How to Use Crowdfunding to Engage the Middle Segment of Donors

With the advent of online giving, there are more ways than ever for institutions to raise money for their causes and goals. With multiple channels for donor cultivation, diverse campaigns, and easy payment processing, online giving has become an invaluable part of the fundraising strategy for many institutions.

However, online giving forms are only a one-trick pony; if you’re not utilizing tools that enable crowdfunding techniques, you may be missing some opportunities for great participation. This is where choosing the right platforms (hint hint: like 360Alumni) which let you create giving campaigns with built-in crowdfunding features through one easy-to-use interface, comes in.

But before you start thinking about platforms, let’s talk more about online giving and crowdfunding, and why it’s important for you.

Just providing an online giving form isn’t a silver bullet that will “automagically” increase participation and funds; raising funds, no matter the channel, is still a process that requires time, effort, and resources to yield those amazing results.

Keep in mind that even with the increasing ways for your constituents to give, you still have to compete for their attention. Not only does your organization have access to these tools, but so do all of the other associations your constituent belongs to. This leads to a competition for which organizations they end up choosing to support.

So, how do you engage donors and keep your organization top of mind with online giving? You start by targeting the “middle” segment, as they are the often untapped segment that has a higher propensity to give (even if those gifts are in smaller amounts). Once you get this segment going, there is a natural extension to engage and convert new donors. Let’s break this down:

  • On the low end, you have prospects who have never given, or only gave once. Many of them are potential new donors if engaged and cultivated correctly.
  • On the upper end, you have constituents who give frequently, annually, and/or have given hefty sums, such as major donors.
  • With crowdfunding, you can activate the middle, which comprises constituents who give low-mid amounts relatively frequently. If you have no one like this yet, don’t worry because the goal of this guide is to help you activate that segment.

Besides what we mentioned so far, why go after the middle segment specifically? Let’s illustrate this with an example that demonstrates the ROI: You spend many hours planning and arranging accommodations for a major donor who is going to give $10,000.

Cultivating major donors is integral to your overall success, of course, but what if you could also hit that same amount with more donors who each contribute $20…and the time investment required was negligible? Seems like a no-brainer, right?

The added benefit is that each of those contributors then become part of the donor fold. You’ll see people who have never engaged and donated before suddenly begin to make contributions here and there or even more frequently.

Rather than one middling contribution during the annual drive, they can make several smaller donations throughout the year that aren’t a burden and can add up to be a larger amount. They can also share these campaigns with their peers (potentially bringing in even more donors), and, even become major donors themselves one day.

Also keep in mind, with great tools like Double the Donation, you can work with your major donors to easily set up matching gift programs that work in tandem with your crowdfunding campaigns, doubling the return on your investment. It’s a win-win, especially as tools like 360Alumni make it relatively easy to plan, launch, and execute, successful crowdfunding campaigns.

“Sounds awesome!” you might be thinking. “So how do I do it?” You do it through the power of crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is “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.” Many organizations have seen amazing results with crowdfunding initiatives.

Based on our research and data analysis, we have assembled a handy guide for you to create compelling crowdfunding campaigns for your constituents, below:

Center the Campaign Around a Specific Cause

  • The cause should be something alumni can latch onto and would be proud to donate to.
  • A good rule of thumb is to keep it tangible, e.g. new computers for the science lab.
  • This readily shows the impact of the donation, and helps engage younger donors who are more concerned with seeing specifically: where there money is going and how it will be used.

Keep the Goal Reachable

  • Your goal should be something that can be accomplished in a single round of crowdfunding.
  • Keep the timing short in order to create a sense of urgency and encourage immediate action from your donors.
  • Make the ask low so that there is only a small barrier to entry; the goal should be able to be met within a short time by a relatively small number of people each contributing a low amount. This doesn’t mean high donations won’t occur (usually a few people make sizable contributions that seriously move the needle forward), but you ultimately want each effort to be realistically attainable, especially if you’re using an all-or-nothing platform.

Promote the Campaign Across Email and Social Media

  • Because it’s a low ask within a small time-frame, it’s okay to increase the frequency of communications in order to meet the goal and keep it top of mind.
  • Be wary, however, of your macro-level touch points. Running several campaigns within weeks of each other can hurt donor relations and will yield diminishing returns.

Suggest Low-Dollar Donations

  • Use phrases such as: “Even $5 can make a huge difference – skip your morning coffee, give yourself a tax break, and help your school!”
  • All of those low dollar amounts build up quickly, especially if it’s a worthy cause that people can share.

Encourage Sharing and Friendly Competition

  • Your constituents should absolutely be encouraged to share the campaign across social media and other channels. Not only does it reflect well on them to show off their good deed, but it can also help bring in other peers to the cause.
  • Additionally, by encouraging some friendly competition with prizes or other gimmicks based on different levels of giving (e.g. raffle for free Reunion tickets, branded swag, etc.), people are more likely to donate if they get something in return. Plus, it’s always great when people try to outdo each other in terms of who can donate the most!
  • Don’t forget that a great way to encourage sharing and further cultivate the donor relationship is with a friendly, appreciative thank-you message.

Seed the Pot

  • If you are not seeing any activity after launching the campaign, don’t be afraid to seed the pot with a few goodwill donations among your department. Encourage others to care about the cause just as much as you do!

Now that you’re a little curious, you can check out crowdfunding websites for individual fundraising recommended by Double the Donation to get an idea of how someone would go about running a personal campaign.

Crowdfunding for an organization isn’t too different. However, keep in mind that the true potential of crowdfunding for an organization isn’t realized unless there’s a comprehensive engagement strategy in place.

Easy access to donor data, great email and social communications, and a very cool and empowering online platform are just some of the tools you’ll need for the engagement piece.

When you’re ready to embrace crowdfunding to activate your middle segment, or just need to get started with the engagement piece, drop us a line by visiting We’ll be waiting to work with you; happy fundraising!

Meet Tanzim of 360Alumni.

Author Bio

Tanzim Milkey is your point of contact as the Outreach Manager at 360Alumni. When he isn’t helping clients find the perfect solution for their engagement needs, or providing a demo of the feature-rich platform, he focuses on marketing and branding – ensuring that our presence is dazzling. He received his B.A. from Williams College and his MBA from Smartly.

Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or through email.