Matching Grants + Participation Challenges = Unmatched Success

Crowdfunding is frequently lauded as a great tool for innovation. It only follows then, that there would be innovations within crowdfunding as well.

One of the most promising trends Launcht has seen emerge among its clients lately is the unprecedented success of matching grants and participation challenges. If you’ve ever listened to a public radio fund drive, this will sound familiar, but to use such a tried and true method in the new sphere is its own particular brand of awesome.

“Basically,” said Launcht co-founder Freeman White, “you set up a challenge to encourage participation, and then you just crush it.” Turns out that in all things, people want to be part of something bigger than themselves, working towards a common goal. This nearly universal truth—happily for Launcht and its clients—seems to include interactive, participation challenges.

University crowdfunding has had the greatest success—so far—with matching grant style challenges. What Vassar College and Rollins College have both done with their successful campaigns is to work with an existing, consistent, generous donor to put a certain amount of money on the proverbial table. The donor agrees to give the money if certain conditions—usually a set number of donors—are met within a very specific timescale. Although not an official place of higher learning, The Prospect Park Alliance had similar success with their recent campaign run on similar lines.

The key is that the goal is a number of donors, rather than a dollar amount. Think of the public radio drives—“if thirty people call right now, we’ll get a gift of $3,000 from Suzy Q. Totebag.” It’s a much more pleasant way to involve a community in fundraising project. And, while fundraising could be coldly viewed as being all about the money, the truth is that it is about human relationships as much as money. By requesting a donor of any amount, the door is opened to more people, rather than those who have the freedom to give more. And, somewhat serendipitously, once the pressure of a dollar amount is removed with a matching grant donor drive that focuses on participation, the average amount donated per capita seems to increase.

The most important pieces of a successful participation-based matching grant challenge—as far as we can yet tell in this newly discovered territory: are having the initial generous donor, an existing donor community to engage with (perhaps why schools and public green spaces have been so successful—there is a vital community already involved), and a set time scale. “It’s important to communicate to the donors that they need to show up at this website, at this time, and to allow the donors to see the challenge being met in real time,” explained White.

There are few enough times to be able to see how your drop in the communal bucket moves your community towards a common goal. With the countdown clocks and donation counters on Launcht-built sites, it is easy for clients’ donors to see that they are part of a community, and part of a solution.

Nothing matches that.


About Bethany Taylor

Bethany is a writer, part-time librarian and seasonal gardener and is very excited to write for Launcht as it works towards democratizing the ways that good projects make their impact on the world. Her other writing appears at and
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One Response to Matching Grants + Participation Challenges = Unmatched Success

  1. Patsy Taylor says:

    Well Done LAUNCHT!

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