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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.