Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sometimes the "Madding Crowd" May Be Just What Your Small Nonprofit Needs


 I've never been a big fan of crowds, but there's no denying that a virtual crowd is what supports the efforts of most nonprofits. One of the good things about being a small nonprofit, is that you have a better-than-average chance of knowing more of your crowd. And where they hang out. But that downside of that is that you can wear your welcome thin if you're always going back to the same donors. Yet, if you're a small nonprofit in a small town, how do you reach out past your community borders? Through the internet, of course, and social media.

Crowdsourcing

This was one of the big topics at this year's SXSW. Care2 and other fundraising bloggers were there to watch Beth Kanter and Mark Horvath (Invisible People Project) talk about how to go about using it to fund projects.

Of course, crowdsourcing by itself is not a new thing - for centuries, small groups have solicited donations for specific projects like new playground equipment for a local park or additional funds for after school art projects. And that, of course, is the central point of crowdsourcing - that it's very focused. It's a lot harder to get people excited about something as diffuse as several programs at one time, unless you're putting on a festival. It's a lot easier to put a face on a project and make the project more adoptable if it's very defined. An exception to this may be the crowdsourcing done by Shakespeare Santa Cruz a couple of years ago. They could have attempted to fund one or another of the plays, but they chose to try to crowdsource funding for the season and it worked. Would it have worked so well if they were not a nationally-known group? I don't know, but for sure, being nationally-recognized didn't hurt.

How Do You Crowdsource Outside the Community?

Shakespeare Santa Cruz used their website and their knowledge of Facebook and Twitter and other social networks and they had some really good cheerleaders who kept the discussion going and the struggle in the public eye. Whether or not your small nonprofit has those advantages, there are some new tools you can use.

Today, I signed up on Crowdrise (it was the picture of the napkin that did it). This is one of several new networks where you can post a project and work to get it funded through donations. For example, here's how Crowdwise works:


Though I haven't given them more than a light review, most of them seem to work the same way, as opposed to say, a brand offering x amount of money to a nonprofit based on how many votes it gets. I definitely like this better, since it gives people the opportunity to give as their heart dictates without having to choose between two or more projects they may feel are worthy.

If you'd like to know more about the future of crowdsourcing for nonprofit projects, take a look at these blog posts:
For a couple of case studies of using social media crowdsourcing, take a look at:
If you have used crowdsourcing for your small nonprofit, what was your experience?


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