Crowdfunding - a financial lifeline for charities?

2 May 2013     Last updated: 13 Nov 2014

The hottest topic in fundraising in Belfast this week is the potential of crowdfunding. Over 30 people from a wide range of charities attended NICVA’s workshop on Wednesday 1 May 2013 to hear from a number of experts in the field.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a way of funding a project or idea by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people (sometimes in return for rewards) using social media and online platforms. It has enormous potential for charities, voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises as an innovative method of getting support and funding.

Groups who are interested in crowdfunding a project will register with a recognised site, for example Kickstarter or Fund it, write a description of what they want to fund and how much money they want to raise and then ask supporters to pledge money to help them reach their target.

Crowdfunding from NICVA on Vimeo.

Global reach

Crowdfunding offers organisations huge advantages in the digital age as it enables them to engage with a much wider audience and appeals especially to social media users. It is a totally different type of fundraising to the more traditional grant and trust applications. Successful projects are rewards based to entice people in, they make the most of social media and involve your networks, but key to all of this is passion; the story behind the project and engaging people through your passion for the project is vital in encouraging people to donate.

Although crowdfunding has the potential for global reach it can also be a really good way of getting support for a very local project or idea. Crowdfunding can be a useful way for voluntary and community organisations to diversify their fundraising strategies and to give donors more involvement in where their money goes. Crowdfunding online is a relatively new phemonenon in the UK, having been introduced around two years ago.

Crowdfunding has its origins in the United States, with even President Obama getting involved, and is seen as having the potential to energise the economy by funding business startups and projects. Websites such as Kickstarter, Buzzbnk and Crowdfunder have been used to fund everything from community bakeries to buildings, so get your pitch right, get people involved in your project and you too could be a crowdfunding success.

Is it right for your group?

Anne Strachan, who delivered the training session at NICVA said, “I'm pleased to be delivering this workshop with NICVA. Crowdfunding is big news at the minute with creative projects receiving millions in donations, but what we are looking at today is, is it right for charities and social enterprise?

“Crowdfunding is not a quick fix for long-term funding problems but an innovative tool not only for raising money but also building an engaged community of donors. It's hard work - but then all fundraising is. We also know that it appeals to growing social media savvy groups of people who want an emotional and personal connection to the projects they help make happen.”

Neil Irwin, Fundraising Advice Manager at NICVA added, “It’s great that we have been able to bring a crowdfunding workshop to Northern Ireland and that Anne, a leading figure in UK crowdfunding, has agreed to talk to our members and the wider community. Crowdfunding is an innovative way of raising money that has real potential for voluntary and community groups who can identify strong projects and are able to mobilise support around a fundraising campaign.”

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