Gretchen Barry is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub. Gretchen has been a leader in corporate communications and marketing for 20+ years. She has published numerous articles related to charitable giving and is a passionate advocate for public schools. Gretchen has donated her time to numerous causes including Relay for Life, Girls on the Run, Rebuilding Together and just recently became involved with the local land trust. Gretchen graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in English literature. She currently serves as the Director of Marketing at NonProfitEasy. Follow her on Twitter.
Let’s just acknowledge one fact: fundraising is hard. Try as we might to convince ourselves that donations will flood in once we launch our crowdfunding campaign, in today’s world, that’s not likely to happen. People are bombarded with donation requests—alerts and messages pop up while we browse Facebook, news articles expound on the troubles in our world (and then offer us ways to help) and it seems as though a new crowdfunding campaign is in the news every day.
So how do we push past all that online noise and hold the attention of friends, family and even strangers in a world with constant distractions? It takes one part creativity and two parts perseverance. There are no sure things when it comes to fundraising and I can’t help you with the perseverance part, but there are a few unique ideas and tips, some incorporating more traditional fundraising tactics, that can help you get attention and spread the word about your campaign.
#1: GET CREATIVE
Gather the troops and start brainstorming ways that you can grab the attention of supporters, bloggers and media. Start by going way beyond what you think is necessary. I always like to tell people to start with the seemingly impossible and work back from there. Another brainstorming method is to start with what others have done that has been wildly successful and dissect why it was successful, then think beyond that.
For more ideas, consider attending some of the great crowdfunding conferences coming up this spring.
#2: TELL A GREAT STORY
Maybe you’ve never read A Tale of Two Cities, but I bet you know the opening line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
Or, how about Snoopy’s famous opening sentence, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Social media interactions are ephemeral in nature, so it is crucial that you find a way to quickly grab the attention of visitors on your crowdfunding page and efficiently draw them to donate. Your story should quickly grab the reader’s attention. The great thing about being a nonprofit is that you already have an advantage—your mission is all about stories. And it’s likely that most people who work for your organization have at least one compelling story to tell.
Making a donation is a personal and emotional decision, and powerful storytelling is the best way to help a prospect form a connection with your cause. Your nonprofit should already be well-practiced at the art of compelling storytelling. Your only challenge is going to be adjusting it for your crowdfunding audience. It needs to be brief and compelling and you might want to consider video. When using a peer-to-peer/crowdfunding platform, many of the most successful campaigns started by telling their story in a video that absolutely engages the audience.
Regardless of whether it’s by video or in written form, your story needs to:
● Communicate your campaign goal
● Explain your organization’s mission
● Connect with the audience on a personal level
All three of those things need to happen in roughly two minutes or two paragraphs. To simplify things, start by going through your past donor communication and other messaging and repurpose it for the right format.
#3: MAKE YOUR ONLINE CAMPAIGN SING
In the crowdfunding world, how you present yourself on your campaign page is everything.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
● Do I have a compelling picture and/or video on my campaign page?
● Did I include perks/giving levels that incentivize my supporters to give?
● Have I told my story effectively?
A bonus tip: campaigns with great photos receive six times more donations than campaigns without any images.
#4: COMBINE CROWDFUNDING AND TRADITIONAL FUNDRAISERS
There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to crowdfunding so don’t forget to consider combining more traditional means of fundraising with your crowdfunding campaign. Matching gifts is one way to get more bang for the buck so make sure to remind supporters to check with their employers to find out if the campaign would qualify for a match.
Events are another great option. Combining crowdfunding with an event seems counterintuitive, but in reality, it makes perfect sense. Here are a few ideas built around fairly popular missions. Feel free to run with them or use them as a way to come up with your own unique ideas.
Throw a happy hour party at a local pub and include your four-legged friends. Promote your crowdfunding page prior to the event and get teams to raise funds with the promise of special recognition for those who bring in the most donations.
Talk to local restaurants and have them whip up some special treats for your pets to enjoy, too. Keep the “yappy hour” in line with the theme of the event by having the liquid refreshments made with pet-friendly names of classic drinks. To add to the evening’s fun, have special contests, like one for the best pet and pet-parent look-alikes.
Dance-a-thons fall right into college students’ wheelhouses. Dancing? Check. All-nighters? Check. Hanging out with friends? Check. What more can they want?
Have your dancers gather donations based on the number of hours they think they can dance, then have supporters make those donations through your online crowdfunding page.
If you have a school-based fundraising goal, like sending your fifth grade students on a weekend field trip or buying new computers for your university’s library, start with a crowdfunding campaign. Reach out to the large network of supporters your school has between students, parents, alumni, staff and faculty. Once your campaign is started, the event itself can help close the gap between your goal and your funds raised so far. You can even honor major campaign contributors at the dance. Keep things fun and keep the funds coming in.
Themes are the Rage
Hands down, the most successful walks, runs and rides have a compelling story that supporters can rally behind. It is a make it or break it component. But in the past few years, many of these events have also started incorporating themes like zombie or mud runs. The theme adds an element of fun to the event but when you add a crowdfunding component, the theme can also be incorporated in your fundraising page and outbound communication. These events can be far reaching and pull in supporters you never could have attracted otherwise. Same goes for the crowdfunding aspect so the combination of the two is uniquely lucrative.
Supporters want to be charitable and your organization will see exponentially more success if the event is fun as well.
#5: CONQUER YOUR FEAR OF ASKING FOR HELP
Regardless of whether your campaign is purely crowdfunded or you combine crowdfunding with more traditional events, this is where people usually duck and run for cover (AKA abandon their crowdfunding campaign). This really boils down to one basic fact about human nature: We hate to ask for help. I firmly believe that many of us would rather be hog-tied and thrown in a river of flesh-eating fish than ask someone for help. Why is that? Because we are afraid of:
● People saying “no.”
● Bothering others.
● The idea we can’t solve something on our own.
What most people don’t realize is:
● We ask people for help all the time.
● People step up in times of need.
● Crowdfunding is successful because people are willing to give to others (even complete strangers).
Crowdfunding is growing in popularity and that’s a good thing because it means people are getting more comfortable with the concept. The challenge now is that it becomes more difficult to grab attention. The great news is that your own creativity, story and passion to get the job done can overcome any challenge. Believe that you can do it and make it happen. Oh, and don’t forget to thank all your donors.