Crowdfunding and Donor Recognition

September 26th, 2013

crowdfundingCrowdfunding is a practice just like crowdsourcing but applied specifically to the raising of small, individual amounts of money by non profits via the internet. It has now begun to take a firm  hold  on the fundraising marketplace. And that’s because it works! We’ve all  seen  online giving  become increasingly successful via the Red Cross and others. Texting of donations in athletic events, too,  is becoming ubiquitous. With the  growing focus by organizations to define a need, present a compelling campaign solicitation, and then ask the “crowd” for support the cause online, goals are met and often surpassed .

Here in my hometown, for example, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra wanted $5000 to “Preserve the Orchestra’s Legacy”. The Symphony enlisted, one of many donation crowdsourcing portals, according to the Huffington Post. More than $13,000 was received, surprising everyone. That’s just an example close to my home, but it’s happening everywhere. A quick search on line brings forth lots of examples and “how tos”. The idea is to raise small amounts of money from a lot of people for whom the need has touched their heart and then then moves them to a quick and relatively painless way to help. Truly a way to bring instant gratification to one’s urge to give. Yet how is Donor Recognition to be best handled?

The answer: Donor Recognition as a thank you is mandatory. And the type of thank you is always to be appropriate to the gift. Each organization must search out the best approach for it to use and they are certainly to be options appropriate to the level of giving a donor submits. I encourage clients to be sure that  recognition offerings are uniquely related to the essence of the organization and since the source of the ask is so unusual. I encourage the “thank you’s” to be just as cutting-edge .

  • T-shirts- good idea for some gift levels but even better if the message conveys the organization’s brand and makes the viewer look twice, linking the thank you, the giver and the organization or goal
  • Tickets – be sure they are good ones. The larger the gift, the better the seat and/or the better the performance selection
  • VIP offerings commiserate with the gift amount and be sure the services are really useful, like special parking places for a block of time, or a number of valet parking passes, or “step to the head of the line”, pre-ordering of a product related to the effort…any sort of idea that results in the receipt of something unique to the organization
  • Simple and immediate online responses to the gift …with a big “thank you”, along a human’s face, like an alumnus, a group of orchestral members, or a church’s congregation waving in the background…something people-oriented and organization-specific.

Donor Recognition for crowdfunding as a public statement or listing is up to the organization. Yet, for the benefit of both the donor and the organization, for donor recognition of any sort, I always encourage the public use of the donor’s name, if they approve, as well as a hierarchy of acknowledgement. Having all of this “online only” seems just right for personalizing the sort of giving technique that crowdfunding is.

  • Establish a landing page for the funding effort, allow the name to pop onto that page and its listing just as gifts are received, if you can
  • Add a picture and/or allow a “why I gave” quote for larger gifts. If you can, let the donor give you that sort of quote “in the moment”. Whether it is immediate and pops up on the crowdsourcing site or comes to you as a text, re-purpose it publicly within the context of other givers
  • Establish a time frame for the listing to exist; avoid “forever” promises on line. Yet if the gift reaches certain levels, it is just right to promise the donor’s inclusion in your  lifetime giving or annual societies, as appropriate.

Donor Recognition as a thank you is simply the right thing to do. And when you do, the added potential for repeat giving by the donor is greatly enhanced.

Please share with me any unusual or “uniquely yours” methods of donor recognition in response to crowdfunding and I’ll compile them here as a way to bring new thinking to thanking for online giving to crowdfunding.

Written by Robin E. Williams



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