Skagit Valley Hospital

Crowdsourced Fundraising Goes Local



crowdfundingThis post is part of our 2016 blog series, The Changing Faces of Philanthropy in the Northwest. All year long we’ll be exploring how the profound changes and contrasts in our demographics, economy, and beliefs are impacting philanthropy in our region. Join the conversation!

Until recently, I was not a fan of crowdsourced fundraising. Just the words “crowdsourced” and “crowdfunding” conjured up a mental image of the mindless masses, which is so contrary to what we fundraising professionals preach as ultimate truth: relationship-based fundraising. People won’t give unless they have a relationship with the organization and its people, and unless they are connected to the mission. How can they make that connection in a crowd of people patched together from all over the Internet?

What I didn’t take into account is that, in the age of social media, people relate to each other, often and effectively, online. Social media is being used more and more to organize and mobilize local movements, and the Northwest—a global hub for technology and innovation (see our recent blog post about tech millennials)—is no exception. Two recent successes of clients right here in the Puget Sound region—Intiman Theatre and Friends of 88.5 FM—helped me think differently about crowdsourced fundraising. Done correctly, it is a natural extension of tried and true best fundraising practices.

Compelling, Urgent, and Audacious

You’ll see from the snapshots below that, while the campaigns for Intiman and 88.5 are different on the surface, they have a few key things in common: a very compelling case (the projects they wanted to fund were of paramount importance to their audience), urgency (they both had hard and fast deadlines), and an audacious goal ($75K in 16 days and $7M in 6 months, respectively). I know, I know! We always say “set a realistic goal,” but having a compelling case—backed up by an excellent strategy, plan, and resources—can compensate for a goal that might seem unfeasible at first. And let me underscore the fact that each organization was willing to invest the time, money, and energy to ensure success.



Enlist team leaders to reach out to their networks; support team leaders with materials (video links, communications language, benefits, etc.) to make the case for and encourage giving


$75,000 in 16 days


Support Intiman’s 2016 season, highlighting and celebrating the work of black, female playwrights; and Intiman’s vision of promoting and achieving racial and gender equity through theatre


  • $82,963 raised, plus a match of $50,000 from a current donor
  • Total Number of Donors: 641
  • Percentage of New Donors: 69%


  • Fundraising medium allowed Intiman to showcase its strengths as a theatre and arts organization
  • Invested in an innovative campaign website
  • Created a giving platform for all, regardless of capacity, level of engagement, and location
  • Gained new donors and created a tight Intiman community by implementing stewardship strategy


Overall Goal

$7 million in six months


Support Friends of 88.5 FM to purchase KPLU and “save” current programming, by making a gift before June 30, 2016


Set a GiveBIG record by raising $1,456,076!

Total Number of Donors: 7,609


  • Through GiveBIG alone, Friends of 88.5 FM raised more than 20% of its overall goal
  • The GiveBIG effort was a mini-campaign within a campaign, which heightened the larger campaign’s momentum (read more about the SAVE KPLU campaign, which surpassed its goal in just 4.5 months!)
  • Excitement from the record-breaking results created a sense of community ownership

In planning a crowdfunding campaign, be sure to have a strategy to leverage current donors’ resources and relationships, and a plan to capture new donors and keep them captivated.

Still not sure if crowdsource funding is right for your nonprofit? Take this quiz by Consultant Kate Banta-Green.

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About the Author

Jen Lee

Jen Lee


Jen shepherds clients through the lifecycle of a fundraising campaign between classical music concerts and regular coffee infusions.


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