Right on the Money: 'Crowdfunding' for Youth-Serving Organizations--Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter

Crowd funding.

Our most popular post of the past year was our article about raising money on the deals website Groupon. With that in mind, we thought we would look into two other popular ways of creating online fundraising campaigns, the "crowdfunding" websites Indiegogo and Kickstarter.

Because the two sites are somewhat trendy, using them can create a buzz that you might not get from a regular online fundraising campaign. For example, Jenn Cohen, founder of the Circus Project, which trains Portland, OR, homeless youth in the circus arts, last year raised about $2,500 on Kickstarter for a youth performance.

“The value of the campaign went above the money we raised,” she says. “It was an excellent networking opportunity.”

Kickstarter and Indiegogo can be good choices if, like Cohen, you have a specific project or effort you want to raise cash for, as well as a clear message about why that project or effort matters. Cohen was able to hook people’s interest with photos of homeless youth doing complicated circus acts, and with stories of how the program helps young people gain skills and independence.

Here are Cohen's tips on using crowdfunding sites:

Set realistic goals. Though signing up for the sites is free, fundraising campaigns are “all or nothing”--meaning you don’t keep a cent if you don’t reach your goal (unless, in the case of Indiegogo, you opt to pay a higher commission). Cohen says you should set a dollar amount you’re fairly certain you can reach. And since both sites take percentages of whatever money you keep, we suggest you factor that into your budget as well.

Cohen also recommends setting a campaign length, say 30 days, that is long enough to enable you to reach your goal, but not so long that people will lose interest and you will spend too much staff time on the effort.

Spread the word early and often. Having a strong social media presence and a solid email list can help you publicize your campaign, Cohen says. But getting others to share is just as important.

“I asked anyone I knew with a circus or runaway and homeless youth affiliation to post on their Facebook page,” she says.

Also, be sure to thank donors and keep them up-to-date on your progress, even at risk of being annoying, she says, because some people will make two or three gifts over the course of the campaign.

Avoid perk pitfalls. Both sites have you promise incentives you’ll give to people who make a donation (the way public radio stations give out tote bags). Cohen advises you choose your perks carefully. “I made it especially so it wouldn't be time intensive to send rewards," she says.

The cost of items can also add up. Examples of inexpensive, easy-to-deliver perks include artwork created by youth, thank you notes signed by them, thank you tweets, stickers with your logo on them, or tickets to an event your organization is putting on.

Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter

  Indiegogo Kickstarter
You can raise money for Anything. Creative projects that fall into the following categories: art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film, food, games, music, photography, publishing, technology and theater.
You can’t raise money for Fraudulent purposes. Everything else is permitted. Personal needs, broad causes or charities not linked to a specific campaign, and some additional prohibited items and subjects.
You can start a project if You’re older than 13. The site claims “Anyone, anywhere can raise money for anything on Indiegogo.” Those under 18 must be emancipated or have a parent or guardian’s consent. You are 18 or older and
—are a permanent U.S. resident with a Social Security or Employment Identification Number
—have a U.S. address, bank account, and state-issued ID
—have a major credit or debit card
Your project gets funded if You reach your goal. Or, under a “flexible” payment option, you can pay Indiegogo a bigger commission and still keep the money if you don’t reach your goal. You reach your goal. Funding is “all or nothing.”
It costs Between 4 and 9%, depending on whether you choose the standard or flexible plan and you meet your goal. There’s also a 3% charge for credit card processing. 5% of successful campaigns, plus a 3-5% payments processing fee.


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