Fundraising is never easy for non-profits. And forward-thinking, assertive non-profits will look to new paradigms. And this can include community funding.
Starting campaigns on major community funding sites have been successful for non-profits and can continue to be so as more and more people understand the concept.
Here’s one example of a wildly successful community funding campaign mounted by a non-profit. The Asylum Seeker Resource Center (ASRC), an Australian non-profit that aids asylum seekers, raised $153,412 for its cause via community funding. The project was this: a food truck via which the ASRC would sell produce at market costs and use the proceeds to help asylum seekers. They report some ups and downs and some lost sleep during the community funding process, but 970 backers made the campaign worth it. The funds went to buy the truck and to bring on a staffer.
You’re probably aware that community funding simply means getting many small donations from the general public for a specific project. The prospective donators see a presentation on the project via the page you create on the site and are usually offered some gift or incentive in return for their generosity.
A good share of the contributions for the ASRC project above came from existing members of the organization’s community. The same is the case for Seth Godin’s campaign to fund his book The Icarus Project. Dogma on the subject tells us that a good mailing list, plenty of Facebook followers, personal friends and volunteers and colleagues are all crucial to a good community funding campaign. Relying on fortuitous google searches made by very generous souls doesn’t have a proven track record.
Telling your story is all about making your goals accessible and comprehensible. Your plans should be related in narrative form, from A to B to C, along with themes and philosophical ideas like any great piece of literature would have. The good that you’ll be doing should be made clear and comprehensible, with enthusiasm but not salesmanship, per se.
The idea is to show your enthusiasm and make it contagious. Highlight all the best idealism, keeping jargon or industry-specific speech to a bare minimum.
Increasingly, community funding campaigns contain videos and photos. These can work very well to make otherwise confusing or difficult material a lot more accessible to an audience.
They usually aren’t little handicam affairs shot in ten minutes and editing with freeware. Increasingly, they are a bit more professional. It’s daunting, but quite a few community funding campaigns mention that some of their funding (and sometimes they give exact numbers) help pay for a freelancer who puts together the video (or, for that matter, who writes the text).
Among your various forms of fundraising, you probably shouldn’t ask community funding to make up too high a percentage of your efforts. As mentioned above, people have to have a good reason to help fund a campaign, and the bigger your existing community, the higher the amount of funding you can expect. The websites out there give you templates, a space on the web with the capabilities of embedding video, etc., but they don’t present a cure-all.
Community funding is a wonderful form of communication, allowing you to tell your story as well as any format available. But it’s not a panacea or magic wand. It still requires plenty of work and a good existing community. But if your non-profit hasn’t strongly considering community funding, it should.