Online Fundraising

Online Fundraising

Every Year I go to an event here in Springfield. It’s a great chance to meet up with like-minded people, and I usually get to get our name out there a bit. Well worth the low price the event costs me.

I’m currently trying to decide if I want to dedicated my money early to the event, or sign up in a few weeks when I intended to. (About a month before the event actually happens.)

Currently, the people running the event are doing an IndieGoGo campaign for their funding. They need money early on so they can afford (without getting a loan) to pay for a good chunk of the event. To me, that makes perfect sense.

But they’ve blundered very hard. As of this writing, they have less than 6 days to make up over 50% of their funding.
That’s not how a fundraising opportunity should go. So, after talking with a friend of mine who works for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks about their events and how to make them more popular, I decided to throw a few of my thoughts about what you should, and should not do, in order to raise money from people online.

No series of hints, tips, or tricks is going to guarantee you success, but here is a list of ideas that should help, if you decide that this is a journey you want to make.

DO

  1. Offer Additional Value
    1. If this is a product or service that you already offer elsewhere, make it worth someone’s while to donate through a specific online site instead of going through your website. This can be done a number of ways
      1. Discounts
        1. If it’s the exact same thing you offer on your website, it needs to be cheaper if you want people to buy it earlier than they normally do.
      2. Additional Features
        1. Offering additional features is a phenomenal way to get people to donate early. Whether it’s behind-the-scenes access, a special pre-event, or maybe a one-of-a-kind-sponsors-only trinket.
      3. Bonus Content
        1. If you’re doing an event, maybe a special meet-and-greet with the people running the event, or maybe a copy of all the photos and videos you take. Give them something extra to commemorate that they were involved.
      4. Limited Edition Items
        1. These will help get people in at the start. If you created a short number of limited edition items that are only available through your event, your community will jump at the chance to sign up and donate money.
  2. Be Funny
    1. When creating your content for the fundraiser, be funny. Make jokes, make a fool of yourself, and be spontaneous.
    2. Make funny videos that are short, which promote your fundraiser. Share them regularly so that other people can share them too!
    3. Write with passion, but tone down the seriousness of what you’re talking about. People like to laugh, and laughter makes people share content.
  3. Offer Videos
    1. Any video you produce for the project should be on Facebook and Twitter, at the very least. Host them through YouTube if you can, so that people can easily share them!
    2. Shared videos are your best bet for getting people to view your fundraiser, and it can lure people in and convince them to donate.
  4. Engage Regularly
    1. Talk with your community. Share updates on Facebook and Twitter.
    2. When people retweet you, or reply, make sure to engage them. Favorite/Like their comments, respond to any questions they have.
  5. Explain what the funding goes towards
    1. What do you plan on spending your money on? People want the inside scoop, and you have a fantastic opportunity to give it to them.
  6. Additional Incentives
    1. The fundraiser should have extra incentives that are available ONLY if your customer donates through it.
    2. You should allude from the start that there will be “stretch goals” – and the first one will be revealed as soon as you hit your initial funding. You should have several others detailed after that, as well, but not released.
      1. This allows you to keep up an air of suspense, and drive people to push towards them.
      2. Releasing videos that tease future stretch goals is a great way to get community members involved with sharing your fundraiser. Those who have already donated may increase their pledges – others will share in an attempt to get people to donate!
  7. Contact the Press
    1. You should issue a Press Release to every news organization in your city the day you start your fundraising campaign.
    2. When you successfully get funded, you should release another Press Release, detailing where you plan to go next with your fundraising.
    3. Prior to the Campaign’s start, you should release a Press Release detailing what your event is, and why you are doing it.
    4. You should be available to talk with any press that may want to contact you so that you can detail what your event is about.
  8. Contact Friends, Family, and Previous Contributors if they exist
    1. If this is a repeat event, you will want to contact your previous donors early, before the campaign actually starts.
      1. This gives them time to prepare/plan funds for your event.
      2. It encourages them to sign up early.
      3. You gain good will by letting them know you want them to return to your event.
      4. You can target them specifically and call attention to things that will interest them.
      5. Let them know before the campaign starts, and the day it actually starts so they can donate quickly.
    2. Family and Friends, as well as your social group, will provide your first big push of funding.
      1. Getting them involved early will get your campaign off the ground fast.
      2. It shows others who are not familiar with your project that there is definite interest.
      3. It will make your campaign look healthy, and thereby make it more likely to succeed.
  9. Offer an Exclusive T-Shirt
    1. T-Shirts are great ways to get people to donate, and exclusive ones are even better.
    2. Campaigns that offer T-Shirts tend to do significantly better than those that don’t.

 

Do Not

The main points are things you should stay away from. Assume each one starts with “Do not”; the subsections of each detail why you shouldn’t do these. In some cases, I offer ideas, thoughts, or options for better ways of handling the situation.

    1. Assume that everyone cares about your event as much as you do.
      1. Nobody cares about your event as much as you do. It is your baby. As a result, you have a vested interest in seeing it be a success. Nobody else does.
    2. Be depressing
      1. You should never tell your audience what will happen if you don’t get funding.
      2. You should never treat your audience like they need to do something different.
        1. If this is a repeat event, you should not tell them that things have to be different this year in regards to funding.
        2. You should not tell them about your financial issues from years past.
        3. You should not blame your audience for anything that happened in previous years.
          1. Blaming language looks like this: “We have to do something different this year.” “Most of you sign up too late for us, and it makes it hard on us.” “We need you to give us your money sooner or we might not be able to have the event.”
        4. You want to keep every interaction with your community positive – instead of telling them that you need their money earlier, offer a positive statement about donating earlier instead.
          1. “If you donate early, we’ll be able to get x Feature set up ahead of time, so that it will work even better than it did last year!”
    3. Tell People About the Value
      1. When you tell people that they’re getting a “great deal” or a “great value” they immediately think you’re trying to sell them something.
      2. What you consider a “great value” might not be for someone else; it’s just another expense.
        1. Given that this is probably not something they need, (or will be able to experience immediately) it might feel like the exact opposite to them when you start calling it a great deal.
      3. Especially when the value is no different from your website. If you offer tickets to an event on your website, but want people to sign up through an online Fundraising Campaign without changing the prices, the value is no different to them than the value they would get by buying it later.
    4. Sound Desperate
      1. Stay away from language like “need” or “have to get funding” or “If you don’t, then we can’t”.
        1. It feels like a hard sell, and people are likely to balk at your attempt to get them to sign up.
        2. It makes people question whether or not you will be successful
        3. It paints a bad/negative image of your event overall.
    5. Wait to Tell People
      1. You should be promoting your fundraising campaign well before it starts.
        1. Teasing some of the rewards is a great idea before you start the campaign.
        2. Let people know which platform you’re going to use.
        3. Talk about the planning beforehand.
    6. Stay Quiet
      1. While the fundraising is going on, you should talk about it daily on Social Media.
        1. Share information.
        2. Share Milestones. (Big donations, first donations, 25%/50%/75% marks)
        3. Encourage people to share your video, etc.
    7. Focus on the Negatives
      1. Do not focus on what you don’t have. These include:
        1. Money
        2. Time
        3. People
        4. Shares
      2. Nobody cares as much as you do, but they will care about your event. Always talk about it, and your customers/community, in a positive light.
    8. Be afraid to be silly
      1. Don’t be afraid to make yourself look a little foolish. People love it.
        1. The best viral videos on the internet are of people doing foolish, crazy, funny things.
        2. You can use that to make your project a success.
      2. Take risks – if you need the funding, be prepared to offer insane, or funny rewards that make you laugh. Things that are cheap to do, like someone getting to throw a pie in your face, or getting a personal phone call from you, or a signed photograph (even though you aren’t a celebrity.)

 

If you’re planning on running an event or a project through any crowdfunding platform, you should always read through everything they offer. They have experts who will help you set up your campaign in a way that will give it the best chance of success.

If you’d like, you can always contact me with any questions you have – we can discuss any ways that I might be able to help you increase your campaign’s visibility, or success.

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