May 25, 2011 · Tips & Insights

On Tap: Five Lessons on Crowdfunding for a Non-Profit Organization


Contributed by Karen Seiger, Sirene MediaWorks


The American Tap Dance Federation (ATDF) is a non-profit organization “committed to establishing and legitimizing Tap Dance as a vital component of American Dance through creation, presentation, education and preservation.”  Based in New York City, ATDF has a vivid history of teaching and performing this quintessentially American art form throughout the US and internationally. 

ATDF recently moved into a new space, and the organization needs to raise $5,000 for adequate lighting in the new studio spaces.

As a non-profit organization, ATDF has ample fundraising experience.  Happily, their IndieGoGo campaign has been a new and successful experience for ATDF in many ways.  We spoke with Tony Waag, ATDF’S Artistic/Executive Director & Teacher, about lessons he has learned from conducting a crowdfunding campaign for a non-profit organization:

  • Revitalize your mailing list:  ATDF has a well-oiled fundraising process, including an extensive mailing list compiled and carefully maintained over 25 years. Tony believes that the list was invigorated by the use of this new online platform.  The ATDF community members felt that the experience was somewhat different from the traditional emails and mailings.  It peaked their interest in being part of something important, innovative, and fun. 
  • Motivate your network: Many of the contributors to the campaign are current students and parents of students. They have mostly contributed online, but several have learned about the campaign and simply handed Tony a check to support the project when they come through the doors for classes. They know first-hand the studios need new lighting!
  • ATDF 2 Contributions can come from far and wide:  Tony told us that he has been amazed and touched by support the campaign has received from people he hasn’t heard from in years.  He has also received contributions from international supporters, which is easy to do on the IndieGoGo platform. 
  • You get great results with a clear goal:  This campaign is slightly different from the organizational level fundraising campaigns and galas ATDF runs because the funds are targeted for the new lighting, which is a very specific project. Tony feels that when people know exactly where the funds are going, they’re eager to contribute.  More importantly, however, the campaign has also helped people understand that every single contribution helps, whether it’s $10 or $125.  ATDF has seen the smaller contributions add up quickly.
  • Persistence Pays Off:  Tony has noticed that people’s attention spans are short these days because they are inundated with so much information.  So he has sent out emails and posted updates consistently throughout the project, and each communication has yielded contributions.  “It’s worth it to put the energy and creativity into your project communications,” says Tony.

ATDF 3Tap dance is an important part of US culture, and ATDF works tirelessly to make sure it lives on and thrives.  It is also a wonderful and accessible art form.  The kids that come through the doors of ATDF learn about music and self-expression. They also learn life skills, such as active cooperation, problem solving, and attuned listening.  They build self-confidence, patience, and communications skills.  It is also great exercise! 

  “Tap dance is clearly a good thing,” says Tony.  “It can be raised to the highly artistic and professional level and considered for its historic importance.  But you can also dabble in it just for fun.” 

Support the American Tap Dance Federation’s Project, share their link, and stop by for a class! 

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