In the past few years, many nonprofit organizations have turned to crowdfunding sites to increase their fundraising efforts. Yet what is rarely discussed is that for nonprofits, conventional crowdfunding can actually backfire. Everyone is inundated with daily requests to make donations to a worthy causes that may or may not directly impact them personally or would be a cause they would be willing to support. Simply casting a wide net and sourcing an ambivalent, large crowd of people asking for donations to an organization they may have never heard of or are not aligned with their own personal beliefs or interests, could potentially cause damage to the organizations reputation, and will certainly do little, if anything, to secure donations. Why? There is nothing “personal” about conventional crowdfunding. What does work? Using a circle-giving approach.
How does circle giving work? Everyone runs in different circles – home, work, school, church, civic, recreational. etc. When they intersect, the center represents an opportunity for circle giving – to inspire individuals to then share information to their own related networks.
Circle giving relies on first connecting with the people who already exist within an organization’s core circle – family, friends, board members, past donors – and then allowing the outreach to grow organically through these key influencers who already believe in your organizations cause. These are the people that are likely to be more than willing to help reach out to people within their own individual giving circle, or share through world of mouth.
The most powerful fundraising campaigns are the ones that create a personal and emotional connection with potential donors, particularly in an online context. A personal connection results in a much higher likelihood of giving.
While donations are an integral part of online giving, sharing the fundraiser itself is much more important since it typically leads to more donating. You can think of these circles as a Venn diagram. Sharing a compelling story in a personal way propels a tight inner circle giving campaign to the next outer circle of friends of friends, and the potential for even more sharing to the next circle, and so on.
Now that we’ve established the importance of circles, it’s imperative to know how to activate those circles with your online campaign.
Top 5 Tips for Activating Your Circles:
- Make it personal: A campaign needs to have a face (or faces). There needs to be a person or group of people, who will be impacted by the giving. Their stories should come alive in the course of the campaign.
- Make it specific: It’s all about the story. Circle giving works best when there is a clear, relatable result for the money donated. A fundraising goal should be something tangible, so that donors have confidence that their donations will have a real impact.
- Make it achievable: The average gift for nonprofits is around $75. In relative terms, it’s small dollar donors who will make the funding goal happen. Be aware of the potential of your circles and pick a goal that feels attainable, especially on your first foray.
- Show, don’t tell: Videos work. Not the slick, over-produced ones – but the ones created by the faces of your campaign or about the people you help. It’s all about authenticity. Content is what will drive sharing, so ask yourself, “Is it share-worthy?” about any content you develop.
- Prime the pump: Just like at fundraising events, make sure you have some people lined up to donate in the first few days to gain momentum early on. Also, matching gift challenges can help to bring high dollar donations (i.e. “if you donate $500 in the next two days, I will match it”). People like to feel like they are part of something successful and important.
Crowds may surge, but they then disperse. Circles grow steadily, and stay. When you’re thinking about how to make crowdfunding work for you, step away from the crowd and step into your circles.