Leveraging Online Crowdfunding for Resource Mobilisation: A Novel Approach for CSOs
Following the Covid-19 outbreak, civil society organisations (CSOs) in Ghana have been faced with a considerable decline in donor funding due to donors shifting their philanthropy efforts to countries which classify as low-income earning.
This is not peculiar to Ghana alone, but same with most CSOs that operate within the global south. Although traditional sources of funding including those from bilateral and multilateral donors remain important, finding alternative sources of funding for CSOs has become increasingly important.
Online crowdfunding is one of the innovative and very effective ways CSOs can leverage to raise funds for their work.
On 28 – 30 March 2023, the West Africa Civic Space Resource Hub held a workshop on resource mobilisation for 10 Ghanaian CSOs. In one of the sessions, I was inspired by a story told by one of the training facilitators, Sylvester Osei. The facilitator told a story about Paul Ninson, a New York-based Ghanaian photographer who was able to open Africa’s biggest photography library in Accra. This was through the efforts of Brandon Stanton ( Humans of New York Blog) who shared Paul’s dream with his millions of followers. Brandon started a Go Fund Me (an online crowdfunding platform) on behalf of Paul, and was able to raise more than $1.2 million towards Dikan Center; Paul’s photography library in Accra.
As one of the earliest forms of resource mobilisation that has existed throughout the recorded history of humanity, crowdfunding has been given a new face through online crowdfunding, which is raising money to finance individuals and businesses through online platforms. This is usually done by setting up a webpage dedicated to the particular organisation, business or individual which will enable people to send one-time donations or periodic donations with just a few clicks. This was first widely used in 1997 by British rock band Marillion who raised over $60,000 through online crowdfunding to support their tour.
Crowdfunding is one of the easiest resource mobilisation strategies to implement as it cuts out the sometimes lengthy bureaucratic practices that come with traditional donor funding including writing proposals to several donors in the hopes to acquire funding. Crowdfunding is a direct approach that uses story-telling techniques like documentaries that intend to appeal to the conscience of viewers.
Crowdfunding coupled with good digital marketing allows CSOs to reach a wider audience than they usually would using traditional methods. It opens up the activities of the CSO to a newer audience and even draws lifelong supporters among them.
Again, donors who contribute to crowdfunding campaigns often feel a sense of ownership and investment in the CSO or project they are contributing to support. It creates a sense of community among the donors leading to the invitation of more people to donate and join the particular campaign.
There are several online crowdfunding platforms including Go Fund Me; which is mostly for non-profit-based crowdfunding campaigns. Another platform is called Kickstarter, which hosts rewards-based crowdfunding opportunities. Crowd2Fund also hosts debt-based crowdfunding campaigns. The downside, however, is most of the well-known crowdfunding platforms such as Go Fund Me are not available to African countries such as Ghana. Someone in a supported country would have to start the campaign on behalf of the CSO in Ghana. However, there are crowdfunding platforms like Chango (endorsed by the UN Capital Development Fund) that offer localised crowdfunding services for groups and individuals in Ghana and supports local payment methods including Mobile Money payments.
It is important to note that crowdfunding is not a complete solution to the funding challenges that CSOs face. Crowdfunding campaigns require specialised efforts to create, promote and maintain. CSOs must be able to effectively market the campaign to achieve any results; Through the use of social media and other digital platforms, CSOs must be able to convince hundreds, if not thousands of people to donate small amounts which will accumulate enough to able to execute projects with.
In conclusion, crowdfunding and other alternative sources of resource mobilisation can provide CSOs with flexibility and additional resources to support their important work. Even though donor funding is still unmatched, It is important that CSOs diversify their sources of funding to help them counter the complexity of resource mobilisation.
If you are looking for other alternative sources of funding? The Aternative Funding Models Guidebook provides practical guidelines and approaches that can help you mobilise financial resources for your organisation.