Nonprofit Crowdfunding: 7 Storytelling Tips for Successful Campaigns

Crowdfunding is a method of raising funds from many people in order to fund a project or other venture. Although it is widely used in for-profit entrepreneurial projects, it also has great applications for nonprofits as well. When campaigns are run correctly, nonprofits can realize great returns, including increasing funding and growing their supporter community.

The concept predates the internet, beginning many years ago in a variety of capacities such as authors advertising book projects and the sale of war bonds. The modern online version first gained popularity online in arts and music communities. ArtistShare was launched in 2003, followed by IndieGoGo in 2008, Kickstarter in 2009, Microventures in 2010 and MobileCause in 2014.

The industry as a whole raised $16.2 billion in 2014, $34.4 billion in 2015 and may have topped $60 billion in 2016. It’s an industry that has continually grown in leaps each year.

$16.2 Billion

2014 Crowdfunding Contributions

$34.4 Billion

2015 Crowdfunding Contributions

$60+ Billion

2016 Crowdfunding Contributions

While there are great successes, roughly two thirds of projects fail to raise their intended funds. Success often pivots on careful planning, and that begins (and ends) with storytelling.

Why Nonprofits Must Tell Great Stories

As with every aspect of communications, nonprofit crowdfunding has to incorporate effective storytelling.

  • Stories help people connect with and remember things
  • Stories have the power to help make decisions
  • Stories help to inspire a sense of generosity

People are likely to support those with whom they most identify. Showing abstract numbers, no matter how impressive or relevant, doesn’t inspire people as much as the plight of an individual. Telling your story (or that of your cause’s target beneficiaries) from a sympathetic perspective, can sway people to support it and take action. When people are presented with the story of an affected individual or group, they are likely to give twice as much as they otherwise would have.

Seven Nonprofit Crowdfunding Storytelling Tips

1. Answer the five Ws and H

As with any good story, you need to include who, what, when, where, why and how. Who are you trying to help with this campaign?

  • What do you hope to accomplish and use funds for?
  • When do you need to do this by?
  • Where are people affected?
  • Why is this cause important to you (and to your supporters)?
  • How do you plan to make it happen?

2. Make it personal

As noted above, it’s important to tell the stories of individuals. Use examples of people that you are already helping or who are you currently trying to help. Details and specifics will have more of an impact on donors that you’re hoping to attract.

3. Make it specific

Focus on a specific goal to achieve a specific result. Write about what you’re planning to do with the money and what you’re hoping to achieve. By having a specific goal in mind, more people will be inspired to donate.

4. Make it visual

Visuals greatly increase Pictures and videos will make people want to spend more time reading about your campaign, while greatly enhancing the personal connection to your cause. Make sure to use quality, relevant images and videos. According to IndieGoGo:

Campaigns with a pitch video raise 4 times more funds than campaigns without one, so it’s clear that the crowdfunding community enjoys videos.

For more on the power of visuals and suggested uses, see our article, Visuals: A Nonprofit Storytelling Superpower.

5. Make your donors the heroes of the story

Express how important donors are to your cause and your success. You literally can’t do this without them. That makes them the true heroes of the story that you’re writing. So make them feel important and part of a winning team.

Show that you appreciate them and the time they are taking in learning more about your cause. There may be a place built right into the platform that you’re using. Make sure to thank donors individually because this will really show how much you care.

6. Show why your organization is the right one for the job

Demonstrate why your organization is the right one to take on this cause, and why—with supporters’ help—you are the best-poised to succeed. This is a great opportunity to highlight your experience, expertise, access and proven track record.

7. Provide a compelling call to action

In order to turn a potential supporter into a hero, they must take action. While most crowdfunding platforms have a request for donations built in, your campaign will work better if the hero’s call to action is built right into the story and gives the reader a clear instruction. E.g., “Help us give students like Matthew a fighting chance, with a tax-deductible donation.”

Action Steps: Start Your Story

  • Pick the project to get started with

    Your nonprofit may have multiple projects that could use funding. Choose the one you feel is the most important to start with and has the greatest chance of success. Focus on raising money for that cause before moving onto others.

  • Start crafting your story

    Use the tips above and begin to write your story. Focus on the individuals that you’ve helped and the reason behind why this cause is so important. Once you convey those reasons, it will show readers the importance behind it as well and inspire them to help.

Want to discuss your crowdfunding campaign? We’re ready to put our years of experience in the field to work for your cause.

Want to learn more? Our course offers a great way to think about (and execute on) all of your online goals.