You’re a regional theatre, conservatory, museum, or symphony that needs $5,000 to fund a brand new work by a talented but unknown artist.
You’re an environmental or social action organization that wants to get 10,000 signatures on a petition (and a little extra cash for your cause wouldn’t hurt, either).
You’re a group of entrepreneurs with a concept for a product that could lower energy costs for millions – but you have no capital to get your idea moving forward.
Do any of these scenarios describe your present situation? If so, you may want to explore some of the online fundraising and awareness building sites that are helping organizations like yours to fund projects, increase volunteerism, build interest, and more.
While there are plenty of sites that will gladly take your money to build fundraising capability on your own website, there’s no reason to spend a nickel to take advantage of some of the most powerful tools available on the web. That’s because fundraising and awareness building capacities are now available for free – assuming you’re willing to take the time to create a compelling case for support.
3 Types of Free Sites
There are essentially three types of sites built to help individuals and groups raise money and awareness:
1. Sites designed to help you request financial donations.
2. Crowd funding sites that invite investment in good works or good ideas by a great many individuals.
3. Sites designed to engage visitors in political or social activism
Here’s an example of each:
Direct Fundraising through Causes.com – Causes.com is an extremely popular site with a focus on direction solicitation (though it also allows you to invite visitors to take part in social or political action). According to its website, “Causes boasts over 175 million installed users, 600,000 causes, $45 million raised for charity and over 1 billion individual actions taken through the platform.” To use the site, you customize a template describing your organization and cause, and then use a social outreach system that’s integrated with Facebook to reach out to potential donors. Your supporters can then share through Facebook, Twitter, or email. Every time a donation is made to your cause, the new amount raised is registered on your profile and on Facebook – and, if you’re a registered 501(c) 3, Causes will also hold your money in an account that you can later access for a check in the amount you’ve raised.
Crowd Funding Through GoFundMe – You have a creative project that needs just a few thousand dollars of support to get started. You have an idea for a product that could revolutionize third world health care. You’ve started up a non-profit that needs just a small kick start to get going. All of these are appropriate ideas for crowd funding, a concept that was born just a few years ago. GoFundMe allows you to fundraise in a manner similar to Causes.com, but is open to personal donation requests (money for an operation, help developing a product, and so forth). Kickstarter.com, another crowd funding site, focuses entirely on arts-related projects, and asks users to create a video and also offer potential investors some sort of return for their money (for example, a signed print, a free ticket, etc.).
Inspiring Activism Through Change.org – Whether you’re involved with conservation, human rights, animal welfare, or health and safety, there are almost certainly public policy issues you’re concerned about. When that’s the case, you’re less concerned about fundraising than you are about raising awareness and involvement. Change.org exists to support individuals and groups who want to see change – and aren’t afraid to ask for it. To get started, just go to the site, click on “Start a Petition,” and fill out the templates. Then use social media to reach out – or wait to see what happens when the 20 million Change.org users get a chance to sign. Of course, you’ll always do better when you do more to spread the word.
As you’ve probably noticed, all of these approaches to online fundraising and awareness building rely very heavily on your ability to reach out to a large number of people and spread the word. In fact, the most successful online fundraising, not surprisingly, their friends – and so on. Bottom line, if you have a large number of social media contacts, a great idea, and the time and energy to really get out there and sell that idea – the resources are ready when you are.
5 Tips to Get Started
If you’re ready to get involved in fundraising, awareness building and/or activism through proprietary websites, here are some tips to get you started:
Tap into well-known, well-regarded sites that have been around for a while. When you’re raising small amounts of money from a great many people, numbers and reputation count.
Make your case with passion. If you start exploring the sites I’ve described below, you’ll see that there are literally hundreds of causes listed. To make yours stand out, you’ll need to make your case in a way that really pops off the screen.
Explain the practical outcomes of your work. Many people care, for example, about climate change – but they want to know that any money they give toward a climate change-oriented group will be well spent. Give concrete information about how money will be used to achieve the goals you describe.
Use any tools provided. Some fundraising and awareness building sites offer the option of including images, videos, or other multimedia in your case for support. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in fundraising and activism that goes double.
Market like crazy! A page on a website is like a paper brochure: it’s only useful when it’s seen. While the sites above do attract visitors, and may attract a few to your cause, the real power behind online fundraising is your social network (and those of your fellow fundraisers, activists, staff, and volunteers). Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email, and any other tools at your disposal to get out the word.