From golf tournaments to galas, big events are tried-and-true tools for raising funds and building relationships in higher education. But recently, some nonprofits have begun turning to "crowdfunding" as a vehicle for finding new friends and donors. Could this latest fundraising trend benefit theological schools?

Crowdfunding is the practice of getting small online donations from a large number of individuals. Most crowdfunding is organized to fund private, for-profit organizations, and the majority of donations are $80 or less. These micro-donations are very attractive to young donors and can draw a diverse audience. In 2014, $3 billion raised by crowdfunding went to social causes.

Just like a traditional event fundraiser, successful crowdfunding depends on setting clear, realistic goals, considering expenses, recruiting volunteers and donors, and marshaling resources. Many nonprofit organizations piggyback a crowdfunding campaign onto a thriving third party event, such as an established marathon. By partnering with a well-known third party event, a theological school can promote a crowdfunding campaign more effectively. 

For example, as part of a popular community 5K run/walk, organizations can set up a team, create a website, and seek online sponsors. This model allows volunteers to tap into their own social networks, and it gives theological schools an opportunity to tell their story to a wider audience.

A compelling narrative can make all the difference to a successful campaign. A powerful video can spread a school’s mission or even go viral, attracting an international community of stakeholders. By saving on costs and reaching new audiences, crowdfunding can be an engaging new tool in a school's fundraising toolkit.

For more on crowdfunding, check out these resources: