How to build momentum for runaway, successful 24-hour matched crowdfunding campaigns

crowdfunding

Any organization that dares to crowdfund hopes their crowd will rush forward to help reach their goal well before time’s up. We’ve all seen it happen – and we’ve all seen it not happen. Sometimes the reason just makes sense, but other times not. Why some and not others?

I recently had the privilege of working with a local school and a local synagogue in my community that both ran “WOW” runaway, successful first-time crowdfunding events using the same platform: Causematch. Both have approximately 150 families, and both have run events (a concert) as their primary fundraiser; however, the shul is 30 years old, and the school is 5 years old. Like almost all organizations I speak with, BOTH were nervous about their ability to reach an annual fundraising goal using this method. One said: “Well that type of organization does better with crowdfunding because the community understands the value of educating children and providing scholarships. If people go to other shuls they won’t want to contribute to ours.” OR “They are so much more connected in the community, but our parents won’t get involved because we already charge them tuition.” TOTALLY valid points. So how did the shul reach their $72K goal in 3 hours then finish with $122K? How did the school raise $200K in 5 hrs then finish with $244K??

I’d like to break it down to show you that this is replicable and not a “given” for some organizations and not others. However, it takes what sometimes feels like a monumental amount of trust, letting go, priming, and your all-in effort to engage the most important element in any community-based crowdfunding campaign: Your Crowd.

oca200kmargolese

Rabbi Margolese, OCA Principal at Event HQ

The driving factor in building momentum from your crowd is effective pre-campaign excitement. Strong pre-campaign communication rallies your most committed community to reach out for the campaign.

  1. The shul placed an ad on the cover of their local community advertising bulletin, placed a banner in-shul, ran notices in the shul newsletter for 3 weeks, sent out lots of emails for volunteers, started a facebook group encouraging members to share what they appreciated about the shul and to share updates about the campaign, made a kiddush the Shabbos before the campaign, and rallied a decorating committee to help make their campaign day call center fun.
  2. The school placed no print ads, created a remarkably active facebook engagement with a “selfie contest” to share what they love about their school, flyers in the newsletter, decorating the school with a 20-foot handpainted banner and ceiling garlands, T-shirts for every family and campaign swag for the kids, an online ad the day of the campaign, and emails leading up to the campaign (primarily to the parent body).

The common denominator: though there was a small core team (staff/volunteer) to “manage” the campaign – they opened up their trust circle and engaged their school/shul community to get involved in the planning and messaging. They didn’t ‘task’ them with specific jobs – they asked them to help share their own messages. They let go. This is not always possible, but it is THE key to broadening your motivated team. It’s scary as heck. It’s even scary for me – to walk an organization out onto that ledge and see whether their community is going to join in / care. But when it does happen, there’s nothing like the feeling to the organization itself. The authentic appreciation that gets shared can be more overwhelming and bolstering than the money that comes in.

Their members get primed, excited and motivated about the value of their organization – and they see lots of their group rolling up their sleeves to donate, share the campaign link, and make direct asks – making it more normal to do something most of us hate doing: “asking for money.” Instead: we shift into this great mindset of: “This is an incredible place / people, etc. You gotta be a part of helping it succeed.”

Causematch commented after the OCA campaign, that their campaign had experienced more traffic than any prior campaign – despite their campaign goal being $200K vs. $1M or a campaign with an international audience.

Many organizations are more cautious and are not in a place or willing to allow their supporters to message freely the way both of these organizations did. However, this “ownership” and “user-generated content” is part of the formula that builds your crowd in a crowdfunding. Not allowing it puts the onus back on the organization and its team to get that word out / solicit, which is absolutely fine and can be a very successful model. Just prepare for significant targeted solicitation.

How not to crowdfund to an empty room

empty-room

Throwing out a crowdfunding campaign into the wild of the internet without a plan is the online equivalent of pitching to an empty room. Perhaps you think crowdfunding campaigns draw their funds from random visitors that find you online. Many people actually think this (even when they don’t admit it) – and that’s why they invest hundreds, even thousands of dollars in online advertising for a crowdfunding campaign. While this works for a sliver of organizations, it doesn’t for the VAST majority.

Are you the sliver? Do you save the lives of babies and children or adorable pets? Do you answer the call for an emergency that needs absolute IMMEDIATE action? Go for it. Throw up a campaign, invest in some heartstring-pulling, emotional, visual advertising – then bring in your past donors who see you via those ads, as well as new donors.

Or are you the VAST majority: causes that span the gamut of education, year-round human service, religion, health, …um, pretty much all of you. How do you crowdfund effectively to raise an ambitious goal without an eager crowd, ready and waiting to help?

No crowd? You do what you ALWAYS do / avoid doing: You gather a committee. Someone somewhere just said, “Aw geez…. you mean working with PEOPLE?? I thought that was what crowdfunding was going to allow us to skip!!!!” Not if you want to do it well. You need a crowd to crowdfund the significant mid-tier donations that actually move you toward your goal, and that means building a committee.

Giving is social. “Relationship” gifts – are based on “relationships.” Crowdfunding enables you to engage your supporters in opening their relationships to supporting your cause, on a grassroots level – from anywhere at any time. You need to focus engaging your 1st circle of supporters to become your inner circle. Influencers. To share their passion for this cause with their friends and encourage them to be a part of this change – as their friend.

Engaging your inner circle of 5-10 people to put together the crowdfunding with you in crafting the message, the prospecting list, user-generated content, and recruiting more influencers increases the capacity of your crowdfunding campaign 5- to 100-fold. Not all of them should be involved in all parts. Your business people help you with your prospecting and solicitations. Your creatives help with your marketing. Your socializers help rally their friends. Now you have the makings of a crowdfunding campaign – because your email list, your personal network, and now their personal networks are the targeted and untargeted members of your campaign.

Skip engaging your inner circle as your committee – and meeting your remotely ambitious crowdfunding goal is a shot in the dark. With your committee – and proper planning with them: you can prospect your way to your goal in advance of your campaign, share the message of what you do with way larger circles, and deepen your relationship with your inner circle – which I always recommend.

Should I Crowdfund?

boss

You’ve got a great cause. You’re doing great work. You can show traction over the past year or two or more- that you’re making a difference, but you need either more start up funds or support from the community to offset the financial cost of the great value you provide. You even have a facebook page!

But.

You have a paltry email list with a lot of bounces. Or you have thousands on your list, but your open rate means that 600 people regularly read your emails. You have little visual content about the work you do. You are the only person plus your volunteer staff posting in your facebook group.

Can you crowdfund?

I made you sound awesome, right? But the answer is actually, “Probably” :). But the first question is SHOULD you crowdfund for your cause right away?

  1. Direct Solicitation? See that image up there? More and more younger professionals / millennials / Gen Xers are getting involved in causes and wanting to make a difference while/after they’ve made lots of money doing something for-profit. They want their money to do something good. If you can come up with (with your board, volunteers, & staff! not on your own) a list of people who are one degree of separation away from you who have a few thousand to invest in good work – you should explore that avenue. You can even pitch them on a matching gift to further leverage their money in accomplishing even more good. Direct solicitation is controlled, less time-consuming, larger individual gifts, – partners in building. Do NOT use crowdfunding as a way to replace / avoid that most important partner in your development of cause work. Don’t leave mid- to high-level donors to community-directed crowdfunding pitches. With sites like Causematch and Charidy, you can even pitch these donors to become partners in an exciting crowdfunding campaign. But crowdfunding for causes and engaging your community takes time and thought – with a lot of moving parts, to be done well. If you haven’t worked on direct solicitation yet – then you must determine whether you should move on that first, before or concurrently with a crowdfund. Let’s approach this ‘smartly’ (not just desperately).

  2. Existing events? But you’ve always run a dinner, concert or a raffle, should those be replaced? Um, if people do them out of obligation, you don’t collect on pledges, they take a lot of time and don’t really further your mission, the expenses are high reducing your true profits… these are good reasons to think about replacement. If people look forward to these events (like very little arm-twisting needed) and they turn the desired level of profit- then keep them. If they do not – then think about restructuring them for the benefits they do provide (ie: social, connecting), but creating an alternative channel for the benefits they don’t (ie: revenue). Some organizations do incredibly well with these and rally great support, others’ events are truly mediocre. Be honest with yourself and look at your bottom line.

  3. Part of a bigger plan, or because everyone else is doing it? Yes, it does seem like everyone else is running a successful crowdfund every day. But, I’d just like to testify that there are way more folks running crowdfunds that don’t reach their goals every day too. (Wait, aren’t I supposed to be encouraging you to do this??? I truly believe most causes should incorporate crowdfunding, but smartly!) Cause-based crowdfunds that don’t reach their goal don’t look good for organizations – publicly. So, just because everyone else is doing it – sorry, no dice. Crowdfunding should serve your mission, community outreach, and funding goals. Using it as a one-off fundraising tactic – like an online charity box – is lacklustre, high-fatigue crowdfunding that will damage your online fundraising efforts in the long run if you don’t learn to incorporate the mission / community-outreach aspects with your crowdfunding campaigns.

    BUT. “I haven’t got any major- to mid-level donors, events, or a plan, but there are people in the community who support my work (even just a small group). Now what? NOW WILL YOU TELL ME I CAN CROWDFUND (OR DIE)???” Yes, you should! And let’s set it up to try to aim toward your second-level funding (larger money or deeper engagement)! Stay tuned….

Great Causes Don’t Compel Gifts. Great Asks Do.

0000-motor-guy-1024x683

Saving lives. Nothing more compelling or worthy a cause. And the video they made – about the true story of a father missing his son’s birthday to save the life of a young girl in a car accident – I’m welling up. Really. Oh man, this is a home run video! I can’t keep making these $18 donations! Then comes the ask. How could I not give???

Then comes the build up to the ask at 2:50 on the video. “They volunteer their time for you!” … “Thousands of heroes save lives everyday…” “Support United Hatzalah Today!”

And, I close it out, feeling fine to go on with the rest of my day. How’s that?

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Push me, and I pull the other way. “They” – have cast themselves and then the donor as the other. United Hatzalah became “They” NOT “us.” I can close my window thinking about them and how much wonderful good they do. Keep up the great work, heroes! They can do anything, and for sure all those people they’ve helped will step up and donate.

Whoops. The narrator missed the opportunity to turn this into a ‘We’ – “We can’t do it without YOU.” Bring the audience into the picture as an active player: without the audience  no amazing story would ever be heard. Invite them in, show them how important their active role is. Any tries to redraft how that last segment could have been reframed to move the audience into the story?

 

 

 

Crowdfunding Storytelling

Ice Bucket ChallengeSo, raising money via crowdfunding doesn’t always need a ‘story.’ Sometimes it takes a great, social game (that strategy fueled the most successful social-change crowdfund in history).

But for most efforts to motivate giving: it’s reaching the heart, tapping into the emotions, to activate giving by relating personally. It’s stories that appeal to the emotions. Go ahead – try to impress with impact, etc. but – you’re tapping into the brain. Listen to Caryn Stein from Network for G00d – I know, it starts out a little dry – (I know, ironic for a storyteller). Take her advice: TELL A PERSONAL STORY. It’ll increase donor gifts and conversions. I say: think about your reader (here, your donor) – and the story that will resonate with them – not you.

Some good takeaways (cuz, I know, it’s 59 minutes long. Poo)

Focus on one person, one problem. “Small works better than big. One works better than many.” It’s hard for us to relate to many vs. connecting to ‘one.’ It’s easier for us to connect to one person vs. a group of people. “One death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic.”

7-300x199

Focus on hope, not hopelessness. Make sure to help the donor recognize their impact – not that their action is going to be meaningless. ie: Save 1 child in a refugee camp of 100,000. VS. Save 1 child in a refugee camp of 20.

Focus on your readers (donors)’ perspective: Why is it relevant to THEM? What will they get for their donation – what is the tangible impact? Who’s the best messenger for your appeal – to tell the story? Why give / share / volunteer right now – and what will happen if they don’t.

THE SECRET RECIPE FOR AN EFFECTIVE STORY TO MOTIVATE ACTION

  1. Emotion***
  2. Compelling opening (subject lines that raise curiosity and inspire fulfillment)
  3. An authentic, relatable hero as well as involving the donor
  4. Desire: A drive to change something (fix a problem, etc.)
  5. Conflict: The challenge to realize the desire / change. – Involve the donor in here as the agent of change.
  6. Compelling imagery. It looks real – tells a story of the need being met or showing the need. Images of a real person. One person vs. groups.
  7. Rich, tangible details that bring the story to life. Short – but enough to pain a clear picture of the impact of the work – that transport the reader to your story.
  8. What happens next? Call to action: links to the story, urgent, immediately actionable, clear, specific action. How they can become part of this story.

And, why should you believe her? Why not present statistics? The big picture? Because the platform she works for actually tracks the effectiveness of campaigns using these strategies vs. other approaches. Data. It’s useful, but not as the inspiring lead role in your fundraising story.

Why isn’t your fundraising working?

After taking the leap and founding Jewish online giving days last year and my most recent Giving Day work that helped 23 organizations raise $5.35M on Feb. 17th with only 2 months lead time, I hear myself being dubbed a fundraiser. That’s only sort of true. It’s much better than that: I like to build strategies and provide tools and insights to explode through organizations’ goals, while unlocking and opening up new streams of revenue. But how can I, the non-fundraiser, do that, while folks who’ve been fundraising for decades are now struggling?

To me, funding and programming are integrated, so it shouldn’t take away from their cause work or be draining. Really? Really. That’s why I LOVE doing this and connecting as much as I can – because I deplore watching amazing programs get demoralized, side-tracked, or worse: sink under “fundraising” and LOVE helping organizations do more of what they love and the community needs.

I believe and operate on this: The more value from a product / program, the greater the funds that can be offered to pay/support them.  It will unlock your fundraising. I know others do it differently:

Of course, there are other ways to elicit those funds, because: Perception = Value. Relationship = Value. Product = Value.

For example, Perception = Value: You pay $5000 more for a Lexus ES than a Toyota Avalon despite the same goods under the hood: they share a platform, transmission and engine. $5000:  for some – worthwhile for the bragging rights and interior amenities. For others: rip off. It depends on the customer’s / donor’s values!

Relationship = Value: There is a private school with 200 students that brings in $3.5M a year in fundraising, struggling with enrollment. Their revenue per student a year is $42,000. Down the street, there is a similar private school with 300 students that brings in only $500,000 a year in fundraising and grants, bursting from the seams. Their revenue per student a year is $15,000. The first school has a seasoned fundraiser with incredible relationships with high net worth donors. Worthwhile? Depends on the donors’ values!

Product = Value. Wouldn’t that be the fairest for everyone? If a product provides X value – that is what you pay or that is what they receive?! I hear the dissent: “But it’s all relative!” While one person values the contribution of a certain cause and sees that its mission is being pursued in a responsible, effective, and efficient way – commensurately – then that person becomes a supporter. They’re thinking, “This is so worthwhile and needs to happen!” Meanwhile – someone else will see it and think: I couldn’t care less or I have other priorities that need ME, this is for someone else. Or they’ll think: the efforts aren’t worth the output. And they’re not a supporter. Ever. But the same goes for products: you know, like Jimmy Choos, or a wahwah pedal, or a vacuum cleaner. I’d buy the vacuum cleaner. My husband would buy the wahwah pedal, and my daughter would buy the Jimmy Choos. 🙂 But there’s a customer for all of these -and that’s my insight:

It means: I don’t classically “fundraise.” I don’t encourage raising funds without looking at whether you’re meeting your goals: are you a good investment based on your own standards? Do you have a plan and the resources to be a good investment? Once you are, then your unique supporters can and will sustain you. (Confession: I LOVE the genre of start-up literature. my FAVE aisle in the library. I no longer read much from the nonprofit sector. Cause organizations are change-makers. And if a cause organization is no longer a change-maker – then it’s not for me.)

What do I really do: I help organizations that truly are change-makers leverage what they are: their immense unique value. It’s entirely multi-dimensional work: working through programming, people, funding. I help them work & plan smarter and exercise their creativity, identify opportunities and resources, then elicit (and some soliciting) funds to invest in sustaining, growing or evolving their unique value through collaborations or shiny new tools that work on age-old experience.

The first step is self-reflection: If they are not maximizing that unique value or reaching their stated vision: then the first step is to look inside and see what can be shifted. If not: I will NOT  do or recommend Perception-based / Relationship-based only fundraising. Because I believe that the amount going into an organization should be commensurate with their impact and productivity: NOT to support just the image/ brand / relationship to individuals within an organization. They must prove their worth first. Wow… the bounce rate just skyrocketed- and now, it’s just YOU and me ;).

This is the secret to my success: I only work with those who I can be successful with because they’re doing incredible work efficiently – but they haven’t been able to translate it into funding. Who are they? Those people who recognize opportunity, their short-comings, and the absolute need for their efforts to be as successful as humanly possible and willingness to allow others into their efforts- because they see they can help change the world from the corner they occupy. Come hell or high water, funding or no funding. They usually don’t see it, but they are the truly honest, brave ones -potential lamplighters.

Once your output is approaching, equal to, or exceeds your goals and there is just an issue with: how do I raise the funds to sustain this amazingness – that’s where I come in and can help with determining, crafting and opening up revenue streams suited to you.

Once you recognize: “My organization is not meeting its goals to the highest standards and we are unable to raise adequate funds – but I truly am dedicated to my cause,” that’s where I come in and work together on how you can approach your goals with little upfront cash or while opening up new revenue streams, suited to you.

Once you recognize: my organization is raising too much money but not putting out enough of our desired mission – but I am truly dedicated to doing the best for my community with these resources – your answer will likely be in your backyard and happy to help and share your wealth;).

Who doesn’t love unlocking cause organizations to do their best work, meet their goals, and become financially stable without having to take on excessive development expenses or activities? Because theirs is work and investment in our communities and world that can be truly change-making, for the good! Fundraising, I hear. It’s really pitching well-crafted, high-impact investment opportunities. Unlock your potential, and the work becomes invigorating instead of draining.

within your power meme.

In crowdfunding, size doesn’t always matter

I have a new, wonderful crowdfunding insight and story to tell:

cheder moms 72k

A couple of my kids attend a super small school. The elementary has maybe 50 kids total, but there is a preschool with ~120 children. This year, their deficit doubled. Not good. Their executive director left. Not good. Their board dissolved. Ahem. So – they asked, “Can we run a ‘Charidy’ (crowdfunding campaign) & will you help?” Of course, I’ll help – but help. Not run it. Running it will be up to you. It was the best (probably frustrating to them) thing that I could EVER have said. How will I help: I need your board (parents) to meet with me for 1 hour and then I’ll advise your volunteer campaign coordinator (parent, SAHM) through the 4 weeks leading up to the campaign, and I’ll show up on the day of the campaign at the Operations Room. How you take whatever I tell you is up to you, but you can totally do this.

Result: Original 24-hour all or nothing goal: $72,000 ($18,000 in crowdfunding, $54,00o in matching donations). Final total: $165,200 raised!!!

9:00 a.m.-2:30: The operations room of primarily SAHMs led the grassroots effort to its $18K/$72K goal in 5.5 hours.

2:30 Bonus Round: A matcher would double (not quadruple) all gifts to $122K

9 PM Bonus Round: $122K Goal hit, primarily through the mid-tier entrepreneurial committee-led efforts. The matcher would double all gifts to $144K

9:00 a.m.: $165,200. (WTH??? $21,000 of unmatched funds were donated above the goal!!! I know – why didn’t they just mail in checks? See how motivating this can be?)

That = a crowdfunding of $75,200 in 24 hours, with $90,000 in matching. And a total of almost the entire amount of fundraising from the prior year, raised in Dec. in 24 hours (or 4 weeks, including prep) with a 2.9% platform fee (on crowdfunds and matching) and well less than $2000 in publicity, printing, postage, and decor.

Without a director of development. Without an executive director. Without an ‘experienced’ or wealthy board (but well connected). HOW did this happen? The platform, Charidy, had never seen such an excess in crowdfunding before. There were multiple people with expertise, connections, and experience all working together, and their crowd was cheering itself on throughout the entire time. Giving. Is. Social. And their team expanded its results exponentially.

Call me and I can break it down for you, you can speak to these amateur experts as well. But beyond the money, this group is now empowered – and realizes it is THEY that can do this. They, their donors, and those in their community realize that they and so many others are committed to this school beyond reasonable expectations. They motivated this giving. It was an absolutely sophisticated yet inelegant plan – and they conquered a giant. Game-changing crowdfunding turns the Davids into Goliath (but in a good way) and vice versa! They and anyone brave enough to harness it well will continue to grow this fabulous tool to rally crowds and support amazing causes.