7 Top Crowdfunding Sites for Nonprofits and Higher-Ed Institutions

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Taylor Corrado
Taylor Corrado



Now that you’re excited to get on the crowdfunding bandwagon, you need the tools that best fit your organization or school to execute a successful online campaign.


There are several hundred crowdfunding platforms currently available to choose from with a variety of different features, focus, and pricing. If you’re looking to get started with crowdfunding for your fall event season, end of year giving, or year round campaigns, we’ve broken down 7 crowdfunding sites for your nonprofit or higher-ed institution that you can consider.

Before evaluating these or any other platforms, remember these three things to look for:

Who uses the platform? Whether it's individuals, nonprofits, schools, or businesses, you want to use the platform that is going to fit your needs. Leading by example, most platforms highlight who is the best fit for their platform with featured stories and case studies. Be sure to review these in your evaluation process.

What is the pricing structure? Make sure to evaluate each platform's pricing or request more information if it's not available online. Some platforms have monthly or annual fees, and additional payment processing fees. Be sure to do your due diligence to compare and contrast pricing packages and pick one that fits into your budget. 

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. Think less is more in this scenario if you're just getting started with crowdfunding.


Indiegogo is a crowdfunding site for a variety of businesses and individuals, but also with a dedicated category to verified nonprofits looking to fund their campaigns. These campaigns would be considered grassroots, including disaster relief campaigns like that for Hurricane Sandy or the Restore the Shore campaign, which raised $1.04 million.


For those organizations that have a specific event or campaign they want to fund, but may not have the technology to maintain that fundraising in-house, Indiegogo is an out-of-the-box solution for organizations of all sizes to use to their advantage.

Pricing: Indiegogo has specific pricing for 501(c)3 nonprofits, which is 25% less than the general platform pricing. To use the platform the fee is 6.75% of your campaign versus the 9% for for-profit campaigns and an additional 4% for payment processing fees. Bonus: If you reach your goal, Indiegogo will “reimburse 3.75% of funds raised as an additional discount, so that your net Indiegogo platform fee is only 3%”. This is a great incentive to promote your campaign and hit your goal.


For organizations that do year round campaigns, event, and/or peer-to-peer fundraising (or are looking to do so) StayClassy offers just that. Included in its all-in-one fundraising management platform, StayClassy offers peer-to-peer fundraising pages, fundraising event ticket and registration, as well as fully customizable online donation forms. For those organizations using Salesforce as their CRM, they easily integrate to keep all your contacts in one place while adopting StayClassy into your online fundraising strategy.

StayClassy also highlights who uses their platform, including Team Rubicon, an elite first responder force. They used StayClassy after a tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri in 2011. Within hours, they raised $35,723. They also have a number of schools using their platform for fundraising campaigns, but they are specialized for nonprofits with a fundraising model.


Pricing: StayClassy has a tiered pricing structure, including a 1-3% processing fee and a monthly platform fee ranging from $99-$199/month and customized pricing for their enterprise level package. They also offer a free trial so those that are interested in testing out the software can for 30 days.


Kickstarter is project based crowdfunding site for nonprofits, businesses, and individuals. Each “project” is independently created, managed, and funded by the masses. Projects must reach their funding goal to receive the full amount of funds. Nonprofits use Kickstarter for projects like developing in-house software, event fundraising campaigns, and even funds to get started as a new organization. Growing Food to Grow the Local Food Network crowd funded their $9,000 project to get the organization off the ground.


Pricing: Kickstarter charges a 5% fee from the project’s funding total if it is successful, as well as an additional 3-5% for payment processing. (Tip: set your project goal to include these additional costs).


USEED focuses on crowdfunding for higher-education institutions. They are tapping into “the power of social networks and the voice of your students to engage alumni and win new donors for your university.” USEED’s platform allows your school to use advocates -- your students, faculty and alumni -- and their stories to increase donations from your internal community as well as the community around your school. While other platforms are used by schools, this platform is specifically built for higher-ed institutions.


ASU has entered USEED’s beta program to allow students to use crowdfunding to “raise extra funds they need to gain real-world experiences outside of the classroom, such as service abroad, starting a company, or creating a technology or work of art”. Much like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, USEED is putting crowdfunding in the hands of the next generation.

Pricing: No pricing is listed on USEED's website, but you are able to inquire to the team to find out more information.


FirstGiving is a long standing -- and some would argue the first -- crowdfunding platform. With their focus on a platform tailored to the needs of the nonprofit, including customization and extensive reporting, they offer peer-to-peer fundraising pages, event fundraising and registration, and event ticketing with an integration with Eventbrite. They have features for team fundraising as well that's important to bigger fundraising events. They also offer a direct donation button for your organization’s website.


Along with the platform, FirstGiving offers a lot of educational material, including webinars, ebooks and a fundraising blog for those organizations who are new to peer-to-peer fundraising or who are looking for more advanced strategies. 

Pricing: FirstGiving charges $500 a year for nonprofits and an additional 7.5% payment processing fee. There is also an additional 4.5% for event registration.


Crowdrise is a crowdfunding platform focused on empowering the fundraiser. They are going right to the source of the crowdfunding and empowering individuals that may or may not have ties to a nonprofit to start a campaign. They have a focus on endurance event fundraising, including a place to browse events, including the New York City Marathon and 2013 Spartan Races, and to fundraise for or give to those events.


They offer peer-to-peer fundraising, event registration and fundraising, branding and customization, and reporting. 

Pricing: Crowdrise has a tiered pricing structure, with a free basic account and subsequent packages with monthly fees between $49-$199 per month and payment processing fees between 3-5% with additional credit card processing fees. 


RocketHub’s project based platform is similar to Kickstarter. But what’s unique about RocketHub is that it not only provides you with the platform to crowdfund, but they also have a Success School to teach you the basics, prepare you for launching and running your project, as well as how to manage funders. They give you the tools and the knowledge to be a successful crowdfunder.


Pricing: There is no pricing listed on the site (bummer!) but they encourage you to contact them directly.

What other crowdfunding platforms do you recommend? Have you used crowdfunding for your nonprofit organization? Share your recommendations and tips with us.

Image credit: Photos by Mavis

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Topics: Crowdfunding
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