What’s so great about Crowdfunding?

A guest blog from Esther Preston…….

ImpressionAccording to Google, in Great Britain in 2014, 84% of households had internet access, up from 57% in 2006. This is a fast change! Figures from the Institute of Fundraising reveal that last year 15% of donations to charity were made digitally. So how long will it be before that figure reaches 50% or 90%? We need to be prepared to respond to the way people want to interact with us if we are going to deliver a great supporter experience.

Crowdfunding is something I have watched with interest as it has grown in popularity. It is simple and can be used in many ways, from an aspiring entrepreneur offering people an incentive to fund their business start-up, to community groups such as Winsham Ladies FC raising money for their football kit. There are also many examples of people looking to raise money to help themselves or their loved ones such as Jacob who needs speech therapy where the motivation to give is purely philanthropic. It feels very personal as the ask is coming from an individual rather than an organisation and there is a sense of empowerment. My favourite example of this is the JC Denim Co. in Australia who are raising money to set up a company that makes jeans to give jobs to women freed from slavery. I think this is something really positive that crowdfunding has achieved in giving people a platform to ask for help. As more people use the Internet, I expect to see this method of fundraising grow.

When I initially thought about how crowdfunding could be used to support our patients being cared for by our hospice I couldn’t see a way of it working. I would not feel comfortable giving a patient a figure of how much their care cost and asking them to start fundraising before we could deliver that care. One of the most important aspects of our charity is that care is free and available when people need it. Would it somehow trivialise the difference we have made to them and their loved ones by turning it into a financial transaction? I think it would.

So then I thought, ‘what’s is so great about crowdfunding?’ It’s the direct ask, the connection between the donor and the beneficiary. This reminded me of some of the JustGiving pages that our supporters set up when they are fundraising in lieu of patient care or in memory. The only difference is that crowdfunding is asking for money so that something can happen, whereas our supporters are asking for donations in lieu of care already given. Sometimes this is about saying thank you for the care received, but often their message will highlight the need to pay it forward so that other people can receive care. Either way it is still a direct ask from a supporter or beneficiary and judging by the level of donations, a retrospective ask still connects and inspires donors to give.

The other great thing about crowdfunding is the way it gives supporters something that they can own and control. Our supporters often say that fundraising in memory of their loved one helps them because it is something positive they can do that helps them in the midst of something so very sad. I think what we can learn from crowdfunding, is the value of a supporter making an ask rather than the organisation. By helping our supporters to share why they are raising money, what the charity means to them and the difference it has made connects them to other donors in a way that an organisation is not able to.

The next stage for me will be looking at whether people who give to our supporters who fundraise go on to support us again because of that connection with their story, and how in a fast-moving digital world we can give those supporters the tools to easily share their stories and fundraise.

I’d love to know about your experiences of supporters inspiring more supporters. Please do share if you have any thoughts or insights.

Esther Preston is director of fundraising and marketing at Ashgate Hospicecare, Chesterfield.

Image via thestartupgarage.com

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