I don’t often do case studies of individual charities or campaigns, so I thought I would hone in on a donation model being used by a US nonprofit called Donors Choose. This education charity uses a crowdfunding model, like Kiva, Indiegogo, Kickstarter, etc – i.e. projects are posted online with the amont of funding needed and people can browse and give to whatever project they want.
The particular niche for DonorsChoose is education materials and classroom supplies. For example, a science teacher needs 30 safety googles costing $300 that isn’t available from the school budget, so crowfunds for them from DonorsChoose. Or a teacher wants to take her students of a field trip to the museum but needs to find external funding first – enter DonorsChoose. You get the picture.
So far sounds like every other crowdfunding site right? In a way yes, but I also think there’s something unique about this that other charities could learn from. Namely, empowering people on the front line to fundraise rather than leaving it up to ‘the fundraisers’. Many fundraisers are constantly working with other teams to develop broad budgets for funding applications, but the project teams can often speak a different language in terms of specific items they need to do their job. In other words, front line staff at a hospital foundation might say they need new hospital beds, linens, machines, etc. But fundraisers can have a hard time tying to fit all these disparate parts into an overarching funding application or strategy.
So why not let the people on the front line fundraise for themselves? This is what could be possible with a crowdfunding model like DonorsChoose. I find that the project experts are natural fundraisers anyway – they are the most knowledgable and passionate about their issue. And it also gives donors something tangible to contribute to and engage with.
This could certainly be a real life application for many charities that are able to build fundraising capacity within their entire organization. In the UK I see it happening with The Big Give – an online platform where any charity can upload projects that need funding. The challenges for nonprofits will be incorporating this in a strategic way into other fundraising channels, maintaining brand/messaging consistency and ensuring crowdfunding donors buy into the vision of the organization as a whole.