Fundraising is a difficult task. In the old days, you’d have to throw an event or go door-to-door in hopes of soliciting donations from people in person. That still happens today, but the magic of the Internet has taken the idea of fundraising and elevated it to the next level – crowdsourcing. Never before has fundraising been so easy.
When used in a fundraising context, crowdsourcing is an online method where you set up a central location for your fundraising campaign and point people there, where they can make the choice to donate to your cause or not. It’s the inverse of traditional fundraising; instead of going to them, they come to you. In tandem with other tools like social networking and online marketing, crowdsourcing can be extremely effective at raising lots of money very quickly.
ChipIn used to be my fundraising widget of choice, but on February 4 they announced the discontinuation of their service and on March 7 they shut down completely. That sent me on a wild chase for viable alternatives to ChipIn and here are the 5 best alternatives that I’ve found.
PitchInBox is eerily similar to ChipIn. The account creation process is the same, the widget looks almost identical in design, the feature sets are as close as can be, and the names even sound the same! Instead of chipping in, people can pitch in to help you with your fundraising. All you need is a website where you can embed the PitchInBox live widget.
Then again, none of that should be a real surprise since the developers of PitchInBox is meant to be a near-perfect substitute for ChipIn. As people make donations using your widget, the money will instantly be added to your PayPal account; there’s no need to meet a minimum goal before you receive your funds. It’s real-time and convenient.
PitchInBox only works with PayPal (no idea if they have plans to expand later) and you’ll incur PayPal-related fees on each donation, but otherwise PitchInBox is entirely free to use.
I’m not sure Kickstarter even needs an introduction, but those of you who still haven’t heard about this awesome website should pay attention. Kickstarter is probably the most well-known fundraising platform in the world. Launched in 2009, Kickstarter has helped raise over $500 million for over 90,000 creative projects.
Here’s how it works. After you create your project on Kickstarter and set your final goal, users can pledge any amount of money to help you out. However, you only receive your money if the amount of pledges you receive meets your final goal. You can also set certain rewards depending on how much a user pledges. In the end, this system is great motivation for project leaders to work hard while keeping users safe from (most) snatch-and-run scams.
We have a series here on MakeUseOf where we look over various Kickstarter projects with cool concepts and executions. Some of them succeed and some of them fail, but Kickstarter has proven to be a wonderful tool when it comes to crowdsourcing funds.
Like ChipIn, ImRaising provides users with a live donation widget that collects donations and tracks progress on the fly. It’s fast, it’s free, and it’s new (launched in early March of this year), so you can expect nothing but improvements over the next few months. Even though it’s such a recent startup, ImRaising has helped raise over $70,000 already. It works.
At the time of writing this article, there are two widget types available: a Live Bar widget that displays custom donation stats as well as the default ImRaising widget which shows goal information and current progress. In the future, ImRaising will release two more widgets: one for the latest donor comments and one for displaying the top/latest donations made.
ImRaising has a slight fee for private ventures but it’s entirely free for non-profits. Widget appearances are customizable, donation payments are made in real-time, and the widgets work flawlessly on mobile devices. In addition, ImRaising provides you with a donation landing page and provides analytics/reports for your fundraising campaigns.
GoFundMe is a really nice platform that lets you create your own campaign page for collecting donations. While most donation platforms will be either real-time donation campaigns OR all-or-nothing campaigns, GoFundMe lets you choose which type of campaign you want to run. Plus, there’s a “charity campaign” option where all proceeds are immediately forwarded to a charity of your choice. That’s pretty awesome in my book.
In terms of features, GoFundMe is spectacular. The setup process is extremely easy and you can have it ready to go in less than 5 minutes. The website makes it painless to share your campaign through Facebook and Twitter. And if you’re wary of GoFundMe’s efficacy, there are tons of success stories and testimonials for you to check out.
There is a fee associated with GoFundMe, though: they deduct a 5% fee from every incoming donation. This fee is on top of any fees incurred by your money handler, whether it be WePay or PayPal or whatever else. If you’re a US customer, GoFundMe automatically creates a WePay account for your donation campaign. International customers can use PayPal. I tried to use PayPal as a US customer but I couldn’t figure it out; maybe it’s not possible. And, unfortunately, there’s no live widget option.
If you don’t need all of the bells and whistles of a donation platform (like a campaign page), then maybe the official PayPal Widget is the best fit for you. As long as you have a PayPal account, you can easily set up one of these widgets for your website. There are no fees except for the standard PayPal transaction fees so there’s really no reason NOT to use it.
The widget itself has a pleasant design, which is something I find important. After all, nobody likes an ugly widget that detracts from their site aesthetics. The widget makes it easy for your website users to make a donation, which may even increase the number of people willing to chip in for your cause.
If you’re just looking to run a campaign through Facebook or MySpace, you’re in luck. PayPal offers two specific widgets that work specifically for Facebook and MySpace. They’re just as easy to use as the original widget, but if your users are mostly social networkers, then those widgets might be more effective in the long run.
Fundraising is a difficult task, but you can make it much easier and much smoother by utilizing a donation aid. ChipIn may be gone but there are many viable alternatives to ChipIn that can fill the void that’s been left behind. Between the 5 services described above, you should be able to find the perfect solution for your needs.