Why Crowdfunding Campaigns Succeed: 10 Case Studies from the Best Crowdfunding Websites

Written by Boheng Su
MPA Candidate, Cornell University (Student Intern – Summer 2013)

PEAKS is committed to helping every one of our Changemakers launch an exciting, inspiring and successful fundraising and friendraising campaign! We scoured the most popular crowdfunding platforms out there, including PEAKS, for ten prime examples and analyzed what they did best. In addition to our 6 Best Kept Secrets to Launching a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign, we discovered several more elements that set the stage for crowdfunding success:

A snapshot of 10 Case Studies (case profiles below)

Key elements for crowdfunding success











A reasonable fundraising goal

A clear and focused narrative


Attractive, heartfelt pictures and videos

Recruiting active champions

Hosting an event to boost local promotion

Developing a clear strategy to target donors

Offering a sample product or souvenir

Harnessing the power of social media

1. Women, Weaving a Difference (PEAKS)

Organization: Community Foundation of Tompkins County (CFTC)

Project: Women’s Fund Endowment

Fundraising Goal: $5,000

Total Raised: $5,005

Campaign Length: 60 days

Link: http://cftcwomensfund2013.peaksmaker.com

What they did best: CFTC’s campaign was successful for a number of reasons, including: their ability to create a focused, engaging narrative; to set an achievable goal; and to effectively utilize their team of 9 group members’(champions) respective networks. By providing examples of the inspiring work accomplished by women in the community, CTFC explicitly shared their vision to “continue this important tradition”  through The Women’s Fund Endowment. Such transparency – along with CFTC’s 14-year history of effectively serving Tompkins County – instilled trust in people donating  to this campaign. Aware of their great reputation and the strength of their networks, CFTC was able to set an achievable goal of $5,000.  All of the aforementioned – further bolstered by social media marketing and personal follow-up to thank each donor - made it possible for CFTC to exceed their fundraising goal.

Favorite tools:

2. 4-H Acres (PEAKS)

Organization: Tompkins County 4-H Acres

Project: A Place to Belong

Fundraising Goal: $110,000

Total Raised: $97,681 (and climbing)

Campaign Length: 60 days

Link: tompkins4h.peaksmaker.com

What they did best: In addition to including a clear, heartfelt narrative and images in their campaign description, 4-H acres took advantage of their Updates. The Updates section of a campaign provides a way to share visual progress and rich content that links back to the DONATE button. For example, 4-H Acres posted an Update of the renovations on the central building, which regularly houses children’s camps, classes and workshops. By sharing the link through social media and email, 4-H acres gave potential donors a “real” way to connect with their cause and feel compelled to contribute. In addition to providing a way to share progress, Updates helped donors foster a sense of trust in the organization’s ability to carry out the proposed project.

4-H Acres also used local events as a primary vehicle for spreading the word about their campaign. By taking advantage of in-house events and affiliated youth activities, 4-H was able to promote their campaign to people who were dedicated to their programs and the building’s safety, functionality and comfort for children.

Favorite tools:

3. The Learning Web (PEAKS)

Organization: The Learning Web

Project: Help ignite a youth’s successful journey down the path to adulthood

Fundraising Goal: $20,000

Total Raised: $12,139 (and climbing)

Campaign Length: 60 days

Link: thelearningweb.peaksmaker.com

What they did best: By recruiting their most  loyal supporters and producing engaging video clips, The Learning Web was able to raise over $8,000 in just five days – more than 25% of their $20,000 goal! The campaign organizers worked with twenty-one champions to produce short, personalized videos for their individual profiles. Additionally, The Learning Web included a montage of champion videos on the campaign homepage. When potential donors and new champions visit The Learning Web campaign, they can instantly watch staff, beneficiaries and other supporters explain why they cherish the organization and their mission to help children (a quarter of which are homeless) ignite their passion as they journey down the path to adulthood. This campaign is the perfect example of the power of video.

The Learning Web also did a remarkable job recruiting champions for their campaign; they had 21 champions set up profile pages before the campaign was scheduled to launch. They hit the ground running, AND they had a team of people devoted to spreading the word and helping The Learning Web reach its fundraising goal. In this way, The Learning Web gained widespread visibility and an expanded donor network.

Favorite tools:

4. Food Justice Walk-A-Thon (PEAKS)

Organization: The GreenStar Community Projects

Project:Food Justice Walk-A-Thon

Fundraising Goal: $10,000

Total Raised: $9,267

Campaign Length: 60 days

Link: greenstarcommunityprojects.peaksmaker.com

What they did best: Being innovative is always the shortcut to success. GreenStar Community Projects (GSCP) combined two major techniques: “recruiting active champions” and “hosting an event to boost local promotion.” In promoting the Food Justice Walk-a-thon, GSCP targeted “Walkers” or champions from the community, who love exercise, enjoy nature, care about the environment and are passionate about food justice. As a result, GSCP recruited 104 champions who leveraged donations from 242 individuals in their personal networks. GSCP came very close to reaching its goal while building an expanded donor network.

Favorite tools:



Project: 4th annual “homeless youth in the alley” bowling tournament

Fundraising Goal: $2,000

Total Raised: $3,575

Campaign Length: since May 11, 2013

Link: crowdrise.com/NPHYBowl/fundraiser/danielwathen

What they did best: This bowling tournament was another successful “event style” crowdfunding model. Local events and activities are great ways to get a group of people with similar interests together, and use those passions to raise relatively small amounts of money. The Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth set a reasonable target of $2,000 and exceeded their goal; first-time success helps campaign organizers gain credibility for their next campaign.

Favorite tools:


Organization: Forum of Young Global Leaders

Project: Education in a Pill – Bihar, India 2012

Fundraising Goal: $100,000

Total Raised: $137,539

Link: crowdrise.com/dewormtheworld/fundraiser/younggloballeaders

What they did best: Not only did this campaign raise a whopping $137,539 for their cause, but they also recruited “big-name” champions like YGL Harvard 2010, which raised $15,975 (more than 10% of the total funds raised). This campaign demonstrates the power of networking with institutions and individuals that share your interests and beliefs – don’t be shy about it! In fact, sometimes institutions and people wishing to help are looking for more good projects to support. Their Facebook and Twitter accounts were also well managed in terms of number of followers and consistency in posting and promotion; both are powerful tools to have at your disposal when trying to reverberate your cause across cyberspace.

Favorite tools:

7. Cycle of Life Tour (Indiegogo)

Organization: Think Communications

Project: Cycle of Life Tour

Fundraising Goal: $1,000

Total Raised: $3,100

Campaign Length: 17 days

Link: indiegogo.com/projects/cycle-of-life-tour

What they did best: This case is another good example of using dynamic video to tell a story. The organizer filmed  himself throughout his journey, providing a unique, first-person angle on his campaign and making his supporters feel like they were partaking in his challenge. Making a video like this may require some degree of skill or access to equipment, but the bottom line is: be creative and get in front of the camera and start talking!

Favorite tools:

8. Sudanese students seek an education for peace at the United World Colleges (Indiegogo)

Organization: The United World Colleges (UWCs)

Project: Sudanese student seek an education for peace

Fundraising Goal: $11,000

Total Raised: $11,468

Campaign Length: 60 days

Link: indiegogo.com/projects/sudanese-students-seek-an-education-for-peace-at-the-united-world-colleges

What they did best: This is another case from Indiegogo.com, a website which prioritizes video. This campaign created a high quality video to share the stories and dreams of the students they are supporting in Sudan. The video details how the students were selected and clearly describes the project expenses, building confidence in their donors that their contributions would be used to change the lives of Sudanese children. The video was heartfelt, clear and powerful.

Favorite tools:

9. July Nine Reusable Bag (Kickstarter)

Organization: Kickstater.com

Project: July Nine Reusable Bag

Fundraising Goal: $10,000

Total Raised: $29,995

Campaign Length: 33 days

Link: kickstarter.com/projects/78914564/july-nine-reusable-bag?ref=discover_pop

What they did best: We’ve included this campaign as an example of how one might use their passion to support a worthy cause. In this case, the campaign is centered on the production of a product – a fashionable, reusable bag – designed by fashion designers committed to using locally available resources. The nature of the product supports the reduction of waste and environmental conservation.

Favorite tools:

10. Build a Community Kitchen (Indiegogo)

Organization: The Takoma Park Silver Spring Community Kitchen

Project: Community Kitchen

Fundraising Goal: $31,000

Total Raised: $25,156

Campaign Length: 30 days

Link: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/build-a-community-kitchen

What they did best: The techniques in this case are not fancy or unique. This campaign combines a clear narrative with a touching video and an event – the results are amazing. So far the community kitchen program raised $25,156 in less than a month. Both the narrative and the video were short and sweet, allowing the audience to grasp the story quickly and clearly. Meanwhile, the host challenged herself to run 31 miles to match her fundraising goal. Undertaking such a challenge  can draw significant attention and funding to your cause, especially from close friends, family and personal acquaintances who want to see you succeed.

Favorite tools:


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    In partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension, PEAKS supports changemakers working in five program areas.