Why We've Built Our Own Crowdfunding Platform: Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and Pledgeit

27/11/2012 11:02 GMT | Updated 26/01/2013 10:12 GMT

So here's the exciting news of the day: we're a charity and we've just launched a new crowdfunding site. Which we built by ourselves. Now you'd have to agree that crowdfunding is hot right now, it's been the subject of a Huffington Post TED weekend, every tech blogger is banging on about it (even me now, sorry about that) and people are getting on the internet and crowdfunding everything from new toys to album releases.

Some charities have dipped their toe in the water of crowdfunding. Cancer Research UK now have a nifty function on their online donation section that allows people to contribute to specific research projects. And of course charities have hugely benefitted from the success of JustGiving.

But Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research are the first charity to develop a crowdfunding site like Pledgeit.

On Pledgeit you can challenge a friend to do something. It could be something inspirational that they've always wanted to do, like finish a novel, or something daft, like dress up as a Downton Abbey character for a week. It could be pretty much anything. You pledge that if they complete it, you will give some money to help beat cancer. Then you share it with all your friends and family so they can Pledge towards it too. If all the charity funding at stake motivates the person to complete the challenge, all the pledges are cashed and donated to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. If they don't complete the challenge, we don't take anyone's money.

So why have we built our own crowdfunding site when others already exist, and are making thousands for charity? And why build it in house?

Pledgeit does not already exist

Well firstly because the exceptionally clever Owen Bowden in our team had this great idea that doesn't already exist. No other crowdfunding site that we've found uses the model where someone sets up and controls the challenge, and the money is only released if the challenge is completed by another party. It's unique and we think it's exciting.

100% of the money, 100% of the data

Another benefit is that Pledgeit is ours now. We do not pay any percentage fee, as we would to any external platform. We also have full access to the data. Many crowd-funding platforms release very little amounts of data, and by analysing trends on Pledgeit, we could gain insight that can help us plan and tailor our fundraising planning activities across Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

Integration and functionaility

We will be integrating Pledgeit directly with our CRM system (CiviCRM) and Drupal web platform. We can also see opportunities for using Pledgeit's functionality in other ways.

Looking to the future

We reckon there are opportunities to expand the usage of Pledgeit as a platform, perhaps for other charities too. Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research also like to stretch and develop the people who work here. This way everything we learn is kept in-house - developing staff and improving our knowledge. Including me, I got to write the slightly kooky copy you'll see on most of Pledgeit and the emails. Great fun and a style of writing I had scarcely had the opportunity to use before.

Engaging and inspiring a new audience

We're excited about the potential for Pledgeit to reach out to a whole new audience, beyond the usual circle of Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research supporters. People who might not have considered fundraising before but like the idea of using Pledgeit to make good things happen.

I have a friend who would love to have a go at a big cycling challenge, but would be shy about asking people to sponsor him. Pledgeit means for the first time I can get the ball rolling for him.


Building Pledgeit in house has cost a fraction of the amount it would have cost us to have it built externally. By considering how much an individual challenge for us would usually raise, we calculate that it will only take around twelve people taking on something like the London Marathon for us to break even. We're confident we will see a return on investment in six months.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the creative ideas for challenges that people will put onto Pledgeit. One of my favourite things about it is that it can be used not just for big challenges like a mountain hike or a marathon, but smaller more personal challenges too. I've already challenged my friend Kate to make a roast dinner. Given the success of Movember, I think there are more opportunities out there for unusual, smaller challenges to raise money for charities. And here at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research we're ready to grasp them.