In the not-so-distant past, if you had a personal cause or a business idea that required fundraising, your best bet was to ask friends and family for support.
Or perhaps, if you were a really brave soul, you’d go door-to-door and ask strangers for money (remember all those wonderful candy bar campaigns that your schools made you participate in when you were a kid). You’d risk having a door slammed in your face or the hose turned on you, but, hey, what else were you gonna do?
Thankfully, along with many other great benefits it has brought us, the internet has made possible and even popularized the idea of “crowdfunding.” Using crowdfunding sites, you can set up a campaign page in just a few minutes and begin taking donations from anyone around the world.
With so many of these crowdfunding platforms now available to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which ones are the best. Thankfully, we’ve done all the homework for you. Read on to learn the 8 best ways to get money from strangers today.
Best for Creatives
If you’re a creative person, you may be able to get money from strangers using these platforms.
Kickstarter has self-proclaimed itself as “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.”
That may seem like a bold claim but it would be hard to argue that they’re wrong. Kickstarter has become a household name. For many people, when they hear the word “crowdfunding,” they think Kickstarter.
Since their launch in 2009, Kickstarter has helped 16 million people get their project’s backed, $4.1 billion has been pledged, and 156,412 projects have been successfully funded.
Whether you’re an artist, musician, author, or a scrappy tech startup, Kickstarter can help you get the cash that you need to bring your great ideas to life.
The Fine Print
All Kickstarter campaigns must reach 100% funding or the creators do not receive any of the money. Kickstarter has put this rule in place to protect both creators and their potential backers, but it’s definitely something you need to be aware of before you start a campaign.
Because of this all-or-nothing policy, you do yourself no favors by setting an unrealistically high goal.
- You really need to do your homework to figure out exactly how much money you will need to make your idea a reality.
- Once you know exactly how much you need, ask for no more than this amount…and no less, either, or else you won’t have any enough money to fulfill your obligations to your backers even if you do get 100% funded.
In the U.S., Kickstarter charges a 5% platform fee of the total amount collected plus a 3-5% payment processing fee.
Indiegogo is another fantastic community where people can find funding for their creative projects. It can be a great choice if you’re looking for a crowdfunding site that offers a little more flexibility.
In several ways, their rules and regulations are less restrictive than Kickstarter’s.
- You can promote anything and everything on their site – not just creative projects.
- You have the option to keep whatever is pledged to your project, whether you reach 100% of your goal or not.
- There is no campaign application and approval process with Indiegogo like Kickstarter requires.
The Fine Print
Like Kickstarter, Indiegogo’s platform fee on all funds raised is 5%. For payment processing, it charges 3% + 0.30 per transaction.
As mentioned above, you can choose to receive whatever money is pledged to you, regardless of whether or not you meet your goal. Indiegogo calls this “Flexible Funding.”
While Flexible Funding is a nice security for you, keep in mind that it may scare off some would-be backers. If you are confident enough in your project’s ability to reach 100% funding, you may want to consider choosing “Fixed Funding” instead.
Fixed funding campaigns work just like Kickstarter campaigns. No money is disbursed unless the project is fully funded.
Patreon is a very unique crowdfunding site. Instead of asking for one-time payment from backers for a specific project, creators on Patreon look to build a base of subscribers who support them on a monthly basis.
To be clear, Patreon is not a place that you would go to get your tech invention to market. Instead Patreon works great for people who are regularly producing new content like videos, music, podcasts, or artwork.
Creatives in these types of fields can do very well on Patreon and build large bases of monthly backers.
How? By giving their subscribers extra perks like exclusive content, behind-the-scenes access, or free merchandise.
In this way, Patreon can act like a second revenue stream, or a “membership” level, for your business. If you end up being ultra-successful as a podcaster, for example, you can continue receiving income from your Patreon backers (and encouraging new listeners to become backers) even after you start selling ads on the podcast.
When it comes to their platform fee, Patreon receives 5%, just as the others that we discussed above.
However, because of Patreon’s subscription model, payment processing fees become more important as do their payout fees.
Patreon is unclear as to the exact amount that creators will be charged for payment processing. They say that they try to reduce this cost by batching charges at the beginning of the month and only charging backers once even if they support more than one creator.
My guess is that your cost will still fall within the 3-5% range that the other platforms charge.
For payout processing, Patreon charges $0.25 for every direct deposit and for PayPal deposits they charge $0.25 or 1% of the amount transferred capped at $20 per deposit.
Best for Individuals or Nonprofits
If you need to get money from strangers for personal reasons, these places can help.
GoFundMe has become known as the go-to spot to get fundraising for charities and personal causes. From families dealing with unexpected expenses like medical costs to communities devastated by a natural disaster, GoFundMe is filled with worthy causes for donors to give towards.
While the platforms that we discussed in the creatives section are a great place to find talented people with awe-inspiring ideas, GoFundMe tends to highlight campaigns that tug on the heartstrings.
Sometimes just knowing that you’re meeting a real need in someone else’s life is all the excitement and return that you need as a donor.
The Fine Print
GoFundMe is the clear winner when it comes to the cost of using their platform. For most countries around the world, GoFundMe charges no platform fee whatsoever and their payment processing fees are modest at 2.9% plus .$30 per transaction.
And if you only partially meet your goal? No problem. You still keep whatever was pledged.
Fundly markets themselves as the crowdfunding platform that does the best job of leveraging social media to reach more donors. In fact, Fundly claims that over 25% of donations on their platform come from social sources.
- Their focus on social begins right with creating your account as individuals starting a campaign are encouraged to use their Facebook credentials to create a Fundly account.
- They will automatically broadcast key campaign activity to Facebook on your behalf.
- They make it very easy to share your campaign on all of your other social networks as well.
Campaign pages are also completely customizable and Fundly makes sure that they look great on mobile devices. And for all you bloggers out there, Fundly includes blog-like functionality on each page so that you can post campaign updates to your backers.
If you are someone who is active on social media, Fundly may be the crowdfunding platform that helps you get the most exposure for your cause.
The Fine Print
At 4.9%, Fundly’s platform fee comes in a tick below the industry standard. For payment processing, they charge 2.9% plus $.30 per transaction.
Like GoFundMe, there is no minimum amount that you must raise before you can keep your funds. Every penny that comes in goes to you (minus the fees listed above), regardless of whether or not you meet your campaign goals.
Although not nearly as large and popular as GoFundMe and Fundly, I had to mention Bonfire because what they do is just too cool.
Bonfire is all about fundraising through selling custom designed T-shirts. You can upload your own artwork or add graphics and text from their built-in design tool.
There is no design cost and the seller keeps 100% of the profit. You can also select to give buyers the option of making an additional donation to your cause at checkout.
What’s so cool about fundraising by selling T-shirts is that not only do you get the initial payment for each shirt that you sell, but you also get free advertising for your cause everywhere one of your shirts are worn!
The Fine Print
Possibly the most amazing thing about Bonfire is that if you choose to not accept donations in addition to your shirt sales, you have absolutely NO cost.
That’s right, no platform fee and no payment processing fee. You just keep 100% of the profit.
How does Bonfire make money? If you do accept and receive extra donations to your cause from donors, Bonfire takes an 8% cut. But this 8% includes both their platform fee and credit card transaction fees, so really their fee is right on par with the other platforms.
Best for Startups and Entrepreneurs
Need money for your business? Check out these options.
Crowdfunder is the place to go if you are the owner of a serious business that is looking for investors to help it reach the next level. Boasting a network of over 12,000 Venture Capitalists and angel investors, Crowdfunder’s network is second-to-none.
Getting on that network is not as simple as creating a campaign page, however. Crowdfunder requires all companies to first fill out and submit an Accredited Deal Application along with all the necessary legal terms and documents.
Then, your application moves into the approval phase. If approved, you are then able to build your “Deal Room” and upload your approved investment documents before launching your Deal live on Crowfunder’s site.
The Fine Print
Crowdfunder is far more expensive than any of the platforms that we’ve discussed so far, starting at $299 a month to advertise on their platform. How can they charge so much?
Because as mentioned above, Crowdfunder is for legitimate businesses, not for personal causes. Businesses on their platform are often looking for investments in the millions of dollars.
If you are looking for an investment of that size, Crowdfunder’s fees are actually quite reasonable. Five percent of even just $1 million would be $50,000.
So from that perspective, Crowdfunder is a great, affordable way to get access to serious investors. But for personal causes or even for smaller business investment campaigns, you may want to look first at some of the other crowdfunding sites.
Unlike the other sites that we covered so far, RocketHub is not primarily a funding site. Instead, they market themselves as “the leading social network for entrepreneurs.” Think Linkedin but specifically for entrepreneurs.
In addition to providing a platform for entrepreneurs to connect, learn from one another, and discover upcoming events, RocketHub also allows members to use their network to raise capital for their business.
Like Crowdfunder, you have to submit your pitch to Rockethub’s management team first. If your business idea is approved, Rockethub will give you access to their ELEQUITY Funding platform.
The Fine Print
Rockethub charges a 4% platform fee plus 4% for payment processing for all completed campaigns. However, Rockethub’s platform fee doubles to 8% for partial campaigns (campaigns that don’t reach 100% of their funding goal).
Talk about kicking a guy while he’s down. For this reason, if you have any doubts whatsoever about whether or not you’ll be able to meet your campaign goal, then I would not recommend using Rockethub.
Whether you are an individual in need, a nonprofit looking for support for your cause, or a startup needing to raise capital, crowdfunding has made it easier than ever to connect with strangers who may just decide to give you money to help you out.
If you have a particular funding platform that you like the best, we’d love to hear about it! Let us know on Facebook or Twitter which crowdfunding site is your favorite and why.