Crowdrise: Social Networking Meets Charitable Fundraising

Written by Bonnie Boglioli...April 4, 2011

Mash up charitable giving and volunteering with crowd-sourcing and social networking. Then throw in a robust dose of competition, game mechanics and incentives to spice things up. Sound interesting?  The folks at Crowdrise use this unique social blend to offer individuals and organizations accessible fundraising and support and they have it in spades.

Crowdrise is leading a small pack of philanthropic platforms that are garnering significant attention in this age of micro-this and crowd-that. Its hip, witty and dedicated founding team includes the film actor Edward Norton, producer Shauna Robertson and brothers Robert and Jeffro Wolfe (founders of the likewise amusing Moosejaw online shop). Despite boasting Hollywood A-Listers on its user roster, Crowdrise is out to prove that you don’t need to be rich (or famous) to get acquainted with your charitable side.

Crowdrise believes it is revolutionizing charitable fundraising by bringing it into the 21st century. Known for its entertaining site filled with humorous puns, irreverent marketing, game mechanics and attractive incentives, its lighthearted mantra ‘If you don’t give back no one will like you’ snags you at first glance.

The Crowdrise platform would not have been possible just a few short years ago. Social networking has shifted the balance of power from an elite few to the ordinary masses. Effectively leveraging users’ social networks significantly broadens target audience and possibilities.

“The idea of one person doing a fundraiser by emailing friends and family or knocking on doors could have been done on an individual level only,” says co-founder Robert Wolfe on a recent phone interview. “But turning it into a community-led effort and getting the world engaged is only possible through social networking.”

Leveraging the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter share buttons, Crowdrise users can start their own fundraiser, join an existing fundraising team, appeal for support to friends and share their recent donations with a few simple clicks and lots of satisfactory grins. It has learned well the importance of attributes like game mechanics and community involvement from the social landscape. We compliment other social networks so that people can be more effective in their fundraising goals,” says Wolfe.

Crowdrise is one of a growing number of platforms that contribute to the so-called democratization of fundraising, though it is itself a for-profit business. Skimming a small percentage off of each donation, the company doesn’t talk numbers but has been doing very well for itself while fulfilling a do good mantra and encouraging people to find their charitable side.

It was during the Obama campaign that Wolfe and his brother began to think about micro-financing. “Regardless of one’s political leanings, the (Obama) campaign was genius,” recalls Wolfe. If micro-funding worked for the new president, it could certainly be put to good use for a host of charities and philanthropic missions. “It’s all about democratizing fundraising in a new way and embracing the small donor.”

With micro-financing growing by leaps and bounds in the venture capital arena and crowd-sourcing poised as a very viable way for businesses to solicit funding, it’s little wonder that charitable organizations can also take advantage of this trend. “Micro-donating is a responsible way to go about raising funds and should change the landscape entirely. From an organizational perspective, it’s a lot less risky to rely on ten people who each give $10 versus one person who gives $100,” he says.

They say culture trumps economics, and a notable feature of the Crowdrise platform is just how much fun is going on. The platform adeptly leverages gaming mechanics to make donating nearly irresistible with donators sporting ‘royalty’ badges  and earning the ranks of ‘Tsar’, ‘Mimes’, ‘Barons’ to name but a few. “People have really loved the game mechanics of Crowdrise which has been perhaps the most surprising element to us. We have more soon to come because they’ve been so popular. They are really dumb and silly,” Wolfe says pausing with a chuckle, “but they’re notable and fun at the same time which is very appealing.”

That appeal is crucial to supplying a steady stream of new users who are well accustomed to the fun and ease of social networks. A focus on loyalty via game play and social networks keeps it lighthearted despite its very real significance to many causes and efforts.  

 As to donor fatigue, Wolfe is concise. “People are so concerned about sending too many messages to their friends or emails, but I take the opposite approach. I believe that if you do a great job doing what you do, people will want to consume more of it.”

 When it comes to the importance of a great interface and humorous marketing, Wolfe is adamant. “From our perspective, everything starts and ends with a great message and some nonsensical marketing,” he says. “There’s so much noise out there and so much junk. The truth is if a company like Geiko can make insurance funny, any industry can do it.” His enthusiasm is clear even over the phone.  “If your marketing isn’t noticeable, don’t do it.”

Proving that less can indeed be more, Crowdrise leverages all the best ingredients of social networking to encourage volunteerism, charitable giving and philanthropy. And it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, either. If you’re interested in learning more, visit Crowdrise and find your ‘better half’.  

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