Bookmarks: Uses Star Power, Humor to Inspire Giving

It has to be said…  Crowdrise puts the “fun” back into fundraising.

In addition to a hefty dose of star power courtesy of co-founder Edward Norton and some of his famous friends, the newish Web service offers up an altogether different flavor of online cause engagement than the many similar sites that have popped up in recent years: laughs!

In a world where cause marketing and cause campaigning is all too somber, Crowdrise’s messaging is very, very clever. With online communities, branding and group identity is so important. By putting irony and a lighthearted approach at the center of its site, Crowdrise hopes to appeal to a young audience already familiar with social networking platforms, and taking advantage of their existing connections to spread awareness, raise money, and organize events for nonprofits.

“If you don’t give back, no one will like you.”

The focus is on supporters, and turning them from grassroots activists to grassroots fundraisers. They also give out points for everything- from signing up to receive emails, to following them on Facebook, and of course for starting projects and raising funds. Taking cues from Foursquare and recent Yelp changes, top point-earners at Crowdrise can win prizes and earn special status within the crowd, as “Doctors,” “Tsars,” “Sirs” or “Dames.”

It’s about making volunteering and fundraising fun, and using it as a form of self-expression. Crowdrise allows supporters to find creative ways to make your nonprofit a part of their personal narrative, and that’s what makes them stand out. From the crowd.

For nonprofits, raising money for your cause through Crowdrise is a snap, both for you and your supporters. As long as your nonprofit is a US-registered 501(c)3 that has been around for more than a month and a half, you’re already in their system (thanks to the GuideStar database). Just provide your basic info, and about two minutes later your nonprofit has an active profile.

Supporters can then create their profiles, start a project to benefit your cause, ask their existing connections to donate, and boom- the project is viral. Let the fundraising begin!

Like most similar sites, Crowdrise takes a cut — or as they call it, a “not wanting to go out of business trying to help you raise money in new ways” fee. It’s 5%, plus a transaction fee of $1 for gifts that are under $25, and $2.50 for those over $25. Donations are processed securely using Amazon Payments.

But the basic service is free to nonprofits, and everything is well-designed and very user friendly. (Please note: by “service,” we mean actual service — there are real people answering emails and having conversations via twitter and facebook.) In the 2 minutes it takes to register, with no need for I.T. or graphics professionals, you can create a compelling page for your organization. Your supporters do the rest!

LOL-ing About

The site is a delight to explore, there are LOL-worthy tidbits everywhere. Its page for anonymous donors, for example, refers to those folks as, “donors who are so honorable that they give anonymously yet they want everyone to know about it.” Wham.

They keep things active and interesting, using real time updates and calls to action like, “Next person to raise at least $14 and chime about it gets a free Crowdrise hoodie!”

See? Crowdrise is just more fun than competing sites (even those with “fun” names like Givezooks! and Razoo). This is a service that has been allowed to have personality — or the online fundraising equivalent of “the cool kids.” It’s something new, innovative, and definitely worth exploring for any nonprofit looking to engage supporters and raise awareness, particularly with a younger audience.

And doesn’t every nonprofit want to do that? We thought so…

6 Ways to Make Our Syndication Tool Work for Your Organization

Our Syndication Tool is one of the most important and effective features of the Community Leader package because it makes it dead simple for you to post opportunities on multiple Web sites – including your own. Just copy and paste the provided HTML code into your Web site, and every time you update or add listings on, the widget will reflect the changes – instantly.

Putting the Syndication Tool in place on your site means it will always be updated provided you’re updating your listings at And keeping everything synched really does pay off: Our Community Leader member organizations get an average of three times more volunteer referrals than those who don’t!

The Syndication Tool is also a huge time saver — cutting out duplicate data entry by feeding your Web site automatically. No more back and forth with your Web master to get your listings right.

Making the Most Out of Syndication

Simply embedding the code on your Web page is just the start. We’ve put together a list of easy ways to maximize the capabilities of the Syndication Tool on your site, as well as examples of other nonprofits using it to its full potential:

1. Taylor the widget to fit your page

F.A.C.E.S. has integrated its Syndication Tool beautifully; matching their colors and making sure plenty of details about each opportunity are visible. They provide interesting and informative descriptions, and make a point to illustrate how important volunteers are to the work they do.

This is a beautiful example of using the Syndication Tool to make this nonprofit stand out as a great place to volunteer!

2. Challenge potential volunteers get creative.

Give them a chance to create new opportunities tailored specifically to them. Let them tell you about the special skills and expertise they will bring to the table! Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens has positioned the Syndication Tool  widget alongside a message encouraging recruits to look beyond the opportunities currently offered. They are opening the door for lasting partnerships with volunteers – allowing them to find a home within their work.

3. Map it!

Primetime for Schools has a map spotlighting where current volunteer opportunities are being offered. While the Syndication Tool doesn’t automatically create a map, we do provide location coordinates that any Web master could use to plot an a map this way. This would be especially effective for nonprofits covering large areas to engage volunteers

4. Mix it up.

Biodiversity Conservation Alliance syndicates its VolunteerMatch contact onto page headlined “You Can Make a Difference.”  The pages includes a variety of ways supporters can help: volunteering, donating, joining as a member, even contributing photographs or art as “assets” for the organization.

5. Give them a contact.

Letting recruits know who they’ll be working with gives them a clearer picture of how they will fit in at your organization. Hint: A recruit who takes the extra step to follow up and contact that person is definitely someone you want on your team! Shield Youth, a mentoring program, does a great job of including this in many of its volunteer listings.

6. What’s in a name? A lot!

The names of your listings should make recruits interested in learning more. The Bluff Lake Nature Center asks for volunteer “Site Stewards,” and “Ambassadors.” These creative job titles imply a sense of responsibility and ownership of the work.

Your organization’s Web site is what you present to the world… and a platform with great potential for attracting volunteers. Your site is your space, and there is no limit to what you can do with it! But there are limits on your time and resources, so the easier it is to engage volunteers on your site, the better. By implementing Community Leader and using the Syndication Tool to its full potential, recruiting, managing, and engaging volunteers becomes easier than ever before!

Learn more about Community Leader here.