Crowdfunding Campaigns for Nonprofits: Giving Tuesday and Beyond

By Rob Ruchotzke, Consultant

There’s nothing like a crowdfunding campaign to capture a moment, build your donor base, or raise money for a specific project. I’ve had the opportunity to lead over 30 crowdfunding projects ranging in goal from $1,000 to $50,000, as well as seven days of giving and Giving Tuesday campaigns. Each project had its unique set of challenges and opportunities that led to the insights I am pleased to share with you below. 

Crowdfunding allows you to galvanize your existing supporters and leverage your constituents and their social media networks to expand your reach faster than traditional annual giving methods like phonathons or direct mail campaigns. Plus, crowdfunding can be fun. When people see you and your followers having fun with a campaign, they are more likely to engage. 

Crowdfunding is most successful when executed over a designated time period or on a single “Day of Giving,” such as Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (November 29, 2022) and is recognized around the world as a day to make contributions to nonprofit organizations. On Giving Tuesday 2021, nearly $3 billion was raised in the United States alone. 

How to run a successful crowdfunding campaign

Set Campaign Messaging

Your goal can be a specific number of donors or a dollar amount, but it must be attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Create a unique, authentic tagline to communicate your goal and a dedicated landing page or fundraising platform that you can link to in all of your messages. Plan to share stories online along the way. 

  • Consultant Tip: Campaign video teasers sent via email and social media are effective ways to build anticipation before your campaign launch. Here is an example of a crowdfunding campaign teaser video from a university where I worked. When we encouraged reactions and responses to our posts, people were more likely to spread our message.

Build Your Team

Recruit a leader to manage the progress of internal staff members, volunteers, and “star” ambassadors. Who is best suited for planning and who for execution? Who is motivated and will stay engaged? What connections to social media “stars” do you have on your Board who would be willing to make a gift, post about their contribution on their social networks, and help increase organic engagement?

  • Consultant Tip: Track which of your ambassadors brought in the most new donors or overall dollars and create a leaderboard to generate healthy competition within your team to increase gifts.

Find the Right Partner

Crowdfunding can be part of your larger annual giving strategy. Partnering with an expert who understands the planning, marketing, fundraising, and strategic moves that crowdfunding requires will make your effort run smoothly and give you confidence. 

  • Consultant Tip: Set aside time to meet with an account manager for each of the platforms you use including your customer relationship management (CRM) and bulk email platform, direct mail vendor, texting application, and giving page. Make sure you understand what tools you have at your disposal and how to use them to make your campaign really shine.

Set a Timeline

Once you determine your crowdfunding approach, it is crucial to plan when, what, and where you will post your campaign goals and progress updates. Creating a timeline can help your team see the bigger picture, generate new ideas throughout the process, and stay on schedule with timely communications. 

Create Urgency

Crowdfunding is most effective when you have a compelling and urgent need to entice donors, many of whom may not yet be associated with your organization. One or more of your donors may be willing to encourage others to give to your crowdfunding effort by making a challenge gift and calling for matching gifts. 

  • Consultant Tip: In advance of launch day, meet with potential major donors to “seed” the campaign with early donations. This early support will encourage more people to get involved, especially when you have a challenge gift. During a designated day, time challenges can also be effective, such as a “Rush Hour Challenge” or “School’s Out Challenge” or a “Members Only Challenge.” 

Drive Momentum

Your crowdfunding campaign success will be defined by how constituents drive the momentum via social media. Harness your ambassadors and keep the online engagement moving with timely messages, videos, and updates along the way. Use a multi-channel communications strategy to reach people in more than one way.

  • Consultant Tip: Plan for the unexpected. Your campaign could go viral if a megastar or influencer gets on board. Be ready to react in real time and ride the wave to success.

Make It Easy

Donors want to click, give, share, and receive acknowledgement and campaign updates. Make the path to sharing your content simple and approachable both for your team and the public. 

Prioritize Stewardship

Plan stewardship well in advance of launch day so that you can thank donors along the way. Enlist ambassadors, staff, and volunteers to help with a letter writing campaign or thank-you video in addition to your regular tax receipt acknowledgement. 

  • Consultant Tip: Show the impact! Record a video capturing the excitement on a day of giving or the results of the gifts that have been made – check out this example of a personalized video I received when I made a contribution during a crowdfunding campaign.

Analyze

Debrief, learn, and adapt for future programs using quantitative and qualitative data. Create tracking mechanisms in advance of your campaign. Use solicitation codes and set up a campaign tracking sheet so you can understand which channels and outreach tactics were most successful. 

Crowdfunding takes effort, but can have an immediate impact on your organization and be incredibly satisfying when done correctly. Reach out today to learn more about how CFA can help your organization succeed in your crowdfunding and annual giving efforts.


Rob Ruchotzke

Rob Ruchotzke, Consultant

Rob Ruchotzke focuses on annual giving strategy, development assessments, campaign feasibility studies, and campaign counsel. Rob comes to CFA with nearly a decade of annual giving experience in higher education institutions. Most recently, Rob served as the director of annual giving at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), where he led multi-channel campaigns, developed crowdfunding platforms, managed annual giving vendors, and served as the strategy lead for UNI’s Day of Giving (#LivePurpleGiveGold).

A native of Camanche, Iowa, Rob holds a BA in Public Relations from the UNI and resides in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

How to Write a Fundraising Case Statement: 10 Steps

Your organization has an inspiring vision and is ready to raise big money to make it a reality, but you aren’t quite sure of the communications approach to donors. Would punchy, bold language add to your fundraising appeal or turn prospects away? Should you print hundreds of fancy brochures or create a campaign website? Do you need a theme separate from your annual fund or marketing slogan? This is where a fundraising case statement comes into play.

A case statement—also referred to as a case for support—is your best communication tool for a fundraising campaign. It indicates to prospective donors what you hope to accomplish with their philanthropic dollars in both a pragmatic and an emotional way. It also ensures that everyone on your campaign team—your executive director, board members, staff, and volunteers—is aligned with your messaging.

Tailor Your Messaging

Your case statement must be tailored to your brand, campaign, and, most importantly, your audience.

Consider the questions your audience will want to know:

  • What is your organization’s “big idea”?
  • Why does this idea matter, and who will it impact?
  • Why is your organization the right one to implement the big idea?
  • What will it take to reach success?
  • Why is now the right time?

10 Steps for Building Your Fundraising Case Statement for Support

Articulating your organization’s distinct values and vision is vital to raising money consistently and effectively. There are several steps that you can take regardless of the size of your organization or the scope of your campaign when building your case:

  1. Gather background. Reflect on your organization’s brand and strategic plan and how they integrate into your fundraising approach. If you have had a fundraising advisor conduct a campaign study, incorporate recommendations from the feasibility study report.
  2. Build a team. Host a kickoff meeting for a small team of internal and external stakeholders with whom you will collaborate as you develop content. Be proactive in asking for your team’s input and always be open to their feedback.
  3. State your timeline. Determine a timeline for content production. A case statement can take anywhere from two to six months to develop, design, and print.
  4. Determine structure. Decide what structure you think is best for your audience and whether to go digital first or have it professionally printed.
  5. Write an outline. I cannot overestimate how important an outline is to the case building process, especially for managing word count.
  6. Interview key figures. Campaign leadership, the people you serve, and notable community members will help you make your case.
  7. Create a memorable campaign theme. My most important piece of advice when developing a campaign theme is that it suggests to the donor how they can take the organization to the next level.
  8. Insist on an appealing design. Having a distinct look from everything else the organization is putting out will ensure the campaign is viewed as the special effort that it truly is.
  9. Use clear and compelling language. Communicate your organization’s primary campaign priorities and the impact that donated dollars will make.
  10. Make the ask. Bolster your conversations and grant proposals with philanthropic language throughout your case statement to reinforce the message that this effort is only possible through leading donations. Why not start with, “Join us”?

If you are interested to learn more about how CFA can help your organization succeed, please reach out.


Pressley Peters is an award-winning writer specializing in philanthropy and marketing. She has written for numerous CFA clients including the Entertainment Community Fund, Friends of St. Paul Public Library, Headlands Center for the Arts, Lundstrum Performing Arts, North Carolina Museum of Art, Project Angel Food, and United Theology Seminary. She is a graduate of Rhodes College and calls Dallas, Texas home. Pressley can be found at pressleypeters.com.

Donor Cultivation & Stewardship: Key Steps in the Donor Cycle

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is expanding its outdoor nature play adventure opportunities for children and families through philanthropy. The museum is a compelling example of how intentionally following the steps of a donor cycle – especially adding cultivation and stewardship strategies to your solicitation process – can reap larger gifts and repeat donors. 

Speaking of nature, you can think of a donor cycle as analogous to the water cycle of our planet, where rainwater feeds land, streams, and oceans, and the sun continues the process via evaporation. Just as the water cycle ensures the planet’s sustainability, following all the steps within the philanthropic gift cycle—donor identification, qualification, cultivation, solicitation, closure, and stewardship—can ensure the health of your nonprofit ecosystem. 

By following CFA’s Guide to the Major Gifts Cycle, nonprofits can shepherd donors through the stages of philanthropy to build sustainable, long-term relationships. While the major gifts cycle contains distinct steps, the stages of cultivation and stewardship encompass ongoing activities that are integral to retaining a donor network with recurring and increased gifts. Employing cultivation and stewardship strategies can allow your organization to execute a more predictable and sustainable fundraising plan.

Donor Cultivation Strategies

Cultivation is the process of relationship building with a donor or prospect leading up to an ask. Cultivation includes personal visits, calls, emails, and events to engage the prospect and help match their interests with the needs of your organization. In addition to the executive leadership and development staff, board members play a pivotal role in the cultivation process by helping to champion your mission. 

There are many ways to engage donor prospects through cultivation. A board member, executive director, or development officer can, for example, invite and accompany a prospect to an upcoming event and introduce them to the organization’s key constituents; organize a coffee or lunch with a prospect to share targeted updates on the organization’s programming and progress on strategic planning milestones; and/or send periodic formal communications, such as newsletters or annual reports, to prospects accompanied by a handwritten note for a personal touch. The cultivation stage can be lengthy and there is no need to rush it. There is a need, however, to track your moves. Consistently communicating the current status of each prospect as you progress through the gift cycle provides structure and consistency within your fundraising team.

Recommended Reading: How to Activate Your Strategic Plan for Fundraising Success

Stewardship Strategies

Stewardship refers to how an organization thanks donors and communicates how their generosity made an impact on the people and community an organization serves. While a prompt acknowledgment letter (mailed or electronic) is essential for tax reporting purposes, an organization can also engage with donors on a more personal level through handwritten notes, phone calls, donor appreciation events, and one-on-one meetings. Thoughtful gestures such as these are appreciated, especially with major gifts. 

Donors are attracted to visionary organizations and are personally rewarded when they can see the demonstrated impact of their contributions. Ask community members or other stakeholders who have been directly impacted by your organization to share their gratitude through a direct phone call or personal note to the donor. If your organization has completed a campaign to build or renovate facilities, invite donors to an insider tour. If you have created a donor wall or naming opportunity for their gift, invite donors to an unveiling. Personalized attention will show the measure of your gratitude, and staying in touch will keep a donor informed of their continued impact. Remember, your next gift is a well-stewarded one.

Donor Cultivation & Stewardship Case Study

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota (CMSM) is a one-of-a-kind museum, and its creative approach draws visitors from all over the Midwest. CMSM engaged CFA to conduct a Development Assessment as they sought a more sustainable platform for raising money. One of CFA’s recommendations was that board members become more invested in the relationship-building necessary to garner larger and repeat donations. Specifically, we suggested segmenting appeals into two seasons, adding a dynamic major gifts strategy, and hosting donor appreciation events. With CFA’s guidance, CMSM set forth a new leadership giving group, the Ignite Society, named after the driving force of CMSM’s mission “to ignite the curiosity of every child.”

CEO Lou Dickmeyer joined CMSM in 2019 and shepherded the organization through a pandemic closure and reopening. She said, “There’s so much support and passion for the Museum, it’s an easy ask, but we had not been sophisticated about telling our story. Our new Ignite Society has led us down a path where we more deeply engage our donors and increase conversation of what their dollars can do.”

As part of cultivation and stewardship efforts, CMSM offered a special donor event for Ignite Society members, a newsletter with behind-the-scenes details on exhibits and programs, and an in-person preview of the museum’s new exhibits. The Ignite Society grew to over 140 people within its first year.  

“Working with CFA has deepened my understanding of how important it is to cultivate relationships and keep donors informed of what we’re doing,” Dickmeyer added. “We now have a clear line of sight to what success can be and how to get there. They helped us ready ourselves for a bold and strategic move to the next level.”

It is exceedingly difficult to secure multiple gifts from the same person or organization without the personal touches involved in cultivation and stewardship. If you are eager to learn more about how CFA can help your organization succeed through cultivation and stewardship, please reach out.


Jake Muszynski, Principal

Since joining CFA in 2018, Muszynski has headed more than 20 projects throughout the country, including multi-year engagements with Dodge Nature Center, New Mexico School for the Arts, Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, Grief Club of Minnesota, and School for Advanced Research. Muszynski also has led more than a dozen clients through CFA’s campaign feasibility study process, testing over $150 million in potential campaigns. 

Muszynski began his career in higher education, serving as a major gifts officer at the University of Northern Iowa. He moved to the University of Minnesota where he led fundraising efforts for the Arts Quarter of the College of Liberal Arts. A native of Perham, Minnesota, Muszynski holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from Concordia College. He and his wife have two children and share a love of folk and jazz music.

How to Activate Your Strategic Plan for Fundraising Success

Reading your nonprofit strategic plan, I bet you will discover that philanthropy touches every section as it should. After all, a strategic plan identifies the impact an organization seeks to make along with the philanthropic resources required to achieve fundraising success. I would further wager that if you shared your plan with a major donor, it would inspire confidence in your organization and lead to deeper engagement and investment.

Benefits of Strategic Plans to Fundraising

Development professionals love strategic plans because they provide ready access to goal-oriented language for grant applications, solicitation letters, and prospect conversations. When I worked at The University of Chicago, my first initiative was our strategic plan which became our team’s field guide and provided metrics for which we could aim. Another benefit is volunteer engagement. When Board members or donors do not know how to engage in an organization, being a part of the strategic planning process allows them to learn more about the organization and align their passions and expertise with their needs.

What the Expert Says: Q&A with Kathy Graves

I talked with strategic planning expert and Creative Fundraising Advisors (CFA) Partner Kathy Graves of Parenteau Graves about how nonprofits can activate their strategic plans to help improve fundraising results. 

Liz Jellema: How do you recommend organizations measure development success within the strategic plan? 

Kathy Graves: First of all, development is only one facet of strategic planning. Secondly, while KPIs (key performance indicators) are important, numbers are not everything. The actual measurement of success is how many people maintain and deepen their engagement with and commitment to your organization as you live into your strategic plan. It helps to be more expansive in how you measure success. 

LJ: Should the strategic plan always push development to raise more dollars? 

KG: Most plans aim to raise more money, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to have an impact, to improve our world. It’s vital to name the result you seek before discussing how much to increase fundraising. Your strategy doesn’t have to be about raising more every year. It’s more important for philanthropic dollars to implement meaningful change. During the pandemic, some organizations saw new service areas grow exponentially and raised more dollars to deliver them. But many organizations are returning to or revisiting their original vision. For example, our human services clients find it important to stabilize lives by providing food and housing. Still, they are raising money to address systemic barriers that can lead to more significant permanent improvements for people. 

LJ: Many strategic plans are three or five years long. How do you recommend an organization’s Board and staff stay engaged and adjust for continuous improvement?

KG: Strategic planning is like personal training. You don’t stop exercising when you achieve your goal. Likewise, organizations cannot consider the strategic plan as a finished project and tie a bow on it. You must keep putting it at the center of your daily work. 

Ensure a few staff members are the key inside drivers—leaders who activate, monitor, and report progress. Everyone from entry staff to Board members owns the plan, but ultimately it needs key leadership to push it forward. 

The bottom line is that if you haven’t looked at the plan in three months, that’s a red flag. Set aside time monthly, quarterly, and annually for review. I also suggest that the plan be discussed at every Board meeting—share metrics and KPIs manageable for organizations to obtain and essential for organizational leaders to measure.

LJ: How can you use the plan to engage your major donors? 

KG: People want to give to success. One measurement of success is that you have a clear plan. Have confidence in your plan and show what you’ve accomplished.

A strategic plan is a terrific outreach tool. Utilize the plan as a runway for conversation. You might ask to sit down and share your progress with a prospect once you complete a one-year review. During the meeting, point to places where a prospect might provide dollars or expertise to help your organization reach its metrics and goals.

When you remain confident in your mission and plan, it will instill confidence in your donors that you can utilize their funds well. 

LJ: What formats have you seen work best for organizations to share their strategic plan? 

Do not send anyone a 28-page document! The operating plan can be long and detail-oriented, but that’s not what you’ll show most people. Brevity illustrates that you know what you’re doing and where your organization is going. Summarize your organization’s mission, vision, values, and goals on one page. I coach our clients to focus on three-to-five goals that are going to be the most critical drivers of success. 

Final Thoughts

Strategic plans are helpful when talking to prospects to illustrate that your organization has a plan and is acting on it. Are you prepared to share your plan with your Board and prospects? Reach out to CFA to learn more about our strategic planning services. We would enjoy helping your organization develop its next strategic plan. Contact us today!

Check out these sample nonprofit strategic plans:

The McNay | Cookie Cart | Hennepin Theatre Trust | Everybody Dance LA


Liz Jellema

Liz Jellema

Chief Operating Officer, CFA

Liz oversees CFA’s operations, culture, values, talent, marketing communications, and financial performance. Liz joined CFA from the University of Chicago where she served as Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives for the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the Booth School of Business. Liz enjoys translating strategy into growth for CFA’s portfolio of mission-driven clients.

Kathy Graves

Kathy Graves

Partner, Parenteau Graves

Kathy heads Parenteau Graves’s strategic planning. She is an award-winning writer, co-author, teacher, and recipient of the Changemaker Award from ARC Twin Cities. Prior to forming Parenteau Graves, Kathy served as marketing and public relations director for The Minnesota and Virginia Operas and on the staff of U.S. Senator Gary Hart. She also was the arts writer for the Southwest Journal for seven years and a Mondale Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.