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Five Criteria for Choosing a Crowdfunding Platform

Dana Ostomel

Dana Ostomel is the founder and chief gifting officer of Deposit a Gift, a crowdfunding platform designed for individuals and small to medium-sized organizations. Deposit a Gift lets you raise money for anything that matters to you, for any organizational or personal need. 

Crowdfunding has become a popular and effective tool in the fundraising toolbox, letting you tap into your network to raise more money more quickly from a wider audience. It is changing the face of charitable fundraising by creating a more engaged approached to giving. Last year, Forbes reported that 30 percent of the $5 billion in crowdfunded donations went to social causes, and this trend only continues to rise.

Are you ready to start crowdfunding? Choosing the right platform can be an overwhelming process, especially when you don’t know what to look for. So, check out our recommendations about how to choose the right crowdfunding platform for your next campaign.

1. Keep Everything You Raise and Control Your Cash-Outs

Many sites will charge you a higher fee for not reaching your goal, or worse, don’t let you keep the money you raise unless you meet your goal. Look for a site that lets you keep all the money you raise and does not penalize you for not hitting your goal. You’ll also want to find out if you need to wait until the end of the campaign to claim your funds or if you are able to cash out along the way. This is important to know if you’ll be running a long campaign or if you’ll have expenses throughout.

2. Hands-on Customer Support and Ease of Use

Make sure you can receive assistance setting up your site and marketing it. You’ll also want to be sure that the site is easy to set up and customize, whether you’re tech-savvy or not. Look for online tutorials and guidance like this. (If video learning is your thing, check out this playlist of the Top 10 Tips for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign on YouTube.) As you are getting started, try contacting the customer service team to be sure the site is responsive, timely, and open to giving you the support you need!

3. Unique Tools

Find the platform that will work the hardest for you: one that saves you time and money, is streamlined, looks pretty, and, simply stated, works well.

You’ll want the ability to post offline donations to make the thermometer rise even if the money comes in via cash or check. Giving begets giving, so you want every donation to count! This also allows you to have a comprehensive donor database and be completely transparent with your community.

Also look for tools that allow you to integrate with offline fundraising events, like a ticket sales functionality. Another helpful tool is receipt customization, which lets you include tax-deduction information to save you time and money on follow-up mailings.

4. Customization

Customizing your site will bring your story to life and make it more memorable and meaningful for prospective donors. Look for a platform that gives you the ability to brand your campaign, has multimedia functionality, and offers a donation registry. A donation registry is a great way to itemize and accept donations for specific needs.

5. No Restrictions

Choose a platform that doesn’t have deadlines (some sites limit campaign duration), project approval requirements, or restricted access to information about your donors. Some sites don’t give you this flexibility. Crowdfunding can do much more for you than just raising money: It can help you grow your email list, increase engagement, and change the culture of giving. Evaluate your strategic objectives and needs to help you choose the right platform.

All crowdfunding platforms are built to help you leverage your social networks to reach as many people and raise as much money as possible, but the similarities may end there. Look for the platform that best suits your needs and gives you as much flexibility as possible.

What is the most important factor you are considering in choosing a crowdfunding platform? Please tell us in the Comments area―we’d love to hear from you! 

To learn more about applying crowdfunding strategies to fundraising for the arts, join me for a free one-hour Foundation Center webinar, “Crowdfunding in the Arts: How to Add This Essential Tool to Your Fundraising Mix,” on Tuesday, October 21, 11:00 am-12:00 pm PT (2:00-3:00 pm ET).

10/31/14 update: Now you can watch the recorded webinar in our webinar gallery.

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Hear more from Dana in this podcast on CrowdCrux. Follow Dana and the Deposit a Gift team on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

Click here to find more items about sustainability

Start building your knowledge now with these related items on GrantSpace:

Crowdfunding Fundamentals: Creating a Compelling Campaign (Video)

Raising Funds and Relationships: Crowdfunding Tips for Nonprofits (Video)

What is crowdfunding? (Article) 

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