Crowdfunding: How to Choose a Platform That's Right for You

It was  2013 and the nonprofit world was abuzz about the potential for crowdfunding to close budget gaps, fund innovative new programs, and bring new donors into the mix. Fast forward four years later, and it’s clear crowdfunding is here to stay as one of many effective tools in nonprofit giving But it’s not the panacea we thought it would be. In fact, it’s driving competition for a donor’s dollars. In 2017 alone, roughly half -- $1.5 billion -- of the total giving on crowdfunding platforms GoFundme and YouCaring are for personal medical expenses

While crowdfunding is not a complete game changer, it’s still a great way for projects to raise money and spread awareness, when done right. We recommend that projects see crowdfunding as a once- or twice–a-year activity that is time-limited (three months or less) and complements – not replaces -- your regular, day-to-day individual fundraising program. Since it takes time to get grants and sponsorships, we also suggest crowdfunding to new projects looking to raise revenue. Ask your friends and family to raise money for the exciting new program or organization you’re launching. 

So what platform should you use? Sites like Kickstarter and GoFundme are great for businesses, start-ups, medical expenses, and personal expenses, but not for nonprofits. They also have some of the highest fees.

We’ve vetted dozens of platforms to identify the ones that work with our accounting systems here at Community Partners and offer the most value for our projects. We recommend Razoo, Crowdrise, and Network for Good

Each platform has a distinguishing feature that may best fit your campaign’s needs. For example, Crowdrise is great for team fundraising and events like bowl-a-thons and 10k races. Network for Good has a platform that can be added to your project’s own Network for Good donation page and account. Be sure to pay attention to the fees: while competitive, they’re still higher than regular donation platforms and may have a monthly fee, which means you won’t want to use these crowdfunding platforms for all of your individual giving campaigns and appeals.  

So when you’re deciding on a platform, consider the features and the fees. But the platform itself will not drive donors and dollars to your project. Your trained cadre of volunteer fundraisers will be the source for donations. 

When you decide on a platform, make sure you check out our previous articles on the best practices of fundraising. It’s all still true. Successful crowdfunding campaigns still require thoughtful planning and preparation, realistic goals, and effective communication. 

Also check out successful campaigns from your fellow projects: 

Big Citizen Hub and SLAM!, WriteGirlThe Dinner Party, Dignity and Power Now


-Ravi Shah is a Program and Operations Manager at Community Partners

If you find a platform you like and want to use, see if they support fiscally sponsored projects. Can they mail a paper check? If you need our assistance in determining this, please contact Jelyn Hermosa