Looking for a relationship? Join the Crowd

Posted: 8th September 2015

Last week at The Cranfield Trust’s inaugural North East masterclass, Dr Steffi Macht from Newcastle Business School shared expert advice on how charities can crowdfund and “begin a relationship rather than just start a campaign”. The class was attended by twenty five organisations with a little or no experience in crowdfunding, but a shared desire to know more about this evolving fundraising initiative.

So what exactly is Crowdsourcing; this blending of ‘outsourcing’ and ‘crowd’?  “taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of a n open call.” Various types of crowdsourcing:

  • Crowd-voting – helping to make a decision – TV shows
  • Ideas-crowdsourcing – asking for ideas
  • Micro-task crowdsourcing – breaking down a big task
  • Solution crowdsourcing – openly calling for people to give you skills and experience
  • Rating and feedback – evaluation sites such as TripAdvisor or Amazon reviews
  • Customer-to-customer interaction – for example, Swisscom sells broadband. Customers looking for help putting child-friendly web filters on their browsers can go to the Swisscom Friends online platform and find neighbourhod help to install the software on their computers.
  • Offline crowdsourcing – crowds of people working together. At Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, 20,000 cricket fans were asked to yell, scream, and grunt to create the sound of the Uruk-hai orcs rallying before the Battle of Helms Deep for The Lord of the Rings movie.

Crowdfunding  is not such a new concept as you may think.  Considering America’s first crowdfunding campaign in 1885 pioneered by Joseph Pulitzer which raised over $250,000 for a granite plinth for The Statue of Liberty - around $6.3m (£4.1m) at today's prices.  Today crowdfunding is gathering momentum through PR, social media and easy options for payment collection.  There are various forms of crowdfunding:

  • Equity
  • Debt
  • Reward
  • Donation

Reward and donation crowdfunding usually refer to projects only, while equity and debt can refer to entire ventures, beyond a single project.  We discussed the kinds of rewards offered by crowdfunding campaigns, anything from a virtual hug to, a call out on Twitter or tickets to a fundraising gig. Most importantly  to say "thank you".

Top Tips:

  • Spread the word!
  • Draw upon your “fans” as well as relevant influences early on
  • Use social and other media to maintain momentum
  • Interact with potential and actual backers (before, during and after the campaign); thank them (not necessarily individually)
  • Build long-term relationships with backers and draw upon their views, skills, knowledge and contacts to further develop your projects and/or future campaigns (i.e. crowdsourcing from crowdfunders)
  • Consider: What are people willing to back? Build the campaign and pitch accordingly
  • Don’t be afraid to ask crowdfunders to share their pledge, any milestones or your updates


Imagination and creativity are keys to creating an enticing campaign but the overriding criteria for success, without a shadow of doubt are transparency, honesty and openness.  The Crowd need reassurance that they will, and indeed have, invested wisely, communication is the fuel to power the campaign.  Whether it be to promote, maintain or feedback.  Remember you’re “beginning a relationship not just starting a campaign”.

The Cranfield Trust and all those who attended the masterclass are hugely grateful to Steffi and Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University.  THANK YOU!

“The amount of flexibility with crowdfunding.  I'd previously ruled it out as a source of income for our organisation but the event has made me reconsider. Thank you for a really interesting and helpful event. It was great to hear from an expert who was so knowledgeable, honest and engaging”. 

If you would like to support the Trust with a donation, please contact us.


Cranfield Trust Newcastle