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…

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