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9 Crowdfunding Ideas

18 Crowdfunding Ideas for Businesses & Startups
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated February 10, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
So you’ve got a great idea for a new product, service, or business…but you lack the funds to get it off the ground. Without money in the bank, you worry that your idea will never come to fruition.One solution might be crowdfunding. Another might be traditional fundraising. While the internet often uses crowdfunding and fundraising to mean the same thing, there is a distinction. Crowdfunding typically involves raising money for a business idea or project via social media or a crowdfunding site. Fundraising, on the other hand, is generally used by nonprofit organizations to raise money to support people in need or community projects.If you're an entrepreneur with a business idea or project that will support your local community (or the planet), you may be able to do both. Here’s a look at ways to use crowd-based fundraising to get your new venture off the ground.

What Is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding involves raising small amounts of capital from a large number of people typically through an online crowdfunding platform. Unlike a small business loan, you generally don’t have to pay the money back with crowdfunding. With rewards-based crowdfunding, for example, you simply need to give your donors a reward, such as a t-shirt with your company’s name and logo, a discount or early access to your product or service, or a VIP experience with your company. With crowdfunding, anyone can donate to your business idea (even friends and family), not just professional investors.Recommended: The Reward-Based Crowdfunding Guide 

How Crowdfunding Works

To start a crowdfunding campaign, you typically need to create a page on a crowdfunding site. You may also want to make a video explaining why you need the money and what you plan to do with it to bring your campaign to life.You also usually need to set a fundraising goal, which is the minimum amount you need for your project. It’s important to set it high enough, but not too high. If you don’t end up meeting your goal, many crowdfunding sites send all contributions back to the donors.Once you’ve set up your page, it’s generally up to you to promote your campaign to your networks, including friends, family, and professional contacts, via email and/or social media.Recommended: What Donation Crowdfunding Is & How It Works 

Pros and Cons of Crowdfunding

Using crowdfunding to raise funds for your business idea has a number of benefits, as well as some drawbacks. Here’s a look at the pros and cons.


If your business is new or you don’t have strong credit, you may not qualify for traditional types of small business loans. With crowdfunding, you don’t need to have any business history or strong credit to start raising funds. And, with rewards crowdfunding, you don't have to pay the money back. Another benefit of crowdfunding is that it can help you raise awareness and excitement for your business or project, while also giving you a chance to test out your idea and see how people are responding to it. If you need more capital in the future, having a successful crowdfunding campaign under your belt could help convince a lender to approve you for a business loan.


On the downside, it can take a fair amount of time and effort to create an attention-getting and successful crowdfunding campaign. In addition, there may be costs involved in launching your campaign — especially if you choose to make a high-quality, high-impact video — with no guarantee of any return.Also keep in mind that, with many crowdfunding sites, you don't get to keep any of your donations if you don’t meet your fundraising goal. Even if your campaign is successful, you typically don’t receive 100% of each crowdfunding donation. Crowdfunding platforms generally keep a small percentage of your donations as a service fee.Recommended: Guide to Regulation Crowdfunding

9 Fundraising Ideas

While online crowdfunding can be a great option for startups, you may also want to consider raising funds the old-fashioned way – with in-person events. Like online crowdfunding, this can give your business idea exposure and generate excitement for your project. If your business venture will benefit the community (or the planet), you may be able to borrow some ideas from the nonprofit fundraising world, keeping in mind that as a for-profit business, you follow different tax rules and regulations.Here’s a look at some fun local events that may help you raise money for your business venture.

1. Host Workshops

This idea can work well for B2B as well as B2C businesses. If you’re launching a B2B business, you might host a workshop in your area of specialty — such as teaching small businesses how to use social media, set up a website, or manage their finances — and charge each participant a fee. If you’re launching a B2C business, you could create a workshop focused on your area of expertise, such as showing people how to make beauty products, take great photos, or train their dogs.

2. Put on a Local Concert

Another in-person fundraising idea is to hold a local concert. If your business idea or project is community-focused and serves an important unmet need, you might be able to get a local musician or band to donate their time for the event. Charge for the event, as well as for refreshments, and you might be able to raise a sizable sum.

3. Host a Game Competition

This can be a fun way to get people in your community involved in your startup, and raise funds at the same time. The game event could include board games, relay races, scavenger hunts, or any other type of competitive activity. Participants would pay a fee to participate, which would go towards your fundraising. You could provide prizes to winners without spending too much of your budget.

4. Hold a “Pay It Forward” Sale

If your business serves the public, you might be able to boost sales with a “pay it forward” sale. Encourage people to buy one of what you sell (such as a coffee) and another for someone else on line, offering a discount on the total. People often enjoy doing random acts of kindness, and this kind of promotion can also generate positive associations with your brand.

5. Organize an Art Auction

If your business idea will better your local community or — better yet —  the local arts scene, you might consider asking local artists to donate work for an auction. You can run the auction as part of a ticketed event, such as dinner or cocktail party. Or, you could run an online art auction.

6. Get People Running, Walking, or Hiking

People often love an opportunity to get out and walk, hike, or run for a good cause. If your business has a positive, community-focused mission, you may be able to raise money by hosting a local walkathon, hikeathon, or runathon. Rather than have participants raise funds (the way nonprofits often run these events), you can have them simply pay a fee to participate.

7. Donate a Portion of Your Proceeds

People may be more motivated to patronize your business if you make it known that your company is dedicated to giving back. Consider offering a promotion where, for a certain period of time, you will donate a portion of all sales to a cause that matches your brand’s mission.

8. Sell Apparel

You may be able to raise seed money for your business idea by selling t-shirts or other apparel (such as hats, jackets, or bags) that have your company’s name and logo or simply a great slogan that represents your brand. You could sell them through your website or at local events.

9. Rock Out with a Battle of the Bands

This in-person crowdfunding idea not only helps you raise the money you need but also gives up-and-coming local musicians the chance to shine. Singers and bands pay a registration fee to participate, and you can also charge admission.Recommended: Crowdfund Loans for Small Businesses

The Takeaway

Even if your business is still early-stage, you may be able to raise the funds you need  to take it to the next level through online crowdfunding and/or in-person fundraising. Also keep in mind that, whatever stage your business is at, you may be able to raise capital by bringing in an investor or getting a business loan, such as a startup loan or loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

3 Small Business Loan Tips

  1. Generally, it can be easier for entrepreneurs starting out to qualify for a loan from an online lender than from a traditional lender. Lantern by SoFi’s single application makes it easy to find and compare small business loan offers from multiple lenders.
  2. If you are launching a new business or your business is young, lenders will consider your personal credit score. Eventually, though, you’ll want to establish your business credit.
  3. SBA loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration and typically offer favorable terms. They can also have more complicated applications and requirements than non-SBA business loans.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some crowdfunding ideas for small businesses?
How can you determine which crowdfunding idea you should pursue?
Is crowdfunding appropriate for startups or small businesses?
Photo credit: iStock/HAKINMHAN

About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Su Guillory is a freelance business writer and expat coach. She’s written several business books and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and SoFi. She writes about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards.
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