A closer look at today’s biggest crowdfunding sites for K-12 and beyond

Crowdfunding, which harnesses the “crowd” to gain needed funding for a product or cause instead of specialized donors, and often enlists the use of social media to increase the so-called virality of a project to make it more successful, is unique for education. In the scope of classroom or school crowdfunding, most donations go to a specific fund or cause, and because the money goes to supporting a larger nonprofit organization, donations may be tax-deductible.

Also, because of the nature of crowdfunding for K-12, its structure typically varies slightly from the usual crowdfunding campaign. Where a product-based campaign might offer the donor first release of the product upon production, most school or classroom projects do not have the same type of tangible product — at least not ones that the community can share. For that reason, these types of crowdfunding campaigns typically offer giving levels or project-specific perks to incentivize donors. Levels usually explain what the specific donation amount will do to help the project, whereas perks will offer individual recognition to the donor for their support to the cause. Sometimes it’s as simple as a handwritten thank you note.

According to marketing blog HubSpot, all institutions should look for these three characteristics in a crowdfunding site before moving forward:

  • Who uses the platform? Most platforms highlight who is the best fit for their platform, so be sure the platform fits your unique needs.
  • What is the pricing structure? Many platforms only reveal pricing if you request more information. However, for those that offer this information up-front, monthly or annual fees, a percentage of the total donation, and additional payment processing fees are standard.
  • What features are included? “Whether it’s peer-to-peer fundraising pages, event ticketing and registration, or CRM integrations, make sure to review all features offered and find the platform that best fits your fundraising needs, not necessarily the one with the MOST features,” writes blogger Taylor Corrado. “Think less is more in this scenario if you’re just getting started with crowdfunding.”

For more tips, check out The 9 essentials of crowdfunding for the classroom.

Adopt-a-Classroom: Primarily a school-supplies funding site, Adopt-a-Classroom lets donors search for classrooms or teachers they’re familiar with (or a subject they’re passionate about) and then donate directly, receiving periodic reports on their funded campaigns. Schools can then use their funding to purchase supplies from the site’s partners, which offer both basic school supplies and technology.

Classy: Classy, a mobile-optimized fundraising platform offers peer-to-peer fundraising pages, fundraising event ticket and registration, as well as fully customizable for branding platform. For those organizations using Salesforce as their CRM, they easily integrate to keep all contacts in one place while adopting Classy into the online fundraising strategy. Classy has a tiered pricing structure, which you can find here.

Crowdrise: Crowdrise specializes in charitable giving, especially for event fundraising, such as for the New York Marathon, Boston Marathon and the Ironman Race Series. One special feature is Crowdrise Impact Points: with each donation, projects receive points that help to promote the campaign to the front of the site. Campaign leaders can also cash in the points for Crowdrise gifts, such as T-shirts. For free accounts, the site takes a 5 percent cut, or charges a monthly fee of $49 or $199 that lowers to 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

Next page: More crowdfunding options

Donors Choose: One of the first crowdfunding sites on the market, Donors Choose connects individual classrooms to parents and community members who can pitch in on anything from basic supplies to major classroom overhauls. When projects are funded, the site purchases the materials and ships them to classrooms; donors receive hand-written thank-yous from the class. According to the company, the site has fulfilled around 600,000 projects to date.

EdBacker: This site lets users create professional-looking campaigns with video and photos and then easily share them with the community. Schools keep almost all the funds raised (there’s a 10 percent fee, but it’s built into the campaign automatically), and the site also provides a wealth of reporting and data features to help schools keep track of the success of their fundraising efforts.

FirstGiving is a long standing crowdfunding platform. The platform is specifically tailored to the needs of the nonprofit, including customization and extensive reporting. It offers peer-to-peer fundraising pages, event fundraising and registration, and event ticketing with an integration with Eventbrite. The site also has features for team fundraising as well that’s important to bigger fundraising events, as well as a direct donation button for an institution’s website. Along with the platform, FirstGiving offers educational material, including webinars, e-books and a fundraising blog for those organizations who are new to peer-to-peer fundraising or who are looking for more advanced strategies. FirstGiving charges $500 a year for nonprofits and an additional 7.5 percent payment processing fee. There is also an additional 4.5 percent charge for event registration.

FundRazr: A crowdfunding site that started out as a Facebook app, FundRazr is less about connecting to accredited investors and entrepreneurs, and more about others seeking funds from people in a social network. Institutions or projects have the chance to be featured on the site’s front page. Contributors pay no fee. Recipients pay a 5 percent FundRazr fee plus Payment Provider fee of 2.9 percent + 30¢ per transaction. There are no additional fees or penalties.

GoFundMe: This site is dedicated to more personal projects than business enterprises, such as raising money for a new mascot costume or someone’s retirement gift. GoFundMe has raised over $2 billion, and while it thrives off of these personal goals and relief efforts, the site also makes room for creative projects. GoFundMe deducts 5 percent from each donation and charges a 3 percent processing fee.

Indiegogo: Indiegogo made a name for itself by supporting one of the most iconic crowdfunding projects, “Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum.” Indiegogo charges 5 percent in platform feed, but that’s refunded for fixed funding campaigns if the project does not meet its goal. There’s a 3 percent + 30¢  charge for third-party credit cards. Additional fees are applied to PayPal contributions.

Kickstarter:The Kickstarter model attracts backers who can pledge for specific rewards, such as early access to a discounted price of the product, or recognition as a supporter in some way. Submissions are reviewed by the team of 89 based in Brooklyn, who charge a 5 percent fee for successfully funded projects. The campaign must reach its goal or no money is awarded and backers are not charged for their donations.

Razoo: Founded in 2007, Razoo originally supported nonprofits with 24-hour online fundraising campaigns called “Giving Days” that included games and prizes to encourage donations. Through those campaigns on the platform, over 14,000 organizations had raised $165 million. On Razoo, campaigns have hourly goals, leaderboards and random prizes for backers. Razoo provides charitable gift receipts, electronic payments, no monthly fees or setup costs, a 4.9 percent platform fee, and a 2 percent + 30¢ payment fee, all on a fully PCI-compliant platform.

RocketHub:  This project-based platform is similar to Kickstarter, but what’s unique is that it also has a Success School to teach institutions the basics, prepare them for launching and running a project, as well as how to manage funders. Pricing available via inquiry.

StartSomeGood: This site provides a funding platform exclusively for social good initiatives, no matter if it’s nonprofit, for-profit or unincorporated. All campaigns have to meet a “tipping point” in order to receive funds, but they do not have to reach their listed ultimate goal. The company charges the standard 5 percent fee. The platform also requires that projects offer backers rewards, but it can simply be an acknowledgement listing or a thank-you note.

YouCaring: YouCaring offers free online fundraising for a variety of industries. The site operates on donations, and institutions need only to pay 2.9 percent + 30¢ credit card processing fees. The site also offers real-time chat and coaching, as well as personal support.

About the Author:

Meris Stansbury is the Managing Editor of eCampus News, and was formerly the Associate Editor of eSchool News. Before working at eSchool Media, Meris worked as an assistant editor for The World and I, an online curriculum publication. She graduated cum laude from Kenyon College in 2006 with a BA in English, and enjoys spending way too much time either reading or cooking.