It seems like there's a new crowdfunding website out there every week, but which one is right for your nonprofit? I looked at a few popular crowdfunding sites and dissected their cost plans, nonprofit support, and special features. What platform you choose really depends on the size of your nonprofit and what sort of campaign you plan to run.
If you're just doing a general fundraising campaign, Razoo or CauseVox might be the way to go. If you are interested in offering merchandise, check out Teespring. If you're trying launch a project, like a community center or a film festival, KickStarter or Indiegogo might be the way to go.
The Scoop: Perhaps one of the most buzzed-about crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter is a way to fund projects. Project creators offer rewards and incentives for donations to thank backers for their support. Examples of rewards could be the actual project (if it is something like a book) or a free pass to a screening of a movie or production of a play. It is open to creators from all backgrounds — from charities to video game developers to artists.
Special Plan for Nonprofits: No. Kickstarter makes it clear that it isn't for direct charity or cause funding, but about project creation.
You are allowed to run a project as a nonprofit or charity, however. It is important to note that all the names on all accounts (including the Kickstarter account and bank and credit card accounts) must be in your organization's name. If your account is registered by a confirmed 501(c)(3) organization, you may have the ability to offer full or partial tax deductions to backers.
What's at Cost: This is an all-or-nothing platform, meaning that if you don't meet your set goal for funds, you don't get to keep any of the donations. If a project succeeds, Kickstarter will charge a 5 percent fee to the funds collected. For U.S.-based projects, pledges are processed by Amazon Payments. There are payment processing fees attached to this that work out to roughly 3 to 5 percent. If you don't meet your goal, there are no fees.
Nonprofit Success Story: Ushahidi, a nonprofit headquartered in Kenya, used Kickstarter to launch production of BRCK, a Wi-Fi router and mobile modem built to withstand the elements. You can read about the campaign over on NetSquared (where Ushahidi won its first challenge!).
Bottom line: Kickstarter might be a bit of a gamble for nonprofits. Unless you have a very compelling project that already has a lot of interest, you might not want to invest in a Kickstarter campaign (especially since you won't be able to keep the funds you raise!). On the other hand, because Kickstarter is so popular, you might be able to garner a lot of press or attention for your campaign. Make sure to review Kickstarter's guidelines for projects, however, as it's been known to pull campaigns for not meeting the standards.
The Scoop: Indiegogo stakes the claim of being the first "perks-based" crowdfunding site. Like Kickstarter, anybody or any group can post a campaign, but unlike Kickstarter, it doesn't necessarily have to be project-based. Indiegogo also measures how much social engagement is happening with your campaign, meaning how many people are looking at it and sharing it on various networks.
Special Plan for Nonprofits: Yes. Generosity by Indiegogo is a fundraising platform for nonprofits and charities.
Cost: There is no fee to use Generosity. There is, however, a 3 percent plus 30 cents processing fee on every donation.
Nonprofit Success Story: Indiegogo has a wonderful gallery of campaigns from verified nonprofits. Aid Afghanistan for Education and Peace had the lofty $10,000 goal to fund a school of 300 students for a month. Depending on what you donated, you could receive notes, photos, or a calendar from the students. Amazingly, the organization surpassed this goal and raised $11,547.
Bottom line: I love that Indiegogo has a free platform built especially for nonprofits and social enterprise. Additionally, Indiegogo has a wealth of support and resources, making it ideal for nonprofits first getting into the crowdfunding game.
The Scoop: Teespring lets you crowdfund customized apparel — from basic T-shirts to hoodies to camo shirts! — to raise money for your cause. You can design your own T-shirt with Teespring's online tool, or you can work with one of the company's consultants.
Special Plan for Nonprofits: Eligible TechSoup members can request a lifetime subscription to Teespring's premium consultation package. Through TechSoup's offer, you also get a $1 discount off each product sold, contributing more to your cause.
Cost: It is completely free to launch a campaign, and Teespring does not take a percentage of your campaign's profit margin. The donation through TechSoup, however, has an admin fee of $35.
Nonprofit Success Story: The American Childhood Cancer Organization has raised more than $43,000 through several successful campaigns featuring the international symbol of support for those living with childhood cancer. For more Teespring stories, check out the TechSoup blog.
Bottom line: Without any cost risk, Teespring is a great way to get your feet wet in the world on crowdfunding. Even if you're not the creative type, you'll be surprised with how easy it is to come up with a catchy T-shirt design.
The Scoop: CauseVox (a TechSoup donor partner) is a platform tailored for nonprofits and social good projects. It is open to both individuals and nonprofits in the United States, Canada, and Australia. CauseVox is a fundraising platform and isn't project-based like Kickstarter or Teespring. You can customize your donation page by using one of its premade templates or by creating one of your own.
Special Plan for Nonprofits: CauseVox is designed with nonprofits in mind and offers design help as well as 24/7 customer support. CauseVox is available through the TechSoup donation program to eligible nonprofits and charities with two different plans: Impact (best for small organizations) and Pro (for medium organizations).
Cost: CauseVox offers pay-as-you-go plans. There's a free trial plan that waives CauseVox's monthly fee (if applicable) until you raise $5,000. Once you surpass that limit, you will be given an option to transition to one of CauseVox's plans. Through TechSoup, a one-year subscription to the Impact Plan costs $88, whereas a one-year subscription to the Pro Plan costs $232. For more information, check out TechSoup's CauseVox page.
Nonprofit Success Story: Grey2K USA Worldwide is the largest greyhound protection organization in the world.
With CauseVox, Grey2K exceeded its goal for its GivingTuesday 2014 campaign, raising $5,000 in just a few hours. Buoyed by the success, Grey2K raised its goal to $10,000. The final result? Grey2K raised $12,368 with a $5,000 match.
Bottom line: If you're looking for a platform that allows design flexibility as well as lots of customer support, CauseVox is a great choice. The platform also provides a lot of nice little extras, like widgets you can put on your site that link to your fundraising page as well as SEO tools.
The Scoop: Similar to CauseVox, Razoo is open to both individual fundraising and nonprofit campaigns. Razoo provides a toolbox to get your campaign up and running, from customizable thank-you videos to donation tiers that outline the impact of each donation amount.
Special Plan for Nonprofits: If your organization is a registered 501(c)(3), you're likely already in Razoo's system. You simply have to claim your page to get started on a campaign. Razoo also has a nonprofit partner, the Razoo Foundation, which instantly emails your donors a tax-deductible receipt so you don't have to. Lastly, the platform offers special support for nonprofits as well as a nonprofit newsletter.
Cost: Any donation your campaign receives will be charged a 4.9 percent platform fee and a 2 percent plus 30 cents payment processing fee. Razoo waives charge-back fees on credit cards.
Nonprofit Success Story: There are quite a few nonprofit success stories on Razoo, but one that really stands out is the Wildcat Sanctuary campaign. Each donation tier tells you how your donation will help one of the rescued resident big cats. There's also a great video that tells you more about the rescued tigers, lions, and cougars you'll be helping.
Bottom line: Given Razoo's deep support for nonprofits and the fact that you're probably already in its database, it seems like a no-brainer to give this platform a spin. I also really like that Razoo is mobile-friendly because more people are accessing websites via their phones or tablets. Like CauseVox, Razoo offers widgets for your Facebook page, website, or blog.
Editor's note: This post was updated in May 2016.
Image 1: Kickstarter / Ushahidi
Image 2: Indiegogo / Aid Afghanistan for Education and Peace
Image 3: The American Childhood Cancer Organization
Image 4: CauseVox / Grey2K
Image 5: Razoo / The Wildcat Sanctuary
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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