Let’s say you’ve had your heart set on a Makerspace or maybe even a tricked-out Bookmobile, but there is simply no funding available. Or perhaps your library’s dream projects are a bit more modest—like beefing up a digital library or running a special program. With some elbow grease, social (and traditional) media outreach, and a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter and Fundly, you can realize your goals.
Here’s a roundup of some of the more popular and established crowdfunding sites, along with some advice from folks with various degrees of experience with them to help get you started.
Kickstarter is geared towards creative types (filmmakers, inventors, fashion designers, musicians, game developers, etc.) but, if your project fits into a creative-type category, then you might consider trying a KickStarter campaign.
If your project is fully funded, Kickstarter will take 5 percent of the funds you brought in. There are no fees, if your project isn’t funded, but you don’t get to keep any partial funds.
+ Kickstarter has real clout and visibility.
+ Analytics are available, so you can check on your daily progress and any funding sources.
– Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform. That means if your project isn’t successfully, fully funded, you don’t get any of the partial funds you raised.
– The platform also has a limited range of acceptable projects—charity, help-related, or advice-related projects are not permitted, for instance.)
– Amazon Payments is required for US-based project creators, and it can take up to seven days to link.
– Potential funders will have to have both Kickstarter and Amazon accounts, in order to support your project.
– Customer service can be difficult to reach and is historically not very helpful.
Anyone can use Indiegogo to raise funds for any idea or project. Projects are categorized into three areas: creative, cause-related, and entrepreneurial campaigns. No application is required.
For “fixed” campaigns, Indiegogo takes four percent of the money raised—but only if the goal is reached. No fees are taken if the funding goal is not met.
For “flexible” campaigns, Indiegogo takes four percent, if you reach your goal. If your goal is not met, Indiegogo takes nine percent of the money you raised, but you still get to keep the remaining amount collected.
+ Open to anyone with any type of project
+ Paypal is used to accept funder payments.
+ Campaign analytics are available, so you’ll know where your project stands.
+ You may export all backer information, enabling you to send a mass email or contact funders in some other way.
– Indiegogo doesn’t have the same name recognition that Kickstarter does.
– It is not specifically geared towards philanthropy and non-profit organizations
RocketHub’s project areas are divided into art, science, business and social categories, but nothing is off limits, as long as it is legal and in good taste.
There is a four percent charge on your funds, if your project reaches its goal, and an eight percent charge on partial funds, if you do not meet your funding goal. There is an additional four percent credit card processing fee.
+ RocketGub has teamed up with A&E to bring certain projects additional exposure.
+ Whether you make your goal or not, you get to keep the funds you’ve raised, less RocketHub’s fees, of course.
– Although RocketHub is becoming increasingly popular, it lacks the name recognition of Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.
Fundly is open to non-profits, schools, politics, groups, sports teams, faith-based groups, etc. It enables campaigners to keep the funds they raise—whether or not they’ve met their ultimate funding goals.
Costs vary, depending on the campaign, but their “Simple Pricing for All” model applies to every donation raised, up to $50,000. The Fundly platform fee is 4.9 percent, and there is also a credit card processing fee of three percent.
+ You get to keep the funds you raise, even if you don’t hit your campaign goal.
+ Helpful guides are integrated into the setup of your campaign, to help you as you go.
+ Backers can easily share their contribution via Fundly’s very robust, built-in Facebook integration.
+ You may access your funds at any time, rather than having to wait until later.
– If you don’t have an active Facebook following, you may want to go with another crowdfunding platform instead, because Fundly’s Facebook integration is one of its main selling points.
Tips and Tricks
See a crowdfunding platform you like? Whether you use one of the above or find another that looks promising (new sites spring up all the time!) these tips and tricks might help improve your funding odds—or at least make your experience go a little more smoothly.
1. Do your homework.
President of Rural Broadband Company, Inc., Tony Ramos has been running multiple crowdfunding campaigns for nearly two years. To help promote broadband user adoption rates among rural communities, his company recently began promoting the Lend-a-Gadget Program, which would make it possible for libraries to lend out tablet computers just as they lend out books. (Here is one Lend-a-Gadget crowdfunding campaign in progress now.)
2. Include fees and percentages in your overall goal.
Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD), in Colorado Springs, CO, launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $9,300 to purchase a Makerbot Replicator Z-18. Although the campaign was not fully funded through Indiegogo, they did still manage to find funding.
“While our account didn’t reflect that we met our goal, the Friends of the Library heard about the Indiegogo campaign, and completed the campaign with a generous donation,” explained Cheryl Martin, Development Associate for the Pikes Peak Library District Foundation. “A donor of the 3D printer campaign later became a major donor to PPLD’s capital campaign, so the Indiegogo campaign also served as a great awareness tool.”
Considering the Indiegogo campaign, there is at least one thing Martin might have done differently. “As a non-profit organization, you are eligible for Flexible Funding and are able to keep all funds raised, even if the organization was not able to reach their campaign goal,” she said. But there are platform fees that must be paid. Many non-profits choose to account for those platform fees in their overall funding goal request. PPLD will likely start doing that with any future campaigns tried.
3. Leverage social and traditional media.
Upon launch of the campaign, Martin said, “We advertised on PPLD social media sites and [our] website, communicated about the campaign with our boards and committees, and asked them to share on Facebook and Twitter.”
She also sent a message to all staff members, including a link to the PPLD campaign and a request not only to mention the initiative via their own social media accounts, but also to post public comments about the campaign on the Indiegogo site itself, thereby potentially increasing the campaign’s visibility there.
“Not everybody can financially contribute to campaigns; however, sharing a crowdfunding project or campaign through social media is a wonderful and easy way to contribute. Sharing brings more awareness and may reach individuals that will financially support the campaign now or in the future,” Martin noted.
But don’t stop at social media. All too often, campaigners forget to engage with traditional, in-real-life media outlets like TV and radio stations and newspapers to bring local awareness to their funding requests. “Pick up the phone and get an interview with the local newspaper reporter or go do a local NPR[-station] interview. They’ll have you on,” suggested Ramos.
“We’re on quite a number of [crowdfunding] sites, and they all vary in. . . their own quality of search engine optimization—your chance of getting [your campaign listing] close to the top. They all vary in how much they want to push your project,” he said.
That means running a strong public relations campaign in tandem with your fundraising campaign is essential. But that takes time.
4. Choose longer campaign durations.
Many online crowdfunding platforms encourage short campaigns—think 15 to 30 days—but Ramos suggests being prepared to run at least a 60- to 90-day campaign. “Thirty days is not long enough. You have help people to feel invested, and there’s no way to do that in 30 days,” he said.
“We are going to a 60- to 90-day format, and we think it’s going to be a lot better. It’s going to give us more time to get out into those communities with public service announcements, for example. Print media, radio stations, and things like that will be more than happy to give us public service,” Ramos added.
In addition to running a long campaign, Ramos recommends running a series of campaigns. “You can’t go into crowdfunding thinking, ‘If I get nothing, I get nothing.’ Because you’re not going to last in crowdfunding. You just have to keep coming back at it,” he said.