Using GoFundMe for nonprofits seems like a no-brainer as peer-to-peer and social fundraising continue to grow in popularity. The well-known crowdfunding company recently unveiled its latest generation of fundraising tools for nonprofits with GoFundMe CharityTM. But how does this new fundraising and events platform work and how does it match up with best practices for online fundraising?
Let’s take a closer look at the platform and consider how it might work (or not) for the needs of your organization.
Using GoFundMe for Nonprofits – Then & Now
GoFundMe celebrates its 10th anniversary next year, having brought together more than 50 million donors to raise more than $5 billion in its company history. During this time, the platform has been available to everyday people to raise money for personal causes as well as for organizations and businesses to promote their campaigns for programs or products. It wasn’t until 2017, with the acquisition of CrowdRise, that GoFundMe broadened their tool set with nonprofits specifically in mind.
As Nonprofit Quarterly examines, there’s a lot of business potential for companies who want to facilitate and process charitable donations. According to the 2018 Charitable Giving Report, giving has grown 9% since 2016, and online giving has grown 17%. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that GoFundMe would take a special interest in developing tools that make them the go-to choice for nonprofits.
When I asked GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon about their interest in serving the nonprofit sector, he explained how the company is uniquely positioned to serve the needs of charities thanks to years of expertise in online fundraising and crafting streamlined donation experiences.
We want to build the best tools out there and do for fundraising what LinkedIn did for networking or what Twitter and Facebook did for social. We’ll generate revenue for our company, but we also see that charities spend a lot on fundraising and there’s potential for a new tool to help them raise money more effectively. As we get smarter at driving donations, we think that can only help charities—and maybe get rid of development costs that they can use to spend on the core vision.Rob Solomon, GoFundMe CEO
How GoFundMe Charity Works
Based on what we know so far, here are the core components of GoFundMe Charity.
Campaigns and events
Similar to the existing CrowdRise platform (which will roll into the new service), GoFundMe Charity gives nonprofits the option to raise money for specific campaigns as well as sell tickets or collect registrations for events.
One of the pieces of GoFundMe’s fundraising suite that caught my eye was the addition of a donate button that nonprofits can add to their own websites (unlike other donate button options) and without having to set up a campaign or worry about code. For a platform that’s specialized in peer-to-peer giving, the donate button represents an understanding that nonprofit websites have a lot of fundraising power on their own.
If you’re a charity with a website, you should have the notion of ‘always on.’ It would be crazy not to leverage our expertise in payments and our flexibility to offer this functionality… We want the donation button to be ubiquitous. We want it to match your website. We hope to become the largest enabler of donations for nonprofits and power payments for every charity in the world.Rob Solomon, GoFundMe CEO
The company seems to understand that nonprofits want fundraising tools to match their branding, even if it’s happening somewhere other than their website, as a way to reassure donors. Unlike other options out there, like PayPal’s donation button and basic donation forms, GoFundMe has worked to make their interface user-friendly for donors as well as nonprofits who want a more engaging and customized giving experience.
Reporting and data
The platform offers a Report Center where nonprofits can access information about the donations they’ve received as well as the donors themselves. For anyone that’s been frustrated by the lack of contact information they’ve received through Facebook’s fundraising tools, GoFundMe Charity looks like it will be a breath of fresh air.
GoFundMe has already announced available integrations with Salesforce as well as email marketing platforms including Mailchimp and Constant Contact. It would be great to see the number of CRMs expand to include additional nonprofit-specific database software, especially those that are commonly used by smaller organizations.
Pricing and fees
So what about GoFundMe fees for nonprofits? One of the biggest selling points in the GoFundMe announcement was that there would be “no subscriptions, no contracts, no add-on fees.” But what does that really mean? Similar to the way that CrowdRise pricing worked, the platform will give nonprofits two options for pricing and fees. (The exact details won’t be available until it officially launches in November.)
- Tipping model. Nonprofits that allow GoFundMe to ask for an optional tip from donors won’t have to pay anything to use the platform.
- Donor-covered. Donors will be asked to cover a small platform fee.
Regardless of the pricing plan, there will be a standard payment processing fee for each transaction. All in all, not a bad deal considering it’s pretty much impossible to escape processing fees wherever you go.
Access to donated funds
The timeline for the distribution of funds or payout will vary based on the payment processor you use. It will range from daily, weekly and monthly options, which is in line (and even a little better) than what you might see with Facebook donations.
Is It Right For Your Nonprofit?
Like with any tool or service we evaluate, it’s important to consider how GoFundMe Charity measures up to best practices and trends in online fundraising and marketing. As you consider using GoFundMe for nonprofits, keep these key points in mind.
Using your website as an activity hub
As we’ve written about before, we think users should stay on your nonprofit website when making a payment or registering for events. However, that might not be possible or the best option for your nonprofit if your existing website isn’t secure or mobile-friendly.
Sending potential supporters away from your website to complete transactions on GoFundMe could mean you lose some people along the way, though the platform is trying to make it seamless with custom branding options and the ability to redirect donors back to your site.
Relationship building with supporters
With access to donor details, you will be able to continue your relationship with people who donate or register for events through the platform. Integration with tools like Mailchimp gives you the flexibility to follow up with people in the long term, like through your newsletter list and automated donor campaigns.
Once you use our tools to bring on more donors, they are yours to do more with. There’s still going to be fundraising that happens in the real world, like golf tournaments and charity events. Most fundraising is happening offline… Charities who want to survive and thrive still need to embrace social and mobile, and that’s what we’ve figured out.Rob Solomon, GoFundMe CEO
Short-term campaigns vs. long-term fundraising
The new donate button offsets some of the previous limitations of GoFundMe’s crowdfunding campaign approach, which was geared toward urgent, short-term campaigns for a specific need. Adding the ability to fundraise year-round and have your website be “always on” is a nice perk for organizations who otherwise struggle to collect donations through their website because of technology or know-how.
Marketing power to drive interest
The success of GoFundMe campaigns, whether for personal or nonprofit causes, have been very reliant on social media to go viral and build interest. Like any nonprofit fundraising platform, it’s still your responsibility to market your campaigns and events and drive traffic to them. There’s no “build it and they will come” promise.
The donate button helps carry some of this weight by getting people from your website to the platform, but you’ll still need to craft strategic marketing plans to generate interest and motivate people to give.
Adding to existing tools
For all that that’s included in this fundraising suite of tools, GoFundMe Charity isn’t an all-in-one solution with a built-in CRM or email marketing capabilities. Nor does it have to be with essential integrations. Like any new piece of technology, it’s crucial to consider your existing tech infrastructure and future fundraising plans to see how the platform fits with your needs, advances your goals and helps you manage and act on the data it collects.
To that end, GoFundMe for nonprofits is likely to be one of many tools that your organization uses to build support and awareness, and CEO Rob Solomon agrees. “As charities get bigger, they don’t use just one platform… No matter your size, you need to rely on multiple solutions like Mailchimp or Salesforce. We want to make ways to integrate with your tools.”
And not only that, nonprofits are using more fundraising-specific tools than ever before—meaning that GoFundMe might only be one of many ways that you look to connect with donors. The latest Global NGO Technology Report makes it clear that charities are diversifying with options like monthly giving, tributes, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer and more.
Thinking about using GoFundMe Charity? At this point, nonprofits are asked to join a waitlist as the tool gets ready for primetime. You can do that and ask for more information on their website.
UPDATE: As of 11/7/19, nonprofits can now signup to get started on the GoFundMe Charity site.
Overall, I’m impressed with the thoughtfulness that the company has taken to offer a suite of tools with a lot of the online fundraising flexibility that nonprofits are looking for. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a wide range of nonprofits jumping on board to use the platform as part of their larger online fundraising ecosystem.
In the words of their CEO: “GoFundMe Charity is an equalizer. With a small budget or small staff, you can punch bigger than your weight. The largest organizations out there use these tools and so can you. We’re proud to bring to market the most powerful enterprise software that’s still easy to use.”
What do you think about this new way of using GoFundMe for nonprofits? Are there other nonprofit fundraising sites that your organization is considering or moving away from? Feel free to share your insights and experiences in the comments.