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How To Multiply Philanthropic Dollars With Fundraising Challenges

By creating fundraising contests among charities, Crowdrise is finding creative ways to boost the power of each donation.

How To Multiply Philanthropic Dollars With Fundraising Challenges
[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock]

The Internet has democratized philanthropy, making it not only simple to donate not only large sums of money, but small sums–$1, $5, $25–as well. Crowdrise, a fundraising platform that aims to make giving fun (and is probably used by most runners you know to raise money for those charity runs) has been pushing this democratization forward even further, with a series of challenges that offers cash incentives to the teams that raise the most money.

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Created by actor Edward Norton, film producer Shauna Roberson, outdoor apparel entrepreneur Robert Wolf and his brother, Crowdrise lets any individual, team, or charity create a slick fundraising page. But Crowdrise Challenges take fundraising to another level: an organization or individual promises a certain amount of money–say, $1 million–to the fundraisers who raise the most money. This way, a $1 million donation can be multiplied many times over.

Crowdrise Challenges started a few years ago, when the CEO of Mozilla ran the New York City Marathon and wanted to do a matching campaign for technology-focused charities. “We wanted to try something different. Instead of doing a match, we thought, ‘Can we create a contest amongst charities?'” explains Wolfe.

In the recent Skoll Social Entrepreneurs Challenge, the Skoll Foundation and the Huffington Post offered up to $1 million in funding for participating organizations, all of which have received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Each had the opportunity to win portions of the cash through different fundraising challenges. In the end, the organizations were able to mobilize their fundraising networks so effectively that more than $3.4 million was raised in total.

Believe it or not, Wolfe says that these challenges don’t privilege larger organizations with big email lists. He points out that in the recent Veterans Charity Challenge, the winning organization, Warrior Canine Connection, is small, but was still able to rally supporters. “Crowdrise becomes a gamechanger for organizations that don’t simply try to get donations, they recruit fundraisers,” he points out. A single eager fundraiser can raise a lot of money. And while a modest $50,000 challenge might not do much for big charities, it can help a small organization to add precious staff and resources.

For donors who sponsor the challenges, Crowdrise is an opportunity to make their philanthropic efforts go further–and to boost their brand without spending marketing dollars.

So far, Crowdrise has done 10 challenges. Many more are coming up in the future. “The feedback has been off the charts amazing,” says Wolfe.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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