Crowdfunding for charities: opportunities, success stories, advice for projects

Crowdfunding is often compared to charity, although these two fields have nothing in common. In crowdfunding, you always offer some sort of product or bonus in exchange for investments, while charity implies a gratuitous donation. However, these two can work together. For instance, crowdfunding platforms can not only be used to fund business ideas, but also to raise funding for sick people or accident victims. This is one of the most popular areas in crowdfunding. Today, this charity funding approach isn’t frequently used. It’s mostly used not by individuals, but by charity organizations, including funds that are unable to raise the necessary funding. Charities always set modest goals on crowdfunding platforms, between several hundred dollars to a maximum of several thousands.

It’s difficult to make predictions about the future of this type of crowdfunding. Although crowdfunding platforms were initially created with the goal of attracting financing, investors tend to favor business projects. But this doesn’t mean that crowdfunding is useless for charities – history shows many examples of crowdfunding not only making a positive impact, but even saving lives. What should you know about charity crowdfunding to successfully launch a project in this field, and which examples should you follow?

Charity crowdfunding success stories 

  1. Project Vera – 73 successful crowdfunding campaigns 

Charity organizations and victims of difficult circumstances are often distrustful towards crowdfunding. One of the first projects to use crowdfunding to raise charity funding was a Russian project launched to help the Vera hospice charity fund on the platform Planeta. In September 2012, the fund announced a crowdfunding campaign to purchase food for patients at a hospice in Lipetsk. The initial financial target was only 20 thousand rubles ($260), but the target was reset each month, as the hospice needed new food deliveries each month. Over the course of 5 years, the Vera fund used crowdfunding to beat all Russian records, raising funding not only for food, but also for equipment and renovations in several hospices in Russia. The fund also helped 41 sick children with the collected funds, organizing a traveling children’s camp and even launching the first palliative care hotline in Russia

  1. Dos Velas Images — $21 200

The crowdfunding campaign geared towards helping domestic animals had a target of $10 000, but ended up raising even more! The full name of the project was Dos Velas Images Saving Lives 1 Click at a Time. It was launched by professional photographer Kelly Vela, who organizes free photoshoots for shelter animals to raise awareness and help them find new owners. Statistics show that high-quality photographs significantly increase the chances for adoption, so the goal of the project was to build a charity photography agency that could help shelters across the United States. 

Upon raising $10 000, Kelly published a behind-the-scenes video on the campaign pages, where she takes pictures of shelter animals and thanks her investors for saving many lives. This is also an excellent example for anyone hoping to use crowdfunding for charity: Kelly used the video to show sponsors how she’s using the funds raised, as well as the value of their contributions. During the fundraiser, she also posted photos of animals that had been adopted thanks to the efforts of donors. Her campaign continues to attract funds from people around the world until this day.

  1. Sista Afya Mental Wellness — $52,800

This is an organization that provides Black women in Chicago with therapy and social support, including psychological help. The company initially hoped to raise $5000 to fund the creation of the organization, but they soon attracted donations from across the United States. The organization takes care of the population’s mental health, ensuring that anyone could get qualified help on time, for instance, in the case of domestic abuse. Financing helps the organization to fund free health and wellness events, such as yoga, meditation, afro-zumba, and more.

  1. Stephanie’s Enduring Success Against Cancer — $5465

A woman named Stephanie isn’t the only person who was saved by crowdfunding, making it possible to cure a serious condition like cancer. Using the Fundly crowdfunding campaign, she managed to cover all her expenses on treatment and an operation which brought Stephanie into remission. The team that launched the campaign for Stephanie regularly posted information about her current state and the progress of her treatment on the website. This enabled people to track what happened with their money and the value they brought.

  1. A BROTHER FOR SAMIR — $14 600

The campaign was created with the goal of helping Jackie Spinner return to her hometown in Morocco to adopt another child. The project was listed under ‘Family help’, and it appealed to investors’ family values, so it raised a thousand dollars more than intended in record time.

Jackie wrote a personal note for each investor, regardless of donation amount. This is an excellent way to express your gratitude and show the importance of each investment to every participant. The campaign was entirely transparent: Jackie posted all documents and photos on the project page within the months that were needed to adopt a second child. At the end of the campaign, she expressed her gratitude and posted a photo of her happy family, with the addition of a curly-haired little boy.

How to use crowdfunding for charity? 

Here are some other tips that will help you to attract a maximum amount of funds for your charity project:

  • Clear goals and marketing

If you’d like to help a specific person, you should not only indicate their name, but also a detailed plan for how the financial assistance will be used: where the first donations will be used, what result you’re hoping to achieve, and so on. This is particularly important for global projects like Sista Afya Mental Wellness: it’s not enough to just say that you want to help people. Define the problems you hope to solve in advance and develop a step-by-step action plan. 

Crowdfunding success significantly depends on your marketing strategy. Your project is a product that you’re essentially selling. You need to attract attention to your project and motivate people to help, as A BROTHER FOR SAMIR did by leaning on investors’ family values. When calculating your target budget, consider a realistic timeline for raising the amount. Don’t think that a shorter term will influence more people to donate due to a sense of ‘urgency’ – that’s not how crowdfunding works.

  • Build a team

Even if you’d like to help a specific person (your family member, or even you), you’ll need to bring together a whole team: someone to write a quality campaign description, to make regular updates, to add new information, to promote it, and so on. For example, Stephanie’s campaign was focused solely on helping her, but an entire team was behind the campaign efforts, as she wouldn’t have managed this volume of tasks on her own. You can also appeal to NGOs for help, or try launching a crowdfunding project in their name.

  • Prepare rewards for investors

Although charity usually presumes gratuitous support, crowdfunding is based on bonuses and rewards. So when using crowdfunding platforms, think of introducing a specific form of gratitude – whether material or not. This might include personal calls to investors to express your gratitude for their help, fridge magnets or merit badges. An excellent example comes from a campaign titled Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. In exchange for a generous donation, the campaign invited investors to spend a day with their team at their office in Buckinghamshire, or go to the pub together. 

Crowdfunding websites and charity platforms

  1. Mightycause a crowdsourcing platform for nonprofits and individual fundraisers, which offers free resources for launching charity projects.
  2. Charity Navigatora platform for those who’d like to donate to a charity, but they’re looking for verified, reputable projects. The site features reports about real and transparent campaigns in the field of charity crowdfunding. 
  3. Fundly — a crowdfunding platform geared towards charity projects separated into categories including ‘popular’, ‘nonprofits and charities,’ ‘children and family,’ ‘schools and education’. 
  4. Network for Good — a site for nonprofits with free software you can use to create branded pages and post donation widgets, track and manage campaigns. 

GoFundMe — the most popular platform for social and charity crowdfunding, where projects can also be launched by individuals. Campaigns are free to launch, but the platform charges commissions for each transaction when donating.

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