director.

Six days a week, I would knock on eighty doors, talk to forty people, and, on a good night, get a donation from five people.  At first, I was terrible at it.  I’m an introvert and talking to strangers was like jumping into an ice-cold lake: it’s extremely uncomfortable and all you can think about is getting the hell out of there.

Canvassing is a skill; it’s something you get better at the more you do it.  I bumbled my way through the first couple months, and after about six months I was confident in my abilities, but I was still an average canvasser.

Then I had a breakthrough.  I had been approaching the job all-wrong.  I saw people as a means to an end.  They had the money, and my job was to convince them they cared enough about the campaign to give me that money.

Little by little money became less important, and I started to care about the people.  I got excited when someone opened the door because it was a new person I could get to know.  Canvassing allowed me to see a small slice of another’s life.  This shift in focus made me a better canvasser.

Crowdfunding follows a similar principal.  It isn’t about the money; it’s about the people who are funding your project.   This is especially true for non-profits, since the mission is never to raise a Scrooge McDuck sized pile of money.

As a non-profit, utilizing crowdfunding is tricky because there often isn’t a product that backers are funding.  Successful non-profits have conventional means of raising funds, so it is essential to have a rationale for running a crowdfunding campaign, which must have certain attributes.

  1. Tangible end goal: Unlike with conventional campaigns, this does not have to be a product. Non-profits have successfully used crowdfunding to fund community projects, such as the “Build Gateway Green Campaign” in Portland.  A 38 acre Green Way is not something you can hold in your had, but there is a concrete outcome.
  2. Campaign provides asset to a community: Fundraising is about people. Though interactions might not take place in real life, the concept is still the same.  Non-profits serve a certain community, so the funds from the crowdfunding campaign must be invested in that community.
  3. Need for the campaign: If there is no demand for a project, no one will fund it.   

Fundraising isn’t fun, but people are awesome.

What are some stories you can share about a meaningful connection you made through crowdfunding?

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Read more Kickstarter creator interviews and guest posts here.

Leave a Comment

8 Comments on “Guest Post: How to Put the “Fun” Back in Fundraising

  1. I’m in the position of running a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign for a nonprofit next year, which is a little bit “foot in each camp” scenario. It’s nice to read about what’s possible for a purely non-tangible point of view and I’ve run purely rewards based campaigns before – but it’s hard to figure out the balance.

  2. Liza – Thanks for the post.

    So I really care about my backers, and take great care to try to remember each interaction with each person. Each one is a friend I simply haven’t met in person yet. …but some are!

    So just today a friend of mine from Buffalo NY sends me this link: https://www.wgrz.com/story/news/2015/11/07/board-game-players-raise-money-for-childrens-miracle-network/75370798/

    It’s a cool thing because he is in in the news cast. YAY! – What was super cool was recognizing backers that I met in person at Gen Con. I even sent the link to one of them. I don’t know if she knows she’s in it, but now she does!

    Things like that are one of the big reasons that I do what I do.

    Hoping to meet all of you one day,

    John Wrot!

  3. Hello all!

    The question at the end of the blog post is not a rhetorical one. I am still relatively new to the crowdfunding world and would love to hear your experiences and advice. Looking forward to reading and responding.

    1. Liza: Great post! I am also striving to do a better job with this. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to meet a dozen or more of my backers in person and it is always a fun and rewarding experience. At that same time, I always get caught by surprise and find I wish I had been able to communicate better my appreciation for their support. Somehow just saying “thank you for backing!” doesn’t seem to go far enough to show them just how much their help means to me. I almost wish I had a small gift or handwritten note I carried around with me, on the off-chance I meet a backer.

      In addition, I’ve have developed a number of really positive and constructive relationships with backers online from around the world. Backers have offered support of my new projects and continue to be some of my biggest fans. It is very encouraging to experience this type of support and something I hope I can maintain as months and years pass by.

      1. Dennis: Your comment really resonates with me too–I’ve definitely had that experience of meeting a backer face to face and thanking them for their support, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Even through that gratitude, I feel like I’m making it about me instead of about them, and I want to show them how much their support and their shared passion truly mean to me.

      2. Dennis: Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. I remember when I was canvassing, I would thank people as sincerely as possible, but it was hard to tell if they knew what their contribution meant to me.

        It’s truly awesome that crowdfunding exists because it makes ongoing interactions possible; it creates a community in a way that traditional fundraising does not.

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