Crowdfunding is a major buzzword these days, especially in the social good space. There’s a good reason for this: it’s projected to become a $90 billion dollar industry by 2025 and 30% of that money will be directed toward charitable causes. Simply put: if you're raising money for social justice, you need to consider crowdfunding as a potential tool.
I work with WonderWe, a crowdfunding platform devoted to creating action and raising money for social impact. I've worked with a wide array of individuals and groups seeking to use crowdfunding to raise money. What I've found is that these well-meaning individuals often believe crowdfunding will be the magic bullet that will solve their fundraising woes. While crowdfunding is a very powerful concept that gives fundraisers access to tools for online giving, mobile donations, and a new network of donors, it is not a magic bullet. Like all things worth doing, it requires effort and a plan. In other words, crowdfunding + a well executed plan = success. Crowdfunding + no plan or execution = failure.
In this article, we're going to get you everything we know about running a successful campaign including email templates, social media images, and other strategies we've used to help run fundraising campaigns. None of this article is theory. Every bit of it comes directly from the projects we've helped raise money on WonderWe.
First, let's have a look and what crowdfunding IS and what it IS NOT. Crowdfunding is most definitely not a magic bullet. If you just put your campaign online and wait for people to give you money, you're going to be sorely disappointed. There's no shortcut to anywhere worth going. This will take work and you need to be prepared for it. The good news is this article will get you everything you need to set yourself up for success. When used properly, Crowdfunding IS an amazing tool that will allow you to link up with new audiences in new ways to raise money that wouldn't otherwise have been on the table. Crowdfunding also allows you to share the story of your cause in a very powerful way. When you combine the unique advantages of crowdfunding with hard work, magic happens.
Crowdfunding defined... Simply put, crowdfunding is the process of raising many small donations from 'the crowd' to achieve a larger fundraising goal. 'The crowd' is usually found online, but it can also be any combination of friends, family, co-workers, or other networks you are part of that are friendly to your cause. Crowdfunding requires the use of a crowdfunding 'platform' that will help you collect donations and share your story. WonderWe is a platform that combines the power of crowdfunding with a social network. This means it'll be very easy to share any campaigns with friends and get them donating in the way that is most convenient for them - whether from their computer, via social media, or from their smartphone.
Now that we know what crowdfunding is, let's get you everything you need to make your fundraising campaign a success...
1.) Building the foundation of your campaign.
Any successful crowdfunding campaign does the following for prospective donors: it tells a story, explains the 'why' behind the campaign, presents a compelling video, tells donors what's in it for them, and explains what the funds will do. Let's unpack this...
- Story: We all relate to stories. They're why we go to movies, root for the hero, or are compelled to take action on just about anything we act on. It will be vital for your campaign success that you develop a relatable story to draw people into your campaign. For example, one of the campaigns we're running on WonderWe is to help a Swedish nurse who is being discriminated against due to her refusal to perform abortions. The campaign page features a video explaining her case, several quotes from those who had denied her employment, and a direct ask from her husband. Even if you're raising funds for a group, it's still important that you find the story of one person or one family who will be impacted by your campaign so that others will be compelled to help and share.
- The 'why': The Swedish nurse I mentioned was engaged in a legal battle with Swedish courts. She was pursuing justice because she had faced a clear case of discrimination, yet, the courts ruled against her. As a result, the courts set a dangerous precedent for similar cases in the United States. Even though the campaign told the story of the nurse, it also had a global meaning. We wanted anyone who viewed the campaign to know that this nurse's experience could be repeated anywhere in the world so that by donating to the campaign they became part of a mission that went far beyond the story of this one nurse. Here's a screenshot from that campaign:
- Create a compelling video with a strong call to action. Notice I didn't say expensive...I've seen people spend thousands on videos for their crowdfunding campaign only to come up raising less than they spent on the video! Don't let this be you. Most projects won't need a professionally edited video. You just need to be sure your video a) tells a compelling story b) talks about what's in it for the people contributing (more on that in a second) and c) asks them to contribute. To do this, just grab a friend, a smartphone, create a solid script, and record a short (no more than 2-3 minutes) video of you speaking from the heart about why people should give.
- WIFM. Much as we might not like to admit it, we're all tuned into WIFM or 'what's in it for me?' radio. Because your potential donors will be wired in this way, you need to answer this question for them. WonderWe hosts campaigns that are focused on social good, so the key with these campaigns is to show donors how they will become part of something larger than themselves. For example, one of our campaigns helped a 'no kill' animal shelter rescue a cat, named Kotik, from another shelter that would've euthanized him. The campaign hit its goal in half a day because people read the story of Kotik and saw directly how their contribution would lead to an animal's life being saved. Similarly, your campaign should clearly show how your donors will benefit from donating.
- Explain exactly how the funds will be used. I can't stress this enough. Not only do you need to show people what's in it for them, you also need to explain exactly how the funds will be used. The more specific the better. Generally, campaigns are best when the money is going to one specific project. One of our campaigns used the following statements: 'funds will be used to feed 500 families.' 'All donations are being matched.' 'A donation of $400 will feed an entire family of 4 for a year!'. In just three simple phrases, they've shown potential donors what's in it for them and exactly how their dollars will be used for social good. Take a page from this book to craft a campaign that clearly communicates with prospective donors.
By following the above outline, you'll lay a strong foundation for a successful campaign. Now, let's explore some ways to really make your campaign shine...
2.) Images and graphics.
I find that images can be one of the most challenging parts of building a campaign, yet they are one of the most important aspects of telling your story. The people checking out your campaign have very short attention spans so you want to grab that attention with compelling images. The Kansas City Irish Center ran this campaign to renovate a new space. You'll see that they have clear crisp pictures all around and a terrific graphic showing how they plan to build out the new space. You may not need a graphic like that, but you do need to be sure your pictures are crisp, not blurry, and grab people's attention. If you don't have pictures like this already, take a bit of time and get some pictures that help tell your story. Once you have them, you'll need to make sure they are the right size so they look good on the campaign page. One of my favorite tools for this is Canva. It's a free photo editor that is incredibly simple to use and has lots of great built in features that will help you. I created a video that will walk you through creating photos in Canva and adding them to your campaign page:
3.) Pre-heating the Oven.
Now that your campaign page is looking great, it's time to start reaching out to your networks for help. Where possible, we recommend spending 2-3 weeks ahead of your campaign start date to build pre-launch momentum. (NOTE: If you are raising money in a crisis situation, such as an accident or medical emergency, please skip to step 4. In those instances, it is more important that you launch quickly.)
Let's assume you spend 2-3 weeks on your pre-launch plan:
- 14-21 days out: Take stock of your network. Your social network will be one of the most valuable assets you'll have for building your campaign. Also, if you have other people helping you with the campaign, you'll need to ask them to share the campaign in their networks as well. At this stage, you just want to sit down and explore the people you're connected with via LinkedIn, Facebook, and your local community. Who among them has big influence? Who will be most likely to believe in you and your cause? Use these networks to create a list of your 'top 25' contacts who will go to bat for you in spreading the word about the campaign.
- 7-14 days out: Build a PR plan. This can be one of the most challenging parts of a crowdfunding campaign, but getting news coverage of your campaign can really help to make it successful. You also don't need to hire an expensive PR firm to make this happen. What you do want to do is shoot out an email to your network, explain the basics of your story, and ask them if they know anyone with a blog or other news source who would be interested in covering it. Returning to the example of the Swedish nurse who was denied employment due to pro-life views, we were able to find several news outlets that were interested in sharing the story because it related to issues of life and freedom of conscience.
- 7-14 days out: Activate your network. Now it's time to let your network know what you're up to and ask them for help in spreading the word. All you need from them in pre-launch is a commitment to help spread the word. You can do this by simply sending a short email to all of your contacts. Something like this:
In 1 week, I'll be launching a campaign for [name of your cause]. I know this is an issue you care deeply about and I'd greatly value your help. The only way this campaign will be a success is if friends like you help us spread the word. When we launch, I'll provide you a sample email to forward and social media posts for you to re-share. Would you be willing to help us out by sharing these items?
Thanks for letting me know!
- 1-7 days out: Follow up on PR leads. Journalists and bloggers are busy people, so don't be offended if they didn't respond to your first email. Send them another email to check in. Be sure to reiterate your campaign story and why it should matter to them. Also, journalists love compliments, so if they've done stories that relate to your campaign, be sure to compliment them!
- 1-2 days out Launch. Now that you have commitments from friends and news outlets to help share your story, you need to get those emails ready to fire off on the day of launch. You'll also want to be sure you have several social media posts that are ready to roll the day of launch (I'll walk you through easy ways to share social media posts in a few moments). One great tool that'll keep you organized is boomerang for gmail. This terrific app allows you to schedule emails for sending. This way, you don't have to create dozens of emails on the day of your campaign launch, instead, you can just spend the week before launch scheduling emails to go out the day of (or shortly after) your campaign launch.
Pre-heating the oven is all about building the momentum that will propel you into a strong launch. You'll have your work cut out for you post-launch too, but a strong pre-launch plan makes that a great deal easier.
Now that the big day has arrived, your sole mission is to create exponential engagement during your launch phase. You're going to have to get people sharing this campaign outside of your network if you want it to be successful. Thankfully, you already set that up by reaching out to your existing network. The key now is to get your network to share it with their network. Here's how you do that:
- Social media tactics: Social media can be very intimidating. There are dozens of platforms that people are telling you you need to be on. We recommend picking 1-2 platforms that are best for your audience and putting focused intensity on those. For example, Facebook and Twitter are great, but did you know that Instagram posts get much higher engagement? The bottom line is you need to choose the social media platform that makes the most sense for your campaign and knock it out of the park with that. If you try to work with more, chances are you'll get overwhelmed. In our case, Twitter has been an excellent tool because many of our followers are aligned with our mission at WonderWe. Here's the process we use on Twitter that you can replicate on the social media platform(s) you choose to use:
- We make it as easy as possible for people. People are busy, if you send them an email with 'sample tweets' the chances are they won't copy and paste that for you. If, on the other hand, you tweet at them and ask for them to share it with friends the chances are much greater that they will do. We've made this very easy in WonderWe by building buttons in that you can just click to easily share with friends:
- Target friends with @ notifications. Every social media platform has a way to direct a message at someone. In Twitter, if you put the @ symbol in front of a username of one of your friends, the tweet will be more likely to get noticed by them than if you just Tweet to your followers. In other social platforms, you can 'tag' people to make sure they notice. Tagging is as simple as writing their username in the post, which causes your friend to get a 'notification' telling them this post is important. Here's a screenshot showing how to do this in WonderWe:
- Schedule posts. You're going to have to communicate with people for the duration of the campaign. Personally, I don't like getting up every day and trying to remember to Tweet, Instagram, or otherwise get social with people. A much easier way is to block out a bit of time at the beginning of the week and schedule posts. I use buffer for this. Buffer is a great app that makes it easy to schedule out a bunch of social media posts. It's basic version is free.
- Email tactics: Even with all the social media out there, I still stand by email the best tool for spreading the word about your campaign. The lifespan of a Tweet is barely 5 minutes, but email almost always gets checked - especially if the email is from someone we know. Email will be a critical part of your strategy. As a first step, you should email your contacts about your campaign. WonderWe makes this easy by allowing you to click a button, import your email contacts, and send the campaign to them. Here's a screenshot: You should also email your networks with regular updates - especially as your campaign starts getting donations. I find that these two emails are the most effective for keeping momentum rolling:
A few weeks back, I emailed you about the campaign I'm launching on WonderWe. Because you're influential in [insert name of your cause] would you be willing to connect with 3-5 more people in your network who might help us spread the word? Thanks for letting me know!
Hi Julie,We're live! We just launched [insert name of cause] on WonderWe! You're one of the most influential people I know. Any help spreading the word would be AWESOME. We created a special page to make it easy: [insert link to your WonderWe campaign] There are buttons in the upper right of the page that make it easy to share. Could you hop onto that page and share with your Facebook, Twitter, and email networks? Thanks Julie, you're the best!
P.S....It’d mean the world to me if you after you clicked the link above, you forwarded this email to a handful of friends, family, and co-workers.
- Live events. Hosting a live event can be a great way to build buzz around your campaign. For example, we hosted an event for Big Brothers/Big Sisters where people could donate live using their We#code. This great WonderWe feature even allows people to donate via their smartphones! Once you have people at a live event, that gives you a great forum to share the story of your campaign and make the ask for support. If they can't give, they can definitely share it with friends.
- SWAG. While I wouldn't recommend this for every campaign, having free stuff like t-shirts, cups, or other gear can be an effective way to get people sharing. With WonderWe, you can even print your We#code on these items to make it easy for people to find and give to your campaign.
There you have it...the most exhaustive guide to crowdfunding that we've ever provided. Alongside this, the team at WonderWe is always happy to help make your campaign a success! Just fire an email to email@example.com and we'll be right with you! Also, we'd love it if you left a comment below letting us know what you thought of this article!
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