Let Young Professionals Take the Crowdfunding Reigns

December 1, 2015, Department, by Kara Kish, MPA, CPRE, CPSI

Traditional fundraising campaigns have a new best friend: Crowdfunding. The practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet, is sweeping the globe. Park and recreation agencies have started to take notice and are beginning to incorporate crowdfunding efforts alongside traditional fundraising strategies.

Lindsay Labas, marketing director for Carmel Clay, Indiana, Parks and Recreation, a NRPA Gold-Medal winning agency, and a member of the NRPA Young Professional Network Leadership Team, sat down for a Q&A session to share some insights into the value of involving young professionals in crowdfunding campaigns. 

Parks & Recreation magazine: What are the benefits of incorporating young professionals in planning an agency’s crowdfunding campaign?

Lindsay Labas: An agency’s crowdfunding campaign typically begins as most fundraising campaigns do, at the top, with financial decisions being made at an upper-management level. [The process of] crowdfunding poses its own nuances, many favorable and easily navigable to young professionals who are experts in social media platforms. Including young professionals in a crowdfunding campaign also contributes a different perspective and approach. It would provide the agency with additional out-of-the-box, perhaps non-traditional thinking and steer clear from the “that’s the way it’s always been” mentality. 

P&R: How can young professionals best approach their administrators to become involved in an agency’s crowdfunding campaign?

Labas: Expressing to administration that crowdfunding is of interest to you and/or is an area you would like to gain more experience with is step one. Secondly, a written proposal or plan of what the crowdfunding campaign would look like — goals and expectations, your desired role within the campaign, potential successes and failures, budgetary impact, primary and secondary target markets, etc. — are all important factors to include. This shows administration, right from the start, that you are serious about your involvement and that there is passion and thought behind your vision and plan. 

P&R: How can an agency position itself for success when starting a new crowdfunding campaign? 

Labas: Promoting a large-scale, attractive project may be a good start for an agency as it learns the ins and outs of what crowdfunding entails. Your agency may be looking to build a playground, include interpretive trail signage or install a new splash pad. Crowdfunding for these projects engages local supporters by getting them on board and believing in the product or service that you are selling. If they trust and believe in your brand, they most likely will assist with helping you fund and share your project, and ultimately reap the benefits when the project is completed. Large-scale, attractive crowdfunding campaigns also familiarize the public with the fundraising platform, potentially leading to greater participation in future campaigns. 

NRPA has implemented a Fund Your Park crowdfunding platform that does just that. In just one click, your local supporters will be engaged and sharing their experience with friends and family. It’s free to members, donations are tax deductible and you have all the support you need from NRPA staff. 

P&R: What crowdfunding platforms are new or up and coming?

Labas: On the more creative side, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are probably the two most well-known crowdfunding platforms among young professionals and helped pave the way for other, similar platforms. Crowd- rise and Razoo are two platforms that are geared more toward nonprofit sectors, giving back and raising money for great causes. 

P&R: Are there any crowdfunding training resources available to young professionals to help increase their crowdfunding skills?

Labas: The best tool currently available is most definitely the Internet! You can search “how to launch a crowdfunding campaign” and hundreds of results come up with input on steps to launch a campaign, things to know before you launch one, communication and timing, must-dos, etc. You could spend hours just reading through success stories and insights on how to make your campaign successful. That being said, many of the skills you or your co-workers utilize in your everyday job can be extremely useful. Think about your co-workers and who already has the skills and knowledge to develop a plan for a compelling project, who can help obtain audience engagement and reach, and who can collect feedback. Sometimes, the best team and resources are right in front of your eyes.

Kara Kish, MPA, CPRE, CPSI, is a Superintendent with the Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department in Terre Haute, Indiana.