How to Win at Small Gift Crowdfunding


The power of small gifts

Google defines crowdfunding as:

the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.

Let's look at Wikimedia, the nonprofit foundation that supports Wikipedia. During their 2015-2016 fiscal year, they raised $82.6M - but major gifts (donations of $1,000 or more) and foundations accounted for only $9.5M of that amount. This means that almost 90% of the donations came straight from the readers themselves - and in smaller amounts!

Now, imagine if Wikimedia focused solely on those major gifts or didn't have a system optimized to support smaller gifts. How do you think that would affect their fundraising efforts?

We love that crowdfunding can help fundraising offices and leaders do some major gift prospecting. We've seen individual donations of thousands of dollars run through our platform countless times. But the reality is, crowdfunding really shines when a campaign is optimized to meet the needs of all donors - not just the big ones.

So, whether you're running a small peer-to-peer crowdfunding campaign or a large, capital campaign for your organization, you'll want to ensure it is optimized for every kind of donor, inclusive of first-time donors who are giving smaller amounts.

How to optimize for small gifts

Here are 7 ways to make your crowdfunding campaign a magnet for smaller donors:

    1. The ask should be reasonable. If you traverse to Wikipedia's site during fundraising season, you'll see a prompt asking you to make a donation. Their "ask" is just $3. Totally reasonable, right? They know most of their readers can manage a $3 gift. While you may not wish to start with such a low "ask," consider what might be appropriate for your audience. $10? $25? And start there.


    1. Visitors should be able to respond quickly. People who are going to make a smaller contribution aren't spending days, hours, or even minutes mulling the decision over. Most of them will make the choice to give - or not give - very quickly. Your page should caputure visitors' interest with beautiful images and succinct paragraphs. A page that's too busy or "in your face" may keep the visitor from learning enough about the campaign in those first crucial seconds to give.


    1. The donation experience should be effortless. A donor making a smaller gift is likely doing it from a place of impulse and excitement, which means they aren't going to stick around through a multiple-page donation experience. USEED utilizes inline giving pages, which means the campaign page does not direct the donor to a new page when they go to make a gift. Inline giving experiences reduce donor bail-outs by 22%.


    1. Especially on mobile. Mobile-responsive donation pages result in 34% more donations than their non-mobile-responsive counterparts. Is your donation experience as quick (and amazing) on a mobile device as it is on a desktop? If the answer is no, you can expect that to show in your fundraising results.


    1. Make sure the right people engage with the campaign at the right time. A campaign more reliant on engagement than a handful of major gifts means that you have to plan an outreach strategy rooted in some donor psychology. For example, visitors to your page will stay 35% longer and are 24% more likely to donate once you've raised over 40% of your goal. Wielding this knowledge, make sure the first people to see your page are the most likely to also give to it. Think friends, family, and people who are already engaged with the campaign's initiative.


    1. Don't exhaust all of your resources. Compared to other methods of fundraising (such as Phonathon programs, in which an institution could actually lose money on a first-time donor), crowdfunding is already a resourceful way to fundraise. After all, many crowdfunding platforms allow you to run a campaign for free, and they simply take a revenue share (aka. the "your success is our success" model). With smaller-to-moderate size crowdfunding goals, you'll want to look at other ways to cut costs (financially and with time) while creating a world-class experience for donors. Perhaps for you, this looks like creating your own visual marketing materials on Canva or deploying student ambassadors to spread the word of the campaign instead of traditional marketing efforts.


    1. Ask them again next time! The beauty of small gifts is that you are never overstepping bounds by asking a donor for a gift the next time you launch a crowdfunding campaign. Many people have the capacity - and often do - give many smaller donations throughout the year. Build on the relationship next time by 1) acknowledging the last gift they made and thanking them for it and 2) extending them a new opportunity to get involved.

Find your balance

The best campaigns include a healthy mixture of smaller and larger gifts from a wide array of donors in different seasons of life. Students and young alumni, for example, may only be able to contribute a small amount today, but that doesn't mean they can't move into the major gift funnel down the road.

Creating a dynamic campaign with all of your donors in mind means that you can create a more inclusive and connected community throughout your campus or organization. And while we hope you receive an unprecedented amount of large donations with your next crowdfunding campaign, we look forward to developing a plan that speaks to everyone - including the little guys!

Donors Engaged
Dollars Raised
Completed Campaigns