Written by Ashley Black
Dyson School c/o 2014, Cornell University (Student Intern – Summer 2013)
With the rise of websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, crowdfunding has earned widespread hype as an effective way to raise significant amounts of money and gain greater visibility for a project or cause. But like anything new, learning the tricks of the trade can be daunting. While crowdfunding has been largely successful with young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs, PEAKS works primarily with non-profits that are embracing crowdfunding as a complimentary approach to traditional fundraising strategies, like grant-writing. With the unveiling of our 6 Best Kept Secrets, we intend to demystify the challenges of crowdfunding and offer a practical overview to hitting the trail, climbing higher, and reaching your peak!
1. Use your Passion as a Vehicle for Change
Your passion is the single greatest motivation for change: in order to have a truly successful campaign, support a cause you love with an activity you love. For instance: The Learning Web’s campaign was started by Sally Schwartzbach, a Changemaker that loves to ignite children’s passions so much that she’s worked there for 30 years! One of the Learning Web’s champions – Robyn Wishna – is using her passion for photography (and kids!) to raise $1,000 by taking portraits of 65 campers. The portraits will be free for download online, but she is suggesting a donation of $15 per portrait from her network to support The Learning Web and Southside’s Community Unity, Music and Education campers.
2. Pick your Summit and Climb Towards It
The best way to reach your total fundraising goal is by setting smaller, achievable goals along the way. Milestones are a great way to boost morale while showing your network that you are both prepared and committed to achieving your goal. For example: If you plan to raise $900 over the course of a 6 week Campaign, work towards raising $300 by the two-week mark, $600 by the four-week mark and reaching the summit by week six.
3. Assemble your Team and Fan Club
In the same way you wouldn’t embark on an expedition solo, it’s not wise to launch a Campaign on your own – nor as fun! Start a Campaign with a solid team of two or three people who can help manage daily promotion, thanking donors and other essential tasks. Encourage friends and family to Champion your cause, or cheer you on by making a contribution and sharing your Campaign with their friends and family. Share your Campaign or Champion page with EVERYONE you know in your network! Engage them with personal greetings, opportunities for active involvement and by using phrases like “Join Me/Us” or “Be A Part of _____’s community/allegiance, etc.” Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ASK for a contribution: even a “no” means free publicity!
4. Videos Speak Louder than Words (and Pictures)
Using ONLY words can get very boring, very quickly. Embed meaningful pictures and videos on your Champion and/or Campaign page(s), and be sure to illustrate your progress with images and live footage in your emails and Updates! If pictures are worth 1000 words, imagine the power of video! The Learning Web raised over $8,000 in 5 days, over a quarter of their goal to raise $20,000 – we believe it’s because every single Champion made a video.
5. Echo your Cause Across Cyberspace
Traditional ways of sharing news – like phone calls and handwritten letters – can be essential and effective – especially when your grandma isn’t on Facebook. However, if you want to get information to a crowd of people as quickly as possible, “cyberspace” is the way to go! Post your links and updates via Facebook, Twitter, other social media outlets and Email at the following times to spike the number of visitors to and contributions for your Campaign: Tuesday at 11am, Wednesday at 3pm or Thursday at 11am or 3pm. Make direct calls to action. On Twitter, include these words in your Tweets: “Please Retweet” and “RT.” On Facebook use “Please Share” or “Like” and for Email use “Please Forward.” Don’t forget you are fundraising: “Please Donate” rings loud and clear.
6. Shout THANK YOU from the Mountaintop
Thank every one of your supporters, contributors and donors at least twice! They are, and will continue to be, your biggest asset. To add a nice touch, consider writing personalized, handwritten thank you cards and including pictures from your successful Campaign.