Crowdfunding: The Ask of the Future or Just Another Tool in the Tool Belt?

By Katie MacKenzie, Project Coordinator

Crowdfunding. Every week on my various social media feeds, I see at least one or two Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or Indiegogo-type pleas for fundraising support.  Some of the causes are noble – supporting a medical mission trip to Haiti, assisting underserved students in need of new classroom supplies – while others are just plain bizarre.

You may recall that last year a young man in Ohio raised over $52,000 through crowdfunding to make a potato salad. $52,000!!! More than likely that will now leave him with the ability to buy a lifetime supply of potato salad making ingredients.

This leaves me with several questions about crowdfunding: Does it work? Is this the future of fundraising? Where is the accountability? Should I start a potato salad making business?

I was recently reading an article sent to me by a colleague that discussed a study by UC Berkeley to determine if the use of crowdfunding (specifically in Higher Education, in this case) can be successful or a viable option for raising money.

While this article specifically speaks to the use of using crowdfunding in a Higher Education setting, it also makes me wonder how it could translate into some of our other types of non-profit organizations.

Sure, I bet that most of us have some type of online giving capability, but what if we applied crowdfunding to little projects here and there? Could we make them successful? Would it be a better option to raise money through crowdfunding for smaller projects rather than a capital campaign so that more people can participate and share the responsibility? OR, would we be better served to call upon a smaller number of higher value donors?

I think this type of fundraising certainly appeals to many younger donors.

Why? First, because they want to pick and choose various projects that they can feel passionate about, send in a $10 donation, and feel like a part of something that is bigger than themselves. As many articles on Millennials point out, so far the younger generation isn’t very interested in giving large amounts of money just to one organization. They prefer to instead give to many projects that interest them.

Additionally they place a high value on the transparency of their giving. They want to know exactly to whom and where their money is going, and why. Not to mention the ease of giving on an online platform with the younger generation staying constantly connected on social media.

However, as organizations that pride themselves on making personal connections with their donors, crowdfunding should probably not become a main source of fundraising revenue. Remember, nothing replaces that face-to-face fundraising or developing a personal relationship with donors – young or old.

What are your thoughts on crowdfunding?