7 Crowdfunding Trends That Nonprofits Can Learn From


The success of crowdfunding as a whole isn’t something that nonprofits can ignore. Nonprofits, in the constant state of needing more donations, can learn from the more lucrative crowdfunding trends.

In fact, nonprofits have already started applying crowdfunding techniques to their online fundraising channels.

These top 7 trends are the hallmark of overlap between crowdfunding and nonprofit campaigns.

Specifically, nonprofits can learn a thing or two about:

  1. Rewarding donations with product fundraising
  2. Harnessing social networks in peer-to-peer fundraising
  3. Creating engaging online content
  4. Optimizing for mobile devices
  5. Integrating across social media platforms
  6. Valuing the short and sweet campaign
  7. Adding events to the mix

Let’s take a look at what the first trend can teach us.

1. Rewarding donations with product fundraising


Rewards-based crowdfunding is effective because it incentivizes supporters to give.

Crowdfunding campaigns generally break rewards into different tiers based on the amount that the donor gives. In turn, supporters may be more inclined to give more to reach a higher giving tier.

If crowdfunding trends can tell us anything, it’s that joining in on the fun of making a purchase can be just as motivating as the actual rewards themselves.

Just look at the infamous potato salad crowdfunding campaign. Donors who gave $50 received a cookbook for their donations, which was enough incentive for creator Zack “Danger” Brown to raise over $55,000.

While some nonprofits may adopt reward tiers for their fundraising campaigns, many have chosen to implement the concept of rewards-based fundraising into their online efforts in a large-scale way.

Online product fundraising is a growing trend that allows supporters to purchase a product to support a campaign.

Often, these campaigns make use of “causewear” products, or articles of clothing that supporters can wear to publicly demonstrate their support of an organization. T-shirts, for example, are a popular and simple fundraising classic.

Nonprofits can create online storefronts that donors use to purchase products on a mass scale. At the same time, the purchasing experience is made personal when donors can choose the size and color of their custom apparel or items.

These storefronts can be shareable, tapping into large social networks and enticing new donors with the chance to purchase a popular, custom product.

Crowdfunding and product fundraising are natural partners; nonprofits can capitalize on the reward-incentive of products by promoting them on large online channels.

2. Harnessing social networks with peer-to-peer fundraising


Cause-based crowdfunding campaigns often center around building community support through personal storytelling. A family with medical expenses, a local animal shelter seeking emergency funds, or newlyweds looking to fund their honeymoon — all of these examples tell a familiar crowdfunding story.

That’s what makes these types of campaigns so effective: the ability to tell a personal story to people who already know or care about the person.

A crowdfunding campaign is shareable in nature, with the potential to reach a wide audience of supporters. Crowdfunding campaigns leverage mobility through supporters’ social networks as donors share and spread the word on social channels.

Likewise, nonprofits have started capitalizing on networking potential by incorporating peer-to-peer fundraising into traditional online campaigns.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is like the hydra of crowdfunding — several smaller heads connected to one body.

Each “head” is a personal fundraising page that a donor creates in support of the nonprofit’s fundraising campaign. And each one is able to solicit donations directly from the friends and family who already know and trust them, while all donations funnel back to the nonprofit.

With peer-to-peer fundraising, nonprofits are receiving more donations and increasing their potential donor base at the same time.

Nonprofits are harnessing the storytelling nature and social power of crowdfunding campaigns on a massive scale with peer-to-peer fundraising.

For comprehensive peer-to-peer information, you can check out this Double the Donation guide.

3. Creating engaging content


Because cause-based crowdfunding campaigns often showcase personal stories and causes, the content they provide is generally emotionally compelling.

Since crowdfunding is so accessible, online advocacy has become a fundraising staple, and with it, there’s more competition than ever before.

Nonprofits have to be sharp when it comes to engaging their donors; lackluster content in online fundraising campaigns isn’t likely to attract new donors, and at its worst, it can increase attrition rates.

Nonprofits can adopt crowdfunding content strategies across their websites and online fundraising efforts.

The key is to make the cause personal and to do it in a high-quality, attention-grabbing medium.

Video, for example, has swept crowdfunding campaigns with positive results. Videos can increase donations to a fundraising campaign, which can be a huge benefit to nonprofits.

With accessible, user-friendly video apps, it can be a low-cost medium with a big impact.

Here are a few tools to get started:

  • Wistia is a video marketing and hosting platform that can help your organization track analytics.
  • Quik is a free mobile video-editing app, which would work well for organizations who are just starting with video and are shooting from their phones.
  • Viewbix allows your organization to implement apps into video footage, including “Donate” buttons.

Video isn’t the only medium for engaging content, but it is a great tool for nonprofits and crowdfunders alike. The goal is to create content that stands out and draws donors to your page amid a sea of competition.

Whatever content can best tell the story of your mission can and should be implemented!

4. Optimizing for mobile devices


According to this article by Mor Assia, crowdfunding is set to boom over mobile devices.

The mobile fundraising trend has been on the rise as a whole, and nonprofits need to keep up if they want to maintain and engage their donors.

At the very least, following this trend means ensuring that websites are mobile-friendly –especially donation pages.

It should be easy for a mobile user to access the page via their phone and make a donation if they choose to do so.

To ensure that pages are optimized for the mobile experience, you can:


  • Feature or float your donation buttons. The donation button should be immediately apparent on a mobile device. A large, colorful button that’s easy to press is a best practice. Or, you can float the donation button at the top or bottom of the page, so that it remains a constant no matter how far the user scrolls.
  • Minimize text. Big paragraphs and small font are a losing formula for mobile devices. Text should be minimal and easy to read. After all, mobile devices are all about convenience and speed. The quicker you can get to the point (i.e. your pitch for donations), the more likely donors are to follow through with giving.
  • Optimize images. Images slow down loading times, especially on mobile devices. Be sure to resize and compress your images so that pages load quickly. Remember: speed, convenience, efficiency. If your page is dragging, supporters are likely to click away.


As mobile crowdfunding begins to flourish, new apps, tools, and platforms are likely to develop. Nonprofits who stay up-to-date on these features can enhance their own fundraising pages.

5. Integrating across social media platforms


As discussed in point 2, the shareability of crowdfunding lends itself particularly well to social networking. Much of today’s online communication takes place via social media.

Sharing campaigns on Facebook is a common fundraising practice — and social media companies are taking notice.

Facebook has launched fundraising tools for nonprofits, so that they can solicit donations directly from this prominent social channel.

To make the most use of these features, nonprofits need to solidify their social media presence and integrate across their communications.

To do so, nonprofits should:


  • Be active on social media. A donation button on a Facebook page won’t mean much if the page is inactive. An active social media presence can draw in supporters and keep them engaged. Successful crowdfunders understand the importance of online presence. Nonprofits can follow suit by posting and updating regularly, interacting with followers in the comments, and joining in on trending hashtags and topics.
  • Encourage sharing. Fundraising pages with social sharing buttons are more likely to gain popularity on social media than those without. We’ve already discussed the role of social networking in crowdfunding and online fundraising; nonprofits can capitalize on social media by asking supporters to like and share content, or even their own donations.
  • Promote online channels in print. Though crowdfunding is generally regarded as an online effort, maximizing social networks offline can lead to the ultimate success of a campaign. After all, plenty of potential donors simply won’t be aware of your online presence unless you tell them. Sending direct mail marketing that advertises your organization’s Facebook and Twitter can encourage all supporters to access your page.


A deliberate effort to integrate across social media platforms can help organizations reach a larger base of donors.

Crowdfunding campaigns meet donors where they already are; nonprofits can do the same by reaching supporters organically through social media.

6. Valuing the short and sweet campaign


Most crowdfunding campaigns are short. Short timelines promote fundraising urgency that encourages donors to give now and give more. The social influence factor takes effect, and donations begin to pile up.

Nonprofits are in a bit of a tricky position since they’re always collecting donations, but they can apply this crowdfunding quirk to their own fundraising efforts.

The short and sweet campaign has already shown to be highly effective in the nonprofit sphere. #GivingTuesday is a philanthropic tradition that makes the most of high-pressure fundraising.

With only 24 hours to fundraise, #GivingTuesday creates sense of urgency that moves the campaign forward.

This kind of fast fundraising is vital to crowdfunding campaigns. According to this article by Gretchen Barry, crowdfunding campaigns should reach 30% of their goal within the first 48 hours of the campaign.

Nonprofits can ensure they achieve this goal (and thus prepare themselves for a healthy campaign) by initiating a soft launch. In a soft launch, a campaign opens to board members, volunteers, and other “inside” supporters.

Then, when the campaign is officially launched to the public, it’s not starting from zero. When donors see that others have already given to a campaign, especially when the campaign has just launched, they’ll be more inclined to give themselves.

Keeping fundraising campaigns short and sweet can generate a lot of funds, quickly, as supporters strive to achieve your fundraising goal.

7. Adding events to the mix

Fundraising events have always been an important aspect of receiving donations, but now events are being integrated with crowdfunding platforms.

Fundly, a popular crowdfunding platform, has recently added event registration to its platform, and more platforms are sure to follow suit.

Event tickets can be used as rewards-based crowdfunding.

Alternatively, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising can be used in tandem with events.

Donors can give leading up to and during the event. The chance for nonprofits to make live appeals can increase fundraising dollars on the spot as attendees rally to reach the fundraising goal.

Peer-to-peer fundraisers can also be required to raise a certain amount of money before they’re able to attend the event or participate in one of the event’s activities.

Fundraising teams are a popular take on event crowdfunding. In this trend, groups of supporters work together to achieve a personal fundraising goal. Fundraising teams are often used during active events, like walkathons (Booster’s walkathon guide can walk you through the process).

Ultimately, in the growing sphere of event crowdfunding, events can be used as either an incentive for fundraising or a platform to encourage more donations in-person.

Crowdfunding and nonprofit fundraising aren’t that different. Trends in one realm can affect the other, and the best fundraising strategies are born when leaders take notice of what works — and apply it to their own cause.


headshot-kerri-mooreKerri Moore is the Director of Marketing at Booster, Created by CustomInk. She and her team help create content aimed at maximizing organizers’ fundraising potential and furthering their mission to raise awareness for the cause or passion that means the most to them.

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