Nonprofits get help from Giving Trail
Giving Trail is a local nonprofit that recently launched a crowdfunding website created specifically for nonprofits to raise money for charitable projects. Crowdfunding is simply the act of raising money on the internet from a large number of people who are reached through the vast social networks of family, friends and colleagues to support projects they believe in. Crowdfunding engages all age groups and can attract everyone from first-time philanthropists to major donor prospects.
The website, GivingTrail.org, was developed by my wife Greta and I who are small business owners in Northern Nevada. Our appreciation for the positive impacts nonprofits have on the community, and frustration with current models of fundraising, inspired us to create a tool that provides other nonprofits with simple to use technology at a very low cost. With the help of KPS3, a local web development and marketing firm, we came up with software that has the potential to shift the paradigm away from obsolete and inefficient methods of fundraising, to one that’s cost effective and resourceful — one that generates a much greater net return than traditional fundraisers.
Nonprofits provide valuable services to our society and their passion is all about their charitable work and, usually, not about fundraising. With almost every nonprofit being over-burdened and under-funded, we wanted to design a platform that would take the pressure off and facilitate a more business-minded approach to the task of fundraising and strengthen their relationships with their donors. So far, we’ve had really good success with the organizations who participated in the beta test. We get excited every time a new campaign is posted because it means that many people will benefit from the result.
When a nonprofit posts a campaign for a project with a description, a line item budget and a promise to report the results, donors understand where their donation is going, who it will benefit, how much it will cost and if they can volunteer. Donors can even rate the nonprofit with glowing reviews (or not) to provide feedback to future donors. Each campaign is essentially a mini-business plan that increases the odds of success, keeps donors in the loop and ties a donation directly to a known outcome and also helps the nonprofits stay focused on the business of their mission.
Donors respond favorably to transparency and accountability by becoming repeat donors and volunteers. With high quality information to share with other like-minded individuals or businesses, donors become powerful advocates with a few simple clicks and a couple of minutes. Everyone wins!
The Web site walks the nonprofit through the setup, step by step. Once a campaign is posted, a little work is required to drive donors to the campaign page; but it’s nothing compared to the off-mission work of a golf tournament or grand gala event with auction! The website has social media and email buttons that enable the campaign page to be shared quickly and easily. Social media is incredibly powerful when it comes to reaching the masses and spreading awareness. But emailing a link to the project page with a personalized message and a direct ask is what really generates donations.
For nonprofit board members: It takes no more than 5 minutes to share the campaign on Facebook, and send a quick email out to your contact. That’s it! You can potentially reach hundreds of people within minutes to advocate a mission you clearly care about. Your name on the donation page lends credibility to the campaign and to the organization as an active board member.
For business owners: The next time an organization asks for a donation, consider asking them to post a project on GivingTrail.org and then make your donation through the site. Your business name will appear on the list of donors, which lets customers and employees know you are investing in the community through charitable giving. It will also encourage the organization to develop a broader base of support and awareness with a tool that promotes good planning, keeps them on-mission, lowers their fundraising costs and grows their donor list. To build employee loyalty, find out if your employees are affiliated with any organizations that could use your business’s support.
Because Giving Trail is an IRS designated nonprofit, all donor-directed contributions made through GivingTrail.org are fully tax deductible. Tax receipts are automatically sent to each donor with a thank you note. Donors can log into their account at any time to retrieve copies of each tax receipt.
GivingTrail.org is designed only for U.S. based charitable organizations. We’re very sorry, but individuals, businesses and political entities cannot post campaigns.
As a donor, I want my money to be spent wisely and for the intended purpose. According to GuideStar, nonprofits spend an average of 25 percent of total donations on fundraising. That statistic was unacceptable to us so we worked very hard to establish the lowest possible fee. GivingTrail.org charges a 6 percent flat fee with no tricky minimums, sign up or other hidden fees, and includes all payment processing fees. Each fundraising campaign nets 94 percent. There is no risk.
As crowdfunding becomes a mainstay, and the trend in online-giving continues, nonprofits should embrace the full spectrum of social media opportunities to propel awareness and make it easy for donors to give support. Our hope is that nonprofits will use GivingTrail.org to spend more time on their mission, less money on fundraising, to find new volunteers and maintain trusting relationships with donors. The premise behind crowdfunding charitable projects is simple and powerful: Many small acts of giving and sharing can really add up and make a big difference.
“We did a lot of very, very difficult evaluation over a very, very short amount of time and just concluded that this was the right thing for the company at large.”