One of my colleagues asked me about crowd-sourcing ministry needs through a Kickstarter type of web site. I agreed to look into it and publish the results. I only found two platforms that seem to have good track records for churches and ministry needs. There are quite a few other sites out there, but they have very limited results posted. That might be a warning for people thinking crowd-sourcing is a way to fund ministry. But if you’d like to learn more, here are the two platforms that appear to have some success.
forAfriend.com is a crowd-sourcing web site designed to support missionaries around the world who are doing relational mission work. It isn’t designed to provide the main support for a ministry or to solicit funds for high-cost items. But it does allow persons who are doing relational mission work to ask for support from their friends and supporters to donate up to $20.00 each for a meal, a cup of coffee, a bible, supplies or a gift (like the solar powered light that Andrew and Charity Fisk are requesting). It is primarily designed for individual missionaries.
forAfriend requires a sponsoring organization to vouch for the validity of the missionary and her or his work. No fees are taken out of the donations – 100% of what is given goes to the missionary. It is a great tool for individual missionaries but has less utility for a church or pastor.
Indiegogo is a crowd-source funding platform that allows religious organizations to solicit funds for projects. Idiegogo charges a flat 5% fee plus passes through the 3%+ 30 cents per transaction credit card processing fees (so a little more than 8% of each donation is consumed before it is distributed. You can choose to set a goal and refund all donations if your don’t reach the goal, like Kickstarter. Or you can choose to have a goal but keep donations even if they don’t full fund your project. St. Lydia’s Dinner Church is an example of a successful Indiegogo campaign for a church, raising $33,240 in donations from 223 donors. With the fees that Indiegogo charges, the church netted $30,513.90. But the church also offered rewards to givers at certain levels, so the rewards and costs of fulfillment also reduced their net by an undetermined amount.
Why would a church use a crowd-sourcing platform to raise money?
The main reason is that the platforms provide infrastructure that is helpful in building community of support for your project. While your church could build its own web site and create its own donation page, the infrastructure of an established crowd-sourcing site may be easier to implement. The fees charged can inhibit giving and the church’s needs go on a site with hundreds of other needs, some of which might appear even more attractive than the church’s.
Crowd-sourcing is not a panacea for fund raising. The hard work of building a crowd-source campaign goes far beyond posting a video and rewards on a web site. A successful campaign is relational, multi-faceted, and persistent.
If I were going to raise money for a church project, using a crowd-sourcing platform would not be high on my list of things to try. But if you are going to try it, these two platforms seem to have the best track record for churches and missionary work.