Crowdfunding is the buzz word of 2016: Businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals are expected to raise nearly $35 billion through crowdfunding websites this year alone.
So, what exactly is crowdfunding? Crowdfunding is the process of gathering small financial contributions from a large number of people to support an idea or project initiated by an organization or individual.
This is not a new concept: According to the National Park Service, crowdfunding helped ensure the completion of the Statue of Liberty when funds ran out for the Statue’s pedestal in 1884. Joseph Pulitzer urged readers of his newspaper, New York World, to donate the funds used to build the base the Statue now sits upon.
Several crowdfunding platforms have taken this concept online, enabling hundreds of fundraising campaigns to run simultaneously. These campaigns can be rapidly disseminated across the globe, gaining momentum and funding as contributors share the campaign with their social networks at the click of a button.
Individuals are also increasingly turning to crowdfunding websites to raise money for things they cannot easily pay for—particularly unforeseen medical costs. This includes pet owners who need to raise money to pay for emergency veterinary care.
If your pet requires critical veterinary care you cannot afford, take these three important steps to see if crowdfunding could help you:
Decide if crowdfunding is right for you. Before creating a campaign, carefully consider whether you have the means to make it successful.
One common misconception is that by simply posting a fundraising campaign on a crowdfunding website, strangers will happen upon that campaign and donate to it. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
First, you must have a reliable network (usually friends and family) you can call on for help spreading the word. Some of those people will donate, and in turn, share the campaign with their friends and family via social media. This creates a ripple effect that ensures the campaign is seen by strangers. Remember that only the first wave of supporters can spread your campaign to others.
Another consideration is time. The average campaign last 45 days and requires preplanning. If you make the decision to pay for treatment, hoping to recoup the money through a crowdfunding campaign, first ensure you have all the necessary pieces—including the time it takes to raise and receive those funds—in place.
Select the right crowdfunding website to use. There are a wealth of crowdfunding platforms to choose from, with more emerging every day. Make sure you understand the fees associated with the platform you intend you use. While these can vary in price, you can typically expect 5–10 percent of the amount raised to be retained by the website hosting your campaign.
Also consider the quality of the website. If all you see are unsuccessful fundraisers, keep looking until you find the right platform for your campaign.
Run a successful campaign. Effective campaigns all have specific traits in common.
Be clear about what you are raising money for and how much you need. People are more likely to give if they are confident about what their money is paying for.
Give lots of updates about how the campaign (and your pet!) are doing. The more updates you provide, the more connected your followers will feel to your campaign and the more supportive they will be.
Most importantly, ask supporters to share your campaign. This will create the ripple effect that ensures your project will reach the crowd.
Sarah Timms is the founder and CEO of crowdfunding platform loveanimals.org, the only 100 percent free, nonprofit, fundraising website for animal causes. It’s their mission to drastically increase giving to the critically underfunded animal sector using crowdfunding technology. To learn more, visit loveanimals.org.