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Review of Online Fundraising Websites

2010 November 2
by Anthony Hoell

*This post has been updated to include some new sites and incorporate your comments. Thanks for reading! Click here for the new version.

As more and more people become digitally connected, more organizations are turning to online websites for their fundraising campaigns. The ease of donating money through the internet has resulted in several different websites that allow fundraisers to create profiles and solicit donations online. There are literally dozens of websites to choose from that allow you to start a project. We recently began our own online fundraising campaign, and explored several of these websites. We noticed right away that each website has various strengths and weaknesses in terms of their functionality and cost. Read on to see our reviews of each, and let us know if you agree or disagree. KickStarter

Kickstarter is a possible website to use for a fundraising campaign. It seems to be more geared towards private fundraising campaigns for artists, musicians, designers, writers, etc. than for nonprofits, but there are some advantages of their website worth considering.

Advantages of Kickstarter:
-Lots of reviews agree that Kickstarter has the cleanest and most user-friendly website for fundraising
-Users say that funders on Kickstarter are more active
-Kickstarter allows fund creators to set rewards for varying donor levels. You can get really creative in the incentives you want to offer donors if they give a certain amount.
-Although Kickstarter sets a deadline after your campaign begins (you only get 90 days for the whole thing) and you have to hit your goal (all-or-nothing), some users have said this was actually really helpful. Some said that it forces others who really want to see you succeed promote your project as if it were their own. One forum writer said:
• “I recently raised over $6,000 in roughly 60 days on kickstarter for my film Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time. About $2,000 of that came in the last week because of the pressure to see the project succeed. Their deadline may look like a negative thing but it’s what got me to choose kickstarter. If you follow a few projects you’ll see that a huge percentage of projects get a big chunk of their funding in the last week or sometimes even the last day. Kickstarter is cleaner looking, has more diverse and interesting projects (my opinion) and will give you the ability to raise your funds faster.” –Ben Hicks, 1/23/10

Disadvantages of Kickstarter:
-The most obvious disadvantage is that if you don’t reach your goal, Kickstarter doesn’t release the funds. The reasoning for this given on their website is that it allows artists to test their concepts without risk to them or the buyers (as stated before, the website is targeted more for artists, musicians, etc.). They also say that it motivates people to spread the word.
-Kickstarter also sets a time limit on your project (90 days max). Again, this could be a positive or negative depending on how you look at it.
-You can’t change the details of your project once you launch your page

Kickstarter takes 5% of the amount you raise for your project. Razoo Logo

Razoo allows users to create fundraising pages for any registered nonprofit that Razoo recognizes (you can search their database here to see if they recognize you).

Advantages of Razoo:
-Razoo features a nice, user-friendly user interface and a large community of donors
-Razoo offers donation-matching for corporations or foundations looking for a way to raise money
-Creators don’t have to set a deadline on their projects
-Razoo is one of the cheapest fundraising websites available

Disadvantages of Razoo:
-Razoo has a huge database of recognized nonprofits, but you may have to use another site if you aren’t in it. Razoo doesn’t allow any random person to start a fundraising project. This may be to discourage scams, so this may not be a negative

Razoo charges a flat fee of 2.9% of the amount you raise for your project. IndieGoGo

IndieGoGo brands itself as a collaborative way to fund ideas. IndieGoGo offers any idea (creative, cause or entrepreneurial) the necessary tools and process to raise money.

Advantages of IndieGoGo:
-Anyone can create a project, and unlike Kickstarter, you keep whatever money gets donated
-There is no deadline on the project
-They claim to have an exclusive community of partners, including MTV new media
-They offer analytics, so you can see which fans, influencers and organizations are driving dollars to your project. Lots of nonprofits might be interested in knowing this information for future fundraising campaigns.
-In my opinion IndieGoGo has the best user interface

Disadvantages of IndieGoGo:
-I’m not quite sure how big their “exclusive” community is, or how active they are. However, people have reported great success from using the website.

IndieGoGo charges a 4% fee for projects that hit their fundraising goal, and 9% for projects that don’t hit their goal. The reason given seems to be that they try to discourage ridiculous projects that would stay on their site forever. Crowdrise

Crowdrise was founded by actor and philanthropist Edward Norton earlier this year with a goal of harnessing social networking to make giving go viral. The website points out that you can link your fundraising project to your other social networking sites. When I first read this I thought, “Big deal. I can just use a URL shortener to tweet my project and post it on Facebook in order to drive people to my fundraising page.” After playing around on the website a bit, however, I agree that Crowdrise makes it as easy as possible to spread the word about your project to your social network. Of course, other websites listed here do just about as good a job in connecting your campaign to your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Advantages of Crowdrise:
-Crowdrise offers incentives for donors to stick around, thus growing the potential community of donors
-They offer promotions and sweepstakes that you can add to your project to incentivize people to donate
-You can win some cool prizes and titles from the website to show off by earning points (you earn points by donating and having people vote for you)
-Crowdrise really is a social media site in itself, where you create your own profile, add friends, message people and comment on other friends’ pages
-They have an active community of donors, including numerous celebrities

Disadvantages of Crowdrise:
-Although there is no cost to start a project, Crowdrise is a little more expensive than other fundraising websites

Crowdrise takes 5% of all donations, plus a $1 transaction fee for donations under $25 and a $2.50 transaction fee for donations $25 and over, which works out to around ~7.5%-9% depending on how much a person gives. ChipIn

ChipIn is a fundraising widget that can be integrated into most of the major social networking sites on the internet. It shows the up-to-date status of a campaign, so donors can instantly see how much has already been contributed to a project.

Advantages of ChipIn:
-Unlike other fundraising websites, users who only want a widget that they can embed into their blog posts and websites may prefer ChipIn
-The instant progress display is great for people who want to see up-to-the minute results on a campaign

Disadvantages of ChipIn:
-Users can create their own page on ChipIn for friends and family to go to, but they likely don’t have access to the same communities of donors that exist on these other websites

ChipIn uses PayPal to accept donations, so there is the standard 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. GoFundMe

GoFundMe allows users to create fundraising campaigns for any project, so you don’t have to be a nonprofit to start a page. They also offer some nice metrics and even grade how well you attract donors to your page through updates.

Advantages of GoFundMe:
-Users can track donations and measure how many visits they receive
-Project pages are very social, and allow users to add updates on their campaigns and comments
-GoFundMe offers donation options that include both online or offline payments

Disadvantages of GoFundMe:
-The website doesn’t seem to have an active community similar to sites like Crowdrise, so most of your fundraising is probably going to come from only people you know or friends of friends

GoFundMe deducts 5% from every donation, along with the 2.9% for using PayPal.

Which ones did we forget?  Which ones have you had success with?  Share with us in the comments section!

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