While no non-profit organization is fully analogous to any other, the ways in which the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle (JFGS) and their J-Kick platform have utilized Launcht is illustrative of the possibilities that crowdfunding can open for non-profits.
Aimee Finn, Development Operations Manager at the JFGS, explains that they “are an organization that raises funds and then grants those funds out, based on an allocations model reflecting Jewish community priorities. We also operate specific programs that offer broad services to our community.”
JFGS created their crowdfunding platform, named J-Kick, not for the purpose of fundraising directly for their own needs, but as a way to ever more respond to the programs and interests of their community. As Finn said, “we want to foster a greater sense of community and we feel that crowdfunding does that really well.” Because crowdfunding is not based on the granting cycle that have played a traditional role in JFGS’s funding, organizations are able to post projects, get funded, and get on with their efforts within the community much more rapidly. Finn also mentioned that organizations can, through the efficiency of J-Kick, more quickly determine what interests potential donors and what doesn’t, all allowing for more efficiency in both time and monetary investment in different projects, and in the planning of future projects.
Additionally, the variety of projects that J-Kick is able to post through crowdfunding is a great way to engage with broader segments of the community, “donors who might be excited by a specific project but would otherwise not be interested in a more general ‘Annual Campaign’ or operational fundraising,” Finn noted. “It’s a great chance for us, the Jewish Federation, to ‘bring the community together’ in a new way and feed the tide that raises all boats.”
Wisely, JFGS is not abandoning the traditional non-profit fundraising strategies, but uses J-Kick as a way to grow both their community and donor base. “This is another avenue for donors to find philanthropic opportunities that excite their passions,” said Finn. JFGS has found that J-Kick and crowdfunding has been their greatest success in engaging with new and younger donors, people “who want to know specifically how their donations will be used and might be more attracted to digital philanthropy than traditional fund-raising.”
Finn has high praise for the ability of crowdfunding to enable a more collaborative relationship between organizations and their communities. “A project will only be successful if it speaks to donors, so we have encouraged organizations, when thinking about potential projects, to consider the audiences for their projects and how to market a message that will resonate with these audiences.” As mentioned above, the relatively quick turnaround time for projects using Launcht platforms allows for organizations to reach new audiences, as well as to accurately gauge what sort of projects are most attractive to donors.
With crowdfunding still a new approach for non-profits, it can be helpful to have the benefit of others’ experience. For organizations interested in pursuing crowdfunding, Finn offered this advice, “One strategy that we have found to be effective (in our so- far limited experience) is for an organization to find a project “champion”: a donor or volunteer who feels so strongly about making the idea a reality that she or he is willing to reach out to personal networks with a heartfelt message. We have emphasized the cumulative power of many small donors making small gifts and sharing what they’ve done with their networks.”
People want to help each other. This is the bedrock beneath most non-profits. With the individualization and flexibility of crowdfunding, it becomes ever easier for non-profits to do just that.
(Thanks to Aimee Finn and the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for their assistance with this post.)