Donation-based Crowdfunding: What It Is & Examples

April 4th, 2024
7 minutes read

Donation-based crowdfunding is a platform for raising funds where contributors donate money to support a cause or project without expecting financial returns. This method relies on the collective support of individuals who are passionate about specific initiatives or charitable causes.

The definition of Donation-based Crowdfunding

What is Donation-based Crowdfunding?

Donation-based crowdfunding is a method of raising funds for a project, business, or charity by asking many people to donate small amounts of money. In return, donors may receive token gifts or rewards that increase in quality and prestige as the size of the donation increases. This form of crowdfunding is based on donations, meaning that funders do not receive any form of ownership or rights to the project, and they will not become creditors to the project. Donation-based crowdfunding is sometimes referred to as rewards crowdfunding.

This method is commonly employed for various purposes, including supporting charitable initiatives, aiding in disaster relief efforts, covering medical expenses, funding educational projects, fostering artistic pursuits, and promoting community development initiatives. Donation-based crowdfunding campaigns are often facilitated via online platforms and social media channels, leveraging the power of digital connectivity to reach potential donors worldwide.

The most popular platforms GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo play pivotal roles in facilitating donation-based crowdfunding campaigns. They offer tools and resources for campaigners to create compelling fundraising appeals, share their stories, and engage with potential donors effectively. These platforms allow people and organizations to mobilize the support of online communities to achieve their goals.

Key Takeaways

  • Donation-based crowdfunding solicits small online contributions without offering ownership or financial returns, often providing token gifts or rewards to donors.
  • Initiators on donation-based crowdfunding platforms create campaigns, set goals and durations, and seek donations through strategies such as social media sharing and networking.
  • Donation-based crowdfunding offers community support, global reach, flexible fundraising goals, cause validation, and rapid resource mobilization.

How Donation-based Crowdfunding Works

Donation-based crowdfunding enables individuals or organizations to raise funds online, with donors contributing varying amounts and potentially receiving token rewards. This method is commonly utilized for projects, businesses, or charities, and the fundraising process typically involves giving a token of appreciation or a reward to the backers.

How the two types of donation-crowdfunding works
  • Initiation of Campaigns on Crowdfunding Platforms: Individuals or organizations initiate campaigns on crowdfunding platforms by creating compelling pitches or descriptions of their projects or causes, setting fundraising goals, and determining campaign durations to solicit donations.
  • Seeking Online Donations: After launching the campaign, fundraisers actively seek online donations by employing strategies like social media sharing, network outreach, and leveraging media coverage to attract contributors.
  • Contributors Offering Monetary Support: Then, contributors, also known as backers or donors, offer voluntary monetary support to campaigns without expecting ownership, often influenced by the appeal and perceived impact of the project.
  • Receipt of Token Gifts or Rewards: Contributors may receive token gifts or rewards from fundraisers as gestures of appreciation, with the nature and quality varying based on donation size.

Donation-based Crowdfunding Examples

Donation-based crowdfunding platforms serve as a powerful tool for raising funds. Below, you will find notable examples of successful campaigns and the platforms that enabled their achievements.


Kickstarter has facilitated $7.85 billion in pledges, funding 254,525 projects.[1] Notably, Pebble Time’s campaign, launched in 2015, raised over $20 million, making it one of the platform’s most successful projects, attributing its success to factors like a loyal fan base, community engagement, and innovative product offerings.[2]


Indiegogo, founded in 2008 by Danae Ringelmann, Slava Rubin, and Eric Schell, is a renowned crowdfunding platform facilitating over 800,000 innovative ideas with a community of more than 9 million backers from 235 countries and territories, including successful campaigns like the Rooster Teeth film "Lazer Team" raising $2.48 million and Lift Labs' Parkinson's devices, later acquired by Google.[3][4]


GoFundMe enables individuals to raise funds for diverse causes, including medical bills, tuition, and disaster relief. The platform’s most successful campaign, "America's Food Fund," raised $45.1 million to aid food banks and distribution efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.[5]

Pros of Donation-based Crowdfunding

Donation-based crowdfunding enables fundraisers to support causes they believe in, cultivating a sense of community and empowerment, while also allowing for rapid mobilization of resources, often helping smaller initiatives gain traction and visibility. Below, are five of the most prominent pros of donation-based crowdfunding:

  • Community Support: The ability to rally support from a broad community, including friends, family, and beyond, can significantly boost fundraising efforts.
  • Global Reach: Access to a global audience via online platforms expands the potential backer base, increasing the chances of reaching fundraising goals.
  • Flexibility: Donation-based crowdfunding offers flexibility in setting fundraising goals and timelines, allowing fundraisers to adapt to changing circumstances and needs.
  • Validation: Successfully reaching a crowdfunding goal can serve as validation for the fundraiser’s idea or cause, providing confidence and potentially attracting further support.

Cons of Donation-based Crowdfunding

Donation-based crowdfunding, involving contributions from individuals to support causes or projects without expecting tangible rewards, is effective for fundraising. However, it also presents certain limitations and challenges.

  • High Competition: Standing out on crowded platforms is tough due to intense competition for donor attention.
  • No Guarantees for Donors: Donation-based crowdfunding lacks financial incentives, unlike investment-based crowdfunding, potentially deterring donors due to the absence of tangible benefits.
  • Potential for Misuse: Without proper supervision, donation-based crowdfunding can be susceptible to misuse or fraud.
  • Dependency on Social Networks: Success in donation-based crowdfunding depends on the creator’s ability to effectively use social media and their social network. Projects lacking these may struggle to gain support.
  • Reputation Risks: A failed crowdfunding campaign can harm the creator’s reputation, impacting future fundraising and stakeholder relationships.

Donation-based Crowdfunding Regulation

Donation-based crowdfunding in the United States operates within the framework of state charitable donation laws since there are no specific federal regulations governing it. State common law, particularly concerning fraud, plays a pivotal role. Furthermore, platforms must comply with federal intellectual property laws to safeguard against infringement.[6]

Across Europe, donation crowdfunding similarly lacks distinct regulations, unlike its investment-based counterpart, such as equity crowdfunding. Instead, emphasis is placed on disclosure, risk advisories, and imposing investment boundaries for individual investors. This form of crowdfunding mobilizes non-equity capital for creative ventures and charitable causes, operating without stringent regulatory supervision.[7]

What are the 4 types of crowdfunding?

The four types of crowdfunding are reward-based, equity-based, debt-based, also known as peer-to-peer lending, and donation-based crowdfunding. Each type offers distinct opportunities for individuals and businesses to raise funds, whether they exchange rewards, equity, loans, or charitable contributions.

  • Reward-based Crowdfunding: In reward-based crowdfunding, backers contribute funds to projects in exchange for non-monetary rewards, facilitated by platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
  • Equity-based Crowdfunding: Equity crowdfunding enables investors to fund startups in exchange for ownership shares, facilitated by platforms like SeedInvest and Crowdcube.
  • Debt-based Crowdfunding (Peer-to-Peer Lending): Peer-to-peer lending platforms like LendingClub and Prosper involve individuals lending money to others or businesses. Borrowers repay loans along with interest over a set timeframe, enabling lenders to earn returns on their investments.
  • Donation-based Crowdfunding: Donation-based crowdfunding involves raising funds for a cause or project without expecting financial return, often facilitated by platforms like GoFundMe and JustGiving.

What is donor crowdfunding?

Donor crowdfunding refers to the practice of utilizing online platforms and social media to solicit donations from individuals in support of various causes, projects, or charities. This method involves setting up a crowdfunding campaign, wherein the campaign organizer establishes a goal and seeks donations from the public. The funds raised through donor crowdfunding are directed to the campaign organizer, who bears responsibility for managing the funds and ensuring they are used for the intended purpose.

What is the difference between crowdfunding and donations?

Crowdfunding and donations are both methods of raising funds, but they have distinct differences in purpose, campaign model, connection to backers, funding model and return.

AspectDonation CrowdfundingDirect Donation
PurposeLaunching personal projects or business ideas.Typically for charitable purposes and community projects.
Fundr ModelFixed funding target & specific timeframe.No fixed target amount & no specific time frame.
Backer ConnectionBackers from personal networksOften have no personal connection to recipients.
Funding Model“All-or-nothing” principle, backers get money back if project is not fully funded.Donation are immediate and unlimited.
ReturnRewards or token of appreciation based on amounts unlocking tiers.No return

Article Source

  1. Kickstarter: “Statistics
  2. Kickstarter: “Most Funded
  3. Indiegogo: “Our Story
  4. Indigogo: “Success
  5. Newsweek: “The 11 Biggest GoFundMe Fundraisers Ever
  6. University of Tennessee College of Law: “The Legal Regulation of U.S. Crowdfunding: An Organically_Evolving Patchwork
  7. European Commission: “Crowdfunding