We live in a time of unprecedented activism and not just politically. The number of causes that motivate people, and the access we have to contribute to what we care about, is on a level that I have only seen recently.

This creates unique opportunities for well-motivated charities and nonprofits to capitalize on this energy. As I see it, the biggest internet innovation for nonprofits in the last ten years is the emergence of crowdfunding platforms. In case anyone is unfamiliar, these are online services that individuals and organizations can use to set up easily accessible portals for people to make donations almost instantly.

The idea is to leverage social media networks to increase the amount of smaller donations, which can relieve some of the pressure to find the “big fish” donors.

I’ll eventually be going over some of my favorite crowdfunding platforms that nonprofits should be using, but there are some crowdfunding basics that nonprofits need to keep in mind for successful campaigns.

Don’t treat it differently.

You should give your crowdfunding campaign as much time and attention as you would if you were courting a bigger donor or pushing a grassroots effort on the ground. Simply establishing the page and revisiting in a month in the hope that you’ve hit your target will guarantee your campaign fails.

Focus heavily on your existing network.

This needs to be the first group you use to rally support. Your professional network, as well as the personal networks of everyone in your organization should be targeted to establish a base of support. If you can show early on that the campaign has serious traction, and your closest supporters rally the support of their own networks, you should be on track to hit your goals.

Always tie the campaign directly to a cause.

If you’re just trying to raise a lump sum of money to keep your nonprofit afloat, it probably won’t motivate people. Most people want to know and see the difference they are making. The ask should never be to support your specific organization but the cause for which your organization fights.

Tell a compelling story.

This is about establishing a connection. Give your donors something to return to after they make their donation. If they have a story to follow and feel connected to what’s going on, they may return to make more donations or feel more compelled to share the story with friends. Using this strategy effectively could result in some donations from unexpected places.

You should strive to make these strategies a part of all your fundraising campaigns, but effectively implementing them in a crowdfunding initiative can significantly multiply your outreach power.

Bootstrapping tactics like crowdfunding are a great foundation for a young nonprofit, and being able to crowdfund successfully will instill some important and productive habits for the long term. But if your group is seeking sustained financial health and you want to get down to the true difference-making work that you originally set out to achieve, you need to attract significant benefactors. My free assessment can help.