FundingWorks: new crowdsourced fundraising site for nonprofits launches pilot - Technical.ly Philly

Mar. 19, 2012 11:00 am

FundingWorks: new crowdsourced fundraising site for nonprofits launches pilot

Crowdsourcing and gamification are definitely buzzwords in tech these days, but FundingWorks, a new crowdsource fundraising site that launched its pilot on Saturday, helps Philadelphia nonprofits learn to use both to raise money for their projects. Fundingworks could be filed under Kickstarter, but really it’s somewhere along the spectrum of all the crowdsourced fundraising sites […]

Crowdsourcing and gamification are definitely buzzwords in tech these days, but FundingWorks, a new crowdsource fundraising site that launched its pilot on Saturday, helps Philadelphia nonprofits learn to use both to raise money for their projects.

Fundingworks could be filed under Kickstarter, but really it’s somewhere along the spectrum of all the crowdsourced fundraising sites out there. First of all, at least for now, FundingWorks is only for nonprofits looking to raise money for specific projects.

Second, and what co-founder Nathan Solomon thinks is the most unique, the site uses game elements to motivate donors to attract other donors helping nonprofits build their audience. So, if someone donates to a project through FundingWorks they can share the initiative with friends. If those friends donate, the original donor can reach higher levels of sponsorship — bronze, silver, and gold — which measure “how much good” the donor does.

Visit the site here.

“The motivation to share is that you bring more benefit to something you actually really care about,” Solomon said. “So whether it is dog rescue or an educational initiative, that’s the benefit of spreading the word.”

Finally, there’s no fee to put a project on the site, just an application form and required 501(c)3 status. That means nonprofits keep all of the money they raise, unlike with Kickstarter. As of now, Solomon says, funds go directly to the nonprofit’s Amazon account.

“One element of that is there are different sorts of responsibility in shepherding these projects,” Solomon said. “So it’s a different sort of relationship between the donor and what the project does.”

The idea for FundingWorks is the result of a collaboration between Solomon, who is also the founder of Philadelphia Game Labs, CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia Founder Thaddeus Squire, who Technically Philly spoke to last summer and will serve as an adviser, and Philly Startup Weekend organizer and Chief Technophile of W3Portals, Brad Oyler, who is also involved in Seed Philly.

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Solomon and Squire realized they were both fielding questions from nonprofits about crowdsourcing and fundraising, but they didn’t really have actual analysis to back of what they thought might work.

“We [Solomon and Squire] both wanted to test what would be useful to nonprofit entities,” Solomon said. “As we were talking, I realized I had had this conversation with Brad Oyler about funding city projects. So I pulled him in and we decided to build something heavily hewed towards exploring the analytics of fundraising.”

For them, most of the features of FundingWorks are experimental — especially the game elements — and each feature will be heavily analyzed to figure out what really helps nonprofits connect with donors in new, more meaningful ways. If something isn’t working, they’ll cut it, Solomon told Technically Philly.

“The motivation initially was that we see all these entities that we wish we could help better, but we didn’t have a practical tool,” Solomon said. “Our focus on this has been what’s the minimum that we can pull together to start so that we can test everything and do everything Kickstarter does plus a couple of other things. We’ve just done this in a really lean way.”

Part of that minimalist attitude — and the Saturday launch — is a product of necessity. FundingWorks is a side project for all three co-founders, though Solomon says they’ve added a team member to help them manage the site and iterate as it grows.

“We’re interested in everything that we’re learning from this, so although it’s a side project, it fits with a lot of other things we are interested in doing,” Solomon said.”If the nonprofits succeed, we’re learning, and if they’re not succeeding then we’re probably not learning.”

As of now, FundingWorks is only available to Philadelphia-based entities. Early organizations testing out FundingWorks include Techgirlz and The SWAP.

If you’re a small, local 501(c)3 interested in trying out FundingWorks, the site is live and you can access the application page by creating an account here.

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Yael Borofsky was the lead reporter for Technically Philly from from December 2011 to June 2012 before leaving to pursue an urban studies graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously she was an editor with the Breakthrough Journal in San Francisco. She loves hockey and coffee.

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