Crowdfunding has become an essential tool for everything from new product launches to charity fundraisers. If you have a brilliant new idea or a cause you’re passionate about, crowdfunding is likely to figure in your plans—but with so many crowdfunding sites out there now, you might be wondering which one is best for your specific needs.
The answer to that question involves many factors, including site features, community, and fee structures. Before we dive in, here are four key considerations to keep in mind as you compare sites.
Four key factors in comparing crowdfunding sites
Ease of use
If a crowdfunding site is difficult to use or understand, choose a different site. Before you start a fundraiser, navigate through the site. Does it make sense to you? Do you like how the pages look? The best crowdfunding sites make you want to spend time on their pages, learn more, and get involved. Take a look at the site’s existing fundraising campaigns. Do they make it easy for donors to use? Start the process of setting up a fundraiser—if it’s difficult, that’s a bad sign.
Are the people behind the crowdfunding site accessible? How so? Does the site offer email addresses, live chat, a phone help line, or all three? Remember that your friends and family members will be donating money, and they might need help, too. It’s important for the people behind the site to be honest, responsible, legitimate—and available.
Tools for tapping into your community—and theirs
Take a look at the social networking tools the crowdfunding site offers. The best ones have easy-to-use tools that make it easy to tap your social networks using Facebook, Twitter, email, and more. What kind of reporting do these features come with—can you easily see who’s responded and who hasn’t, so you know who to follow up with? Since your social network is a vital piece of your crowdfunding effort, features like these are essential.
To get support from outside your own network, a crowdfunding site should have an active community that’s a good fit for your cause. The top crowdfunding sites have large communities devoted to paying it forward. If there isn’t a strong community on the platform, what’s the platform fee really buying you?
When a crowdfunding site takes a percentage of all the money your raise for itself, that’s called a platform fee—the fee you pay for the privilege of using the platform. Typically, platform fees range from 7% to 12%. Any site charging more than that should raise a red flag in your mind.
Look out for punitive fee structures on the crowdfunding sites you consider. Some increase fees if you don’t meet your goals. Others have an all-or-nothing model that leaves you with no funds at all if you haven’t met or exceeded your goal.
Also, beware of bundled fees. Some sites bundle their platform fee with fees for third-party payment processing (from PayPal or Stripe, for example), making it harder for those raising funds to figure out where they’re money is going. Whatever the fee structure, make sure that all fees are clearly stated and easy for both you and your donors to understand.
At many crowdfunding sites, you won’t be able to access your funds until the fundraiser ends. This allows sites to make money from the sum total of donations that are unavailable for withdrawal—in essence, a hidden platform fee. Before you choose a fundraising site, make sure you understand when each option will allow you to access your funds.
Keep these four key factors in mind as you review the top crowdfunding sites in each category.
Crowdfunding for education
This nonprofit crowdfunding platform makes it easy to raise money for any classroom in need of funds. Public school teachers across the US use the site to create classroom project requests. Charity Navigator gives DonorsChoose a four-star rating, due in part to the site’s transparency and the amount of control given to each donor.
Fees: Third-party payment processing charges of 1.5% represent the weighted average of fees across all payment methods used by donors. Credit card or PayPal donations include a fee of about 2.5%. The site charges no platform fee, as operating expenses are covered by voluntary donations to the nonprofit.
GiveCampus partners with colleges to help students, alumni, parents, and faculty launch crowdfunding campaigns for school-related projects. Each school has guidelines for what type of campaigns people can create. Funds raised go directly to the school itself. It’s free to create a campaign, as long as your school is partnered with GiveCampus. GiveCampus claims that 27 of the country’s top 50 colleges use its platform.
Fees: Schools choose from two fee options: a monthly subscription or a small percentage of funds raised.
Piggybackr provides a fundraising platform where parents and students can raise money (as a team or individually) for school projects. It’s the only crowdfunding platform that allows fundraisers from children under 13. Piggybackr gives students points and badges for their fundraising efforts.
Fees: Platform fee of 4%, along with 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for payment processing.
Crowdfunding for personal causes, nonprofits, and more
With its compassionate crowdfunding services, YouCaring serves several categories, from individual medical or educational needs to communitywide disaster relief. You can withdraw funds as soon as they’re donated. YouCaring also offers resources including live chat and fundraising guides.
Fees: No platform fee (unique in this category), only the industry standard 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for third-party payment processing through either PayPal or WePay.
GiveForward is most commonly used to fundraise for medical expenses. Beyond fundraising, your page allows donors to send words of encouragement. You can also create a wishlist of items that donors can buy directly, allowing donors to connect their donation to a tangible result. GiveForward is owned by YouCaring.
Fees: Platform fee of 5%, along with 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for third-party payment processing. GiveForward allows donors the opportunity to cover these fees on behalf of the recipient.
As the name implies, GoFundMe is a platform for personal causes, though charitable causes can also use the platform. Its simple interface allows users to easily share campaigns via social channels.
Fees: A 0% platform fee in the US, UK, and Canada and 5% in all other countries, along with 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for payment processing, for a total of 7.9% plus $0.30 per pledge.
CrowdRise assists people raising money for charitable causes (not personal ones). The site has no goal requirements or deadlines—it’s not all-or-nothing. You can also earn Impact Points when you donate to causes on their site. CrowdRise is owned by GoFundMe.
Fees: Platform fee of 5.9%, along with 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for payment processing. CrowdRise allows donors the opportunity to cover these fees on behalf of the recipient.
Classy is designed for fundraising teams working collaboratively, and the site comes with a campaign reporting tool to help track fundraising progress. Another site feature helps teams organize volunteer events, including ticketing and event registration. If you’re part of a robust organization with a large staff working in multiple locations, this could be an excellent choice.
Fees: Doesn’t disclose pricing for premium offerings (contact the site for a quote), but services start at $499 per month.
Crowdfunding for creative projects
Kickstarter is a hub for creative people and projects. Creators seeking funding for particular projects can use the site to raise funds and bring the project to life. Creators (ranging from individual designers and inventors to large corporations like GE that want to test new product ideas) offer backers rewards, such as a small piece of the project, the first available prototypes, or the products that they are raising money to manufacture. The site is especially good for tech projects, as its community is full of early adopters. You must raise all the funds you need, or get nothing.
Fees: Service fee of 5%, along with 3% + $0.30 per transaction for payment processing. All or nothing.
If you want help at every stage of your creative or entrepreneurial project, from the moment you have the idea to after you start selling, this site offers tools to help you get the job done, from pre-launch to crowdfunding and distribution. It’s especially good for technology and media-related projects. You can choose either all-or-nothing and flexible funding. The site encourages fundraisers to offer perks that engage fans and spur donations.
Fees: Platform fee of 5%, along with 3% + $0.30 per transaction for payment processing. Choose between all-or-nothing and flexible fundraising models.
This crowdfunding site allows you to gather recurring patronage for your art or other creative projects in the form of monthly subscriptions from fans. Patreon encourages users to offer rewards to fans as a way to repay them for their support.
Fees: Platform fee of 5%, along with 3% to 5% plus $0.25 to $0.35 for payment processing, PLUS “payout fees” of either $0.25 to $0.35 or 1% per payout (capped at $20 for PayPal disbursements). Additional fees apply to payments made by international donors. In other words, you may find the fee structure a bit confusing.
Crowdfunding for entrepreneurs
Fundable focuses on helping entrepreneurs, startups, and companies raise capital from the public. The site allows users to offer either rewards or equity in return for financial support.
Fees: $179 a month, along with 3.5% + $0.30 per transaction for payment processing. All or nothing.
If you want to grow your existing business, WeFunder can help. Your investors receive a small stake in your company, and the platform aims to increase their emotional investment in your success.
Fees: $195 to start, 4% fee for “regulation” crowdfunding, plus the value of stakes in your company.
This equity crowdfunding platform allows businesses to sell shares to accredited investors. Crowdfunder has a network of 12,000 venture capitalists and angel investors.
Fees: $399 to $1,999 per month.
As an equity crowdfunding platform, Seedinvest allows startups to raise funds from individual investors and venture capital firms. Entrepreneurs must meet their minimum funding goals before investments are made final.
Fees: 5 to 7% placement fee with a 5% warrant coverage or equity, plus a $0 to $4,000 fee for escrow, marketing, and legal expense reimbursements.
Crowdfunding for real estate
PeerStreet offers private real estate loans from accredited investors. As a testament to its transparency, the site also opens up past investments to review and scrutiny. Loan duration is between six and 24 months, with loan-to-value ratio usually under 75%.
Fees: 0.25% to 1% service fee on the total loan amount.
A crowdfunding site for commercial real estate equity investments, Real Crowd aims to take the middleman out of real estate investing. Accredited investors can browse, compare, and invest.
Fees: Minimum investment of $25,000 to $50,000. Fees charged to those who list investments, not investors.
This site brings its users together to invest in residential and commercial real estate. Both accredited and non-accredited investors can use the platform. Each investment has a fee that varies depending on whether the investment is a loan or an equity purchase.
Fees: Minimum investment of $2,500.
For engaged couples or newlyweds, this crowdfunding site helps raise funds for a wedding, honeymoon, or even the down payment on a new home.
Fees: Free basic level. $39.99 for Honeyfund Elite, along with 2.8% plus $0.30 per transaction for payment processing.
Slated is an equity crowdfunding site for movies. This start-to-finish platform helps with funding film projects, finding talent, and distributing the final project. It also offers extended services such as script analysis for an additional cost. You must be referred by a current member to become a member yourself.
Fees: Equity in your film.
The only crowdfunding site dedicated to scientific research, Experiment helps researchers raise the funds they need to pursue new discoveries. Backers can review their impact through open access to data and the resulting journal publications. Experiment has a funding success rate of 47.1%. It’s an all-or-nothing model.
Fees: Platform fee of 8%. All or nothing.
Choose your platform
Use this list of top crowdfunding sites to find the platform that works best for your project or cause, and make it a success. For more crowdfunding inspiration, check out these tips and ideas. Start your free fundraiser today.
For a more in-depth look at crowdfunding read Crowdfunding Expert Roundup: 13 Pros Make Predictions.