Crowdsourcing is often associated with start-ups and blue-chip companies who are trying to innovate, but it has the potential to reach far beyond those with seed money and infinite endowments. The beauty of crowdsourcing is that it is rooted in grassroots fundamentals—an environment that is ideal for non-profit businesses.

It is no secret that non-profits are often the most in need of funding, services, volunteers, and positive change. One way to accomplish this is through crowdsourcing. Here are four ways that non-profits can benefit from crowdsourcing.

Identify your weaknesses

While this may sound like an obligatory job interview question, identifying your weaknesses does not sound the alarm for a crisis or marketing failure. It merely asks you to identify what is missing and how your business can take the next step. Through a type of crowdsourcing called crowdvoting, community members and volunteers can pinpoint areas where you are lacking either in resources, ideas, or product development.  These once identified weaknesses can evolve into strengths once you open the door to feedback and constructive dialog among your most devoted supporters. In 2000, Threadless, a non-profit t-shirt company, turned to crowdvoting to select final products from over 800 crowd-created designs. This decision laid the foundation for a very successful company that gained the popularity of the crowd before they sold a single item.

It takes a village

When we think of volunteers or donations, we often view these benefits from a limited scope. Traditional volunteering and fundraising often addresses a short-term goal, but does not take into account that non-profits have needs that extend far beyond their budget. Enlisting micro-volunteers is a way of crowdsourcing volunteers who can offer services that are normally out of reach. One company called connects non-profits with professionals who can offer creative, technical, and marketing services on a volunteer basis. Once matched, these micro-volunteers can save a small non-profit upwards of $10,000 through building a website, creating a marketing campaign, or writing a grant. Crowdsourcing volunteers and services can allow you to make a quantum leap in the technology age, by accessing resources that were previously unavailable to you.

Fundraising Fuel

Gone are the days of receiving checks from your most loyal donors. Through crowdfunding, traditional fundraising has received a much needed boost. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and GoFundMe use the web to help non-profits and private citizens to create dynamic, engaging, and story-driven campaigns. According to one Forbes magazine article, “the overall crowdfunding industry has raised $2.7 billion in 2012, across more than 1 million individual campaigns globally.” Once a crowdfunding campaign goes live, it can be shared on a myriad of social media platforms. This process alone exposes your non-profit to a new generation of donors who rely heavily on social media.

Building Relationships

Crowdsourcing isn’t just about fundraising and curating new ideas, it also has the power to form lasting relationships with new and old supporters. The symbiotic relationship that unfolds as a result of crowdsourcing builds trust and invites more people to understand your non-profit and its mission. Thinking outside of the box with crowdsourcing is a great way to make sure that your non-profit stays relevant and innovative.

If you’d like to learn more about how they crowd can help build a more innovative nonprofit, you can download a white paper on the subject here.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.