by PM Digital Editor, February 18, 2016
Today kicks off Day 1 of the DMA Nonprofit Federation’s Washington Nonprofit Conference in Washington, DC. This year’s agenda brings to light the digital advances that many nonprofits have undergone over the past year, extending further into cross-channel online campaigns and using more focused and engaging donor-centric strategies. We took some time to speak with Miriam Kagan, Senior Principal at online fundraising and crowdfunding platform, Kimbia, to discuss her work on the Autism Society’s Big Give campaign. Miriam will lead the 11:30 am session alongside the Director of Development at the Autism Society, Michael Leaver. Read more on what Miriam has to say about crowdfunding and online fundraising:
PM Digital: How has the crowdfunding model changed the landscape for online fundraising? What makes it unique versus more traditional giving campaigns?
Miriam: Crowdfunding has changed the fundraising landscape in almost the same way email did about a decade ago. There is a new, valuable group of supporters (as well as current supporters who are beginning to migrate to this channel), who want to engage with organizations in a more supporter-driven, project oriented, time-limited, and, for the most part, local effort. What this means for online fundraising is that while traditional messages (open our email, come to our donation form, give us a gift) still resonate with many constituents, crowdfunding allows potential supporters to have many more options to give – some of which may not even involve the organization at all (i.e. third party crowdfunding websites). Crowdfunding enables organizations to own their brand, mission and fundraising vision, while at the same time enabling their supporters to be more self-directed in how they give funds and/or raise them on behalf of an organization. It is a new balance organizations must deal with.
There is also a lot more competition for “fundraising” dollars online—the word fundraising, as it pertains to supporting a social cause, has been hijacked in a way: start ups, pet projects, personal needs are now all “fundraisers” in the crowdfunding vernacular and online supporters may not distinguish between using limited dollars to “donate” to a friend’s art gallery start-up vs. an established cause. So not only are we now figuring out how to be flexible, responsive, enabling, and mission-relevant online, we are also trying to figure out how to jump on the “fundraising” bus as it’s driving away from us in the crowdfunding arena — and we should at least be sharing the wheel.
PM Digital: What’s the benefit of a 1-Day crowdfunding campaign? Can it be more impactful than an extended giving campaign?
Miriam: The benefit of a one-day crowdfunding campaign is that it creates a sense of urgency, community, and combined goal achievement that is much harder to sustain at a mass volume level for more prolonged periods. Also, partners and major donors like the idea of a limited time when their incentive or matching funds can make a big difference. As always, good fundraisers and marketers should be thinking about sending the right message to the right audience. So, the type of campaign should align with your overarching goals. For example: are you running a huge capital campaign? If so, a crowdfunding day isn’t going to raise you $700 million in 24 hours (if you are a single organization). But if you’d like to have a special kick off, or close, or fund a specific aspect of that campaign, a giving day may be the perfect vehicle in which to do that.
One thing that seems to also happen during giving days is a growth of mobile donations. While the percent of digital fundraising that comes from mobile devices is generally about 10-15%, we saw mobile donations comprise more than 20% of donations come via mobile during Give Local America. I think this speaks to the sense of urgency during a finite period of time, which drives donors to their device of choice at a point that is most convenient for them.
PM Digital: Do you think a crowdfunding campaign is more attractive to millennials, versus a more traditional direct mail or email-based campaign? Did you detect any demographic that gave more to The Big Give?
Miriam: I actually do not believe that crowdfunding is more attractive to demographics based on age group. Rather, it is probably more attractive to demographics based on how engaged they want to be, from the ability to determine where and how their donations are used to the outcome of their donations (self-determination is always a key element for crowdfunding). We know this because Kimbia did a demographic overlay of over 100,000 crowdfunding donors to Give Local America (www.givelocalamerica.org), one of the nation’s largest single-day crowdfunding events. We found that donors spanned across all demographics, including age (for example: 49% were age 55+), wealth and education. I find this to be incredibly unique and amazing as a strategist who’s been in this industry a long time. Giving days appeal to ALL levels of the traditional fundraising funnel as well as across different demographics. I can’t think of any traditional campaign types that hold such a broad appeal.
PM Digital: What role did social media play in garnering interest around The Big Give?
Miriam: Social media was a huge driver of awareness – both organic and paid. There was a three-pronged approach: educate, engage and convert. While we find that relatively speaking, social is not a huge contributor to giving day revenue, it is key in spreading awareness, especially for organizations that are looking beyond revenue for metrics to measure success. For increasing organizational mission awareness, advocacy, and more, social media IS the best way to reach those goals. We also find that in terms of paid spend, Facebook has the best ROI, as well as specific audience targeting. It also offers a truly integrated experience. For example, emails can be uploaded to target-specific constituents on Facebook. The Big Give generated millions of social media impressions, thousands of comments and shares, and grew the organization’s social audience by huge percentages.
PM Digital: What would you tell a nonprofit who was planning a crowdfunding campaign (basic do’s and don’ts)?
Miriam: What I would tell any organization thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign is that it is fundamentally like any other campaign in terms of whether or not you are going to be successful. All successful fundraising campaigns require a strategy, a plan, a grasp of audiences and channels, and good tactical execution. Crowdfunding is not a “build it and they will come” exercise. Supporters and donors have to be communicated with, cultivated and thanked as with any other campaign. I would say to not make the early mistakes of mobile—everyone scrambled to do ‘text2give’ for Haiti in 2010, yet so few thought through how to make that a successful campaign. How were they going to successfully explain to their donors and potential donors why this was a good idea? The result was many organizations were disappointed with ‘text2give’ results outside of the emergency relief vertical. My response to those conversations has always been, “is it that mobile didn’t work for you, or the way you executed it didn’t work?” So, the idea is to understand what crowdfunding is and how it works. Understand what will be required of your organization, your team, your technology and your vendors/agencies. Set reasonable goals. Empower people to be successful. And remember, no campaign is guaranteed to get incredible results in its first time. Organizations should see it as an important learning experience and set expectations accordingly.