Crowdfunding is quickly become a new tool in the fundraising toolbox to tap into your network to raise more money, faster, from a larger audience. It is changing the face of nonprofit fundraising as donors come to not only expect, but welcome, a more engaged approached to giving. Forbes reported that 30% of the $5 billion crowdfunded went to social causes, and this trend only continues to rise.
Join us to learn how you can incorporate crowdfunding to raise the bar on your fundraising initiatives. Perfect as you prep for Spring and Fall initiatives, traditional benefits and even #GivingTuesday (it will be here before you know it!).
This workshop gives participants an overview of crowdfunding, as well as step-by-step direction for how you can take advantage of what a crowdfunding platform has to offer.
The focus is on the lifecycle of a campaign, from prep through appreciation, with a heavy emphasis on the best ways to market your campaign to engage new audiences. You will walk away with concrete steps that you can take to execute immediately. Please come ready to chat about the campaigns you have in mind so that we have an interactive and lively discussion!
What You'll Learn:
- Why crowdfunding is important for your organization
- How to incorporate crowdfunding into your existing fundraising mix
- What types of campaigns crowdfunding can be most effective for
- What other objectives can it help you achieve beyond just making the thermometer rise
- Best practices for setting up and marketing your campaign
- Strategies to energize your community and galvanize an even wider audience
- Q & A / Open Discussion About Projects You Have In Mind
Additional Materials for Crowdfunding 101: How To Run a Successful Campaign, from Prep Through Appreciation!
The special offer for NPA Members:
Here is a special promo code for a free upgrade worth $49 to the Full Service Plan which puts them on a fee of just 6.5%. The code is: PITMAN
Transcript for Crowdfunding 101: How To Run a Successful Campaign, from Prep Through Appreciation!
Marc: Welcome to The Nonprofit Academy. I am so excited for this bonus webinar that we have with Dana Ostomel on crowdfunding. I am so excited that I’m going to try to talk even faster than my normal 400 to 600 words a minute with your orientation for the tools because I want to get into the content. I’m going to be scribbling notes as fast as I can too.
What I want you to notice is that if you’re attending by your computer, you should have a GoToWebinar control panel on your screen. The things that you need to know about that are if there’s a question mark or some sort of exclamation point, that means that you probably are having a problem listening. Just click on that. GoToWebinar can help with that. If you have any questions, feel free to use the Chat feature that’s down at the bottom of your control panel. I’ll be monitoring that.
Also, if you have questions throughout the course of this training, use the chat there. Everybody will see that. Or, you can use the questions. I’ll monitor both. You can also tweet any comments or questions with the hashtag that you see on the screen, #NPApresents. I’m monitoring that during this training as well.
We have a special offer that we’re going to share toward the end. Please, I know it’s recorded, but you’ll want to stick around for the whole thing because Dana is just terrific and the services that Deposit a Gift offer, I have grown to fully appreciate even more than I did when we got started.
With that, it’s my pleasure to introduce Dana Ostomel. She’s the founder and chief gifting officer of Deposit a Gift. The reason I’m excited to have Dana here is that she and I were both quoted in a blog post on crowdfunding. I had never heard of Deposit a Gift before. I’ve heard of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe, those types of things, but what I’ve discovered is that Deposit a Gift, under Dana’s leadership, has a very different feel. There are some similarities, but here are some differences.
First of all, Deposit a Gift has been around for over five years. To me, that speaks a huge amount for its longevity in the field. It’s not just a fly-by-night thing.
Even more importantly, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe are often just kind of all DIY, do it yourself and you have no help at all. Our local high school tried to do something for their band and they didn’t structure it quite right and it wasn’t really as successful as it could have been.
Deposit a Gift is actually human. They provide some coaching. The other things I’ve found is that their fees are less. They have even things like ticket sales options that other crowdfunding platforms don’t seem to have.
This isn’t a pitch for Deposit a Gift necessarily. You’re going to learn a lot about crowdfunding, but I just personally am excited to have this extra tool in my tool belt as we go forward.
Dana, I’m transitioning to you, honest. I promised I wouldn’t hog your time. The other part that I like about Dana is that her background is in marketing and advertising. She’s done work with some brand names that you know: Century 21, Home Depot, DIRECTV. She gets how to communicate in a way that causes people to take action. You have to be able to do that to make your crowdfunding appeal work.
With that start, Dana, I’m thrilled to have you here. I want to turn it over to you so you can share with us all your wisdom.
Dana: Thank you for having me and for that incredible introduction. I’m really honored. We’re excited here over at Deposit a Gift. We are a crowdfunding platform that has a real sweet spot with a lot of the types of nonprofits that you work with, Marc. We are so thrilled to be able to start imparting a lot of the things that we’ve learned about what make a campaign really go and be successful.
As you said, crowdfunding by its very nature is very DIY and probably, I would say, the public’s biggest complaint, if you look on the internet at what people are frustrated about, is just that they’re left to their own devices to figure it out.
There is something to be said to the DIY nature of crowdfunding in that, as opposed to having to invest in some really expensive fundraising software and have a massive training, this is something that’s very accessible to the people. It’s very low risk, very low cost. Crowdfunding in general is a pay-as-you-go model. It actually allows you to test then invest and figure out what’s going to work.
Thirty or 40 years ago, direct mail wasn’t a perfected science. Now, most nonprofits are super comfortable with it because they know exactly what they’re going to get out based on what they put in.
Here we are with crowdfunding, dealing with social media, and a lot of people in the nonprofit space are kind of scared because it feels unfamiliar and they don’t know what they’re going to get for their investment.
That’s really what I’m hoping to do besides just kind of level the playing field with this conversation. Generally, what is crowdfunding? There’s big buzz around it and a lot of people don’t understand what it is. We don’t want anyone to feel silly that they don’t understand. That’s Step 1.
After that, it’s really that we want you to feel comfortable giving it a try and experimenting, knowing that certain things are going to work and certain things aren’t going to work. It’s an art, not a science, but there are certain key principles that you want to keep in mind both for optimal ways to set up your campaign and then really how to market it. That’s the big myth.
Just a little teaser into myths: people think that you can just put a page up and the internet will give you money. That sounds silly and we all chuckle, but we get emails to support all the time. If you read forums on the internet, people are frustrated. They’ll say, “I don’t understand. I spent all this time making my page. Why isn’t anyone giving to it?” Really, your effort should go into planning that marketing strategy and how to execute on it. We’re going to spend a lot of time on helping people do that.
I love to make this interactive. Feel free to ping Marc with questions. I know you’re going to facilitate. We’ll try to answer them along the way if we can. If it feels like we’re getting stalled, maybe we’ll hold them until the end. All of you who are here with us live should be able to take advantage of asking your questions and getting them answered on the spot. Anyone afterwards can email me and Marc and we’ll go from there.
Let’s dive right in. I think I kind of covered this about what you’re going to learn, but leveling the playing field, why crowdfunding is important and really how to run a successful campaign.
I actually spend a lot of time talking to fundraising consultants like Marc. There are two main pieces of feedback I get around crowdfunding, besides the fact that everyone is saying their board is telling them they should try it and they don’t know what to do.
One piece is sort of this feeling of, “Is this another thing I have to do? Our organization is already so resource strapped, and now you’re telling me I have to run a crowdfunding campaign too?” I’m hoping to sort of bring the anxiety level down, dispel some myths, and help you understand some best practices, one of which is your crowdfunding campaign doesn’t necessarily need to be a new campaign.
I think sometimes people think of it as a one-off, the same way sometimes people think of Giving Tuesday as, “I’m running an annual end-of-year campaign and, oh, then I have to run a Giving Tuesday campaign for a day.” They should be integrated, in my opinion.
I think in this day and age, in 2015, every fundraising campaign you do should have an online, social home. Everything should be pointing there for various reasons that we’ll get to.
If you want to integrate Giving Tuesday and the end of the year, which, I know, it’s only May, but it’s one of those things that sounds like it’s far away but you actually want to start planning for it now and cultivating your community for that, you can create an online, social home for your end-of-year appeal so that it’s not just a paper mailing. Give it a more integrated, 360 marketing approach. Then Giving Tuesday would just be an excuse to really do a big push, or maybe do a match, or have a silly goal. That’s how you want to start thinking about it. You want to start thinking about things in a more integrated way.
I think the last point before we dive in that I learned in talking to a lot of nonprofit consultants as well as nonprofit development people is it seems that, in most organizations, the development team and the marketing team is separate. Sometimes they play nice together and sometimes they don’t. What I will highly recommend is that you all need to start holding hands because fundraising is about marketing, but really, crowdfunding is processing but it is a marketing play.
That’s a big difference between your donate page and a crowdfunding campaign. This is processing plus marketing. You need your marketing partners and your marketing partners need you. You should be thinking about things in that integrated way.
That really sets us up nicely for, “Why do we even need to be crowdfunding? We already have a online donation mechanism.” My question to you is, which campaign would you give to? The page on the right is where we are today. That’s probably what most of your donate mechanisms look like. We call that a sterile transactional donation page. It’s clunky, typically. It’s not engaging. There’s no picture. There’s no story. There’s nothing sharable about it, meaning it doesn’t have built-in social media buttons, like a Facebook button, so you literally can click it and it would post to your status.
You’ve got the campaign on the left, which is a crowdfunding campaign. It’s visual. It’s got a super easy user interface, a goal, a thermometer, recent activity feed, all the things that feed the power of the crowd. The benefits of crowdfunding are that it’s efficient, it’s cost effective, and it’s a social way to leverage your network to raise money.
The efficiency piece is really important because from a marketing perspective, whether you’re advertising for The Home Depot or you’re advertising your organization, the reality is that it takes people being hit with a message five to seven times before they take action. If you put all your eggs in one basket of just a direct mail piece, or just one or two emails, and if the email is going to click over to a page like on the right, you might as well not even send the email.
It’s cost effective because it’s a cost effective way to have that repetitive messaging. It’s a social way to leverage your network because you want to be starting to engage with your community more online. That should get you the virality factor if you work it appropriately.
Here’s a close-up of what makes these pages social. The built-in social media buttons that say Share This Campaign Online. You’ve got the goal, the thermometer. Some organizations are really afraid of that because they are worried, “If our thermometer doesn’t rise, that’s really embarrassing,” or, “What should we put our goal as?” That really can be a marketing decision that we’re happy to help coach you on and talk you through.
This whole fear of not making the thermometer rise is a legitimate fear, but I will tell you there is actually a strategy to doing that and to having a soft launch and front-loading your thermometer to make sure that it rises. This whole idea of people just donate, people getting really Negative Nelly, down in the dumps, and they’ll say, “Everyone is giving to their campaign. Why aren’t they giving to mine?”
They think they just like the other organization better. No. They have a better plan than you. They probably lined up their donors. Don’t think that people give by accident. Don’t think that campaigns get momentum by accident. It’s a strategy.
The recent activity feed shows engagement. I always think of crowdfunding as kind of like high school, which conjures up probably bad memories for most people. People want to do what’s popular. People want to be involved with what’s popular. The saying is “giving begets giving.” Your job as a campaign organizer, your number one job, is to make your campaign look as popular as possible. The way that you make it look popular is by getting people to give and leave messages and all sorts of things like that.
Just to do an aerial view of what a crowdfunding site looks like, you’ve got the image area, you’ve got your About text, an easy way to contribute quickly, a recent activity feed, goal, and a thermometer, which we put ours in two places. One thing that you’ll find with the sterile transactional donation page is that your brand loyals, your biggest supporters, will use that. They’ll trudge through whatever to do what you need them to do.
The reality is that those people who are what we call your advocates. Your advocates, even though they would use, pardon my French, a crappy looking page, they are the ones that you want to give a really strong tool to because those are the ones who are going to be part of your army, or what we call your online street team. You want to give them a really strong tool.
For the people who are not what we would consider an advocate yet, they’d be a lurker just kind of following you, or a supporter. Maybe they gave you some money and you want to turn them into an advocate. You want to give them something that’s really slick and easy to use and fun. Kids are not the only ones who like things to be fun. Grown-ups like things to be fun too, and easy.
I often hear nonprofits say, “All you have to do is this, this and this. All you have to do is click here, and then click here, and then scroll over here.” You’re thinking that you’re not making people jump through hoops, but you are. Even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal, the reality is you have two desires. You want them to give as quickly as possible and you want them to share as quickly as possible.
People who are giving want a gratifying gifting experience. They want it to be really fun and easy. When it’s fun and easy, they’ll tell their friends. Sometimes they’ll tell their friends more that it was cool to give than even what they gave to, but who cares. You need to have a compromise experience.
Marc: Dana, that’s why when I’m teaching people in their online giving I just tell them you should regularly be making a gift to yourself on your own campaign. Force yourself to go through that boring drudgery and realize how frustrated you get. So many people are used to one-click access with Amazon. Click once, boom, it’s gone. That’s our competition. It’s not the next charity.
Dana: Exactly. It’s the fact that for-profit e-commerce environments are changing the way people expect to transact online. That’s exactly right. I didn’t even think about the Amazon thing. I even just think about the Kickstarters of the world, which I don’t mind mentioning a competitor just because Kickstarter actually doesn’t work with nonprofits. They’re really for creative and entrepreneurial projects.
Even though there are more charitable and personal crowdfunding campaigns happening as a statistical number, Kickstarter projects and the creative projects, they get more press just because they’re sexier and stuff like that. As a result, that’s fundamentally shifted the way people expect to engage with giving online. People don’t want to do the other one anymore.
It’s interesting how the for-profit world is impacting the nonprofit, but the good thing is you have a model to follow. It’s not like you need to reinvent the wheel. You’ve just got to jump on the bandwagon and not be afraid and actually be open to making mistakes. Be open to experimenting. There are a lot of resources out there to help you. We’re one of them.
Actually, the place that you and I met through the blog CrowdCrux.com, they’re a third-party blogger that has a lot of valuable information and they listed both our sites. The editors there write about all sorts of approaches to crowdfunding. They actually started as a rewards site focused on creative and entrepreneurial campaigns. Because there’s so much inquiry around charitable campaigns, they’re actually starting to talk about that too. That’s a good place to look. There’s just a lot of information out there.
I wanted to quickly touch on the FAQs of choosing a platform mostly because I want you guys to be familiar with the nomenclature and language that people are using. Be able to filter.
I was talking to another industry expert out there. Here name is Rose Spinelli. She writes a column I think on CrowdSourcing.org. She was saying one of the things that people struggle with the most, besides really fully accepting that crowdfunding is about marketing and that they have to engage that way, is just the sifting. People are overwhelmed with their choices.
Because of a lot of the hype in the media, some people think that the site that you choose is going to give you an audience. It is not. Actually, there are a lot of really pissed off people out there who say, “I went with this site because I thought they were going to put me on their home page.”
No, they’re not going to feature you until you’re already doing something right, which means you’ve already done the legwork. They’re not going to email out your campaign to all of their subscribers. That’s your job. That’s really the secret. It’s not really about the site. It’s about your network. Pick the site with the lowest fees and the best support, and focus on your own marketing efforts. Focus on what you can control.
I actually just finished reading this really great book called “Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry.” I love having little anecdotes and side things, if you haven’t noticed. I actually don’t have time to read a lot of books, but this was good. It’s written by a guy named Andrew Hill, who was a former basketball player at UCLA. He wrote it with John Wooden. It’s all based on Coach Wooden’s secrets to life and success but how he applied them to business.
I was reading this and I thought, “Oh, I can apply this to my work. I can apply this actually to raising my kids.” He had a lot of really interesting things, so I highly recommend this book. It’s a lot of simplified things.
One of those things is not focusing on what other people are doing but focusing on doing your best and not beating someone else. I know that sounds so simple, but it actually I think, again, clears the clutter of reliance on other people and trying to beat other people and just focusing on what you can do well and having the best plan.
As you’re looking for the platform, hopefully you’ll consider Deposit a Gift but we’re not the only game in town. One key difference that you’re going to notice is there’s something called flexible funding and then all-or-nothing funding. All-or-nothing is what Kickstarter made famous. That is, you don’t get to keep your money unless you hit your goal. That’s really not good for nonprofits because the reality is that you can do something with anything that you raise. You’re always going to want to choose an option that’s flexible.
Some sites are going to charge you more money for flexible funding. We don’t. Our fees are the lowest and just really flat in that way.
You also want to think about if you’re going to have to submit your campaign for project approval. Does the site have a deadline? Do they only let you keep it up for 30 or 45 days? Do you want something that allows you to stay up for as long as you want? That’s something that we do too.
We just felt that you deserve to have flexibility. The whole idea of a deadline is actually this idea of creating a sense of urgency. I think you can do that with your marketing approach.
Check out what the cash-out process is. Do you have to wait until the end to get your money? Can you get it throughout the campaign? You might need it. Let’s say you’re doing it for a benefit or something. Maybe you need some of the money to pay for some costs. Know that.
Play around with their customer service. Send them an email. See how quickly they respond. How helpful are they? How easy is it to set up?
Then check out the fee structure. The nomenclature you want to know about fees is that there is always going to be a platform fee and there’s going to be a credit card fee.
Marc: What are those?
Dana: The platform fee is how the crowdfunding fee is how the site makes money. The reason that we all charge something like that is because crowdfunding is marketing plus processing. We’re providing you with a platform that should allow you to reach more people and raise more money versus a sterile page. That’s what you’re paying for. Then the credit card fee is the cost of doing business. They’re all pretty similar.
The total amount that is taken off from what you raise is the platform fee plus the credit card fee bundled together.
On our site, we actually have three different platform fee options. We’ve got a 4%, a 3%, and a 2% option. The 3% and 2% you can pay a little bit of your fee up front to bring your overall fee down and upgrade.
Actually, if you stick around to the end you’re going to hear a special promo code we’re giving just for Nonprofit Academy so you can get a free upgrade.
It’s that plus the credit card fee.
All in on Deposit a Gift, you’re either having taken off the top 7.5%, 6.5%, or 5.5% percent. Most other sites, it’s between 8.5% and 12.5%.
Marc: Oh, wow.
Dana: I don’t want you guys to let the myths bring you down. The biggest one we already went with is the whole idea that if you build it they’ll just come. Meaning, you think that you would just put up a page and people should just give to you. They won’t.
I think in the nonprofit world, a lot of people still are not believers that their network and the online social connections are really that important. We’re here to talk about the fact that they are and how you cultivate those.
There are not benevolent donors just trolling the internet to give you money. The way you get to people who may not know you as well that you could call new donors is going to be through referrals, friends of friends of friends. That’s really the basis of what crowdfunding is.
You’re going to know your first supporters, your first donors. You’re going to know them. Hopefully there are going to be some people who have never given before, but maybe they’re already on your list.
Your job is to move people along on a continuum from lurkers, which are just people who have been kind of following you on social media or email, to supporters, to advocates. Supporters give you money, but they might not be singing your praises. It’s going to be your job to use an appreciation strategy to turn them into an advocate.
Appreciation strategy is kind of a new thing for nonprofits too because most times, nonprofits wait until the end of a campaign before they do what they look at as just a task of wrapping up, which is sending a letter saying thank you. You still might need to do that at the end depending on what your CFO or controller requires from a paperwork perspective, but that’s a task versus using your thank you as an excuse to get people to share, to make a connection. We talk about having an appreciation strategy, which is a marketing tool.
Marc: Dana, before we go into why it is more effective, we do have a question from someone asking, the whole term that you and I have been bantering back and forth about platform, “Could you please define platform?” I guess it’s because it can be a place in the front of a stage. It can be, for an author, your platform is your audience. What is a platform? That’s a good question.
Dana: Platform is the website. Deposit a Gift is a crowdfunding platform. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are crowdfunding platforms. It’s just the website. I guess it’s an insider term, so thank you for asking. Platform is just a website.
Why is a crowdfunding platform more effective than that sterile transactional donation page? You can sum it up in three points. It shows the need and the difference they can make. It’s really about we’re in an age of storytelling.
Actually, there’s this woman in my networking group, and she’s a great business coach if anyone ever needs one. She says, “Are you storytelling or are you boring-telling?” That’s her big line. You want to be storytelling. That’s what makes you memorable. You don’t want to be boring-telling. That story is what engages people to be part of the journey.
I can’t drive home enough the point enough that people give and share when it’s easy. What does it mean to make it easy? People shouldn’t have to click a million times to find the Donate page. They shouldn’t have to read anything they don’t want to. As much as you spent hours on the text, no one cares. Sharing should be simple with a click of a button. The campaign should speak for itself.
I’ll add a fifth thing, as I just learned this in a meeting. I was meeting with an executive director who was thinking of using this. I was trying to coach her on some ideas to get her board on board with doing this. She said, “They’re medium engaged. Last year, we told them that they could invite their friends and send them the link or send them an invitation, but no one did it.”
Everyone wants to go to the woe-is-me mode. I love this. No one did it. I said, “How did you give them the information?” She said, “Well, we just told them that if you have people you want to invite and share this with, email us and we’ll give it to you.” Anyone know what’s wrong with that? You make them email you.
You can’t do that. You’ve got to take your mindset off of, “If they’re really committed, they would make the effort.” No. People are busy. You have to email them. You need to actually write the email for them. You need to write the Facebook blurb for them. You need to follow up with them three to five times.
No one is going to share for you. Even if they say they will, they’re just busy. You can’t take it personally.
Part of this planning process we’re going to talk about is, how do you create these kinds of tools, including what I call a nudging calendar, to stay on top of people?
There may be some of you who are listening who probably understand the point of a crowdfunding site, but you might say, “Can I embed it into my website?” We love that question. No, you can’t, and it doesn’t matter. That’s very old thinking that everything has to happen on your website.
Think of it this way. Your website for your organization is meant to do a lot of things. It’s supposed to sing the praises of what you’re doing, explain your mission, give people a way to get involved, feature the board, calendar of events, whatever. You also have a Donate button because you have to have a Donate button just in case some benevolent donor randomly does troll the internet and wants to give you money. You have to be ready for them.
Your website is not intended as a mission-specific fundraising mechanism. That’s what a crowdfunding site is for. When you are doing a campaign, you want to look at your website as a marketing vehicle. That’s how you need to start looking at things.
A campaign is like a theme. It’s what you are raising money for. It could be your annual campaign, but I would even push you to have a deeper theme of what the money is for and how it’s going to affect people. It might be we need to save summer camp for our organization and raise money so that kids can go to camp, or we want to build a science lab next fall and we’re raising money for that. It may be really specific.
Sometimes I’ll say, “What kind of fundraising campaigns do you do?” They’ll start rattling them off. They’ll say, “We do two direct mail campaigns. We do this.” They’re actually categorizing a campaign by a marketing term. A direct mail campaign is not a campaign. The campaign is the annual campaign. The campaign is raising money for summer camp. The campaign is raising money for the science lab. The campaign is raising money to pay for an executive director or for scholarships.
Direct mail is one of the ways you’re going to make a solicitation. Your website is another way you’re going to make the solicitation. Email, social media, posters, and text messaging are other ways you’re going to make a solicitation.
Everything is a marketing touch point to get the campaign out there. That’s why I said what I said at the beginning, which is that every campaign should have an online, social home. Every campaign should be pointing to an online place where they can give in a social way. You don’t want to just send them to a sterile page. You want to send them to a page where after they gave and said, “That was cool,” then they can easily share.
You will advertise your crowdfunding campaign on your website. You’re going to make a big ad on your home page above the fold so people don’t have to scroll. Then it’s just one click.
In your newsletters and your social media, you can actually click directly to the crowdfunding page. It’s an embedded link anyway, meaning the words say “Click Here.” You don’t have to show the URLs. You don’t have to worry about branding or people not going to your website.
Quickly, the mechanics of how it works for anyone who hasn’t run a campaign, four basic steps. Setting up the site, which is literally just going through the setup wizard. All crowdfunding sites essentially offer a template where you fill in the blanks. This is what the story is, this what we’re raising money for, blah, blah, blah.
Sharing is marketing. That’s how you get the word out. By the way, none of these steps really live in isolation because as you’re setting up the site, you’re probably starting to do a little bit of marketing. We would say start making a list of the people you know you can definitely count on to give because those people are going to give during your soft launch. We’ll talk about that in a little bit.
You want to even maybe mention to those people what you’re doing, like your board or whoever else, to get them excited about it. Marketing is generating awareness. Even when you don’t have it ready you can say, “Hey, we’re going to be doing this cool thing.” People are more apt to support you when they feel like they’re in the know, like they’re part of the journey.
Marketing starts at setup. Marketing might even start before you set it up, when you’re just talking about it.
Actually, you don’t have to do rewards for nonprofit campaigns, but let’s say you wanted to. Everyone gives away calendars and cards. Maybe those things work for you to get people to give at certain values.
Let’s say you’re deciding you want to do rewards. Another example of marketing during setup is maybe you use social media to say, “Hey, we’re going to be doing a crowdfunding campaign soon. We’re so exciting to unveil it. We’d love to offer you some fun rewards. Do you want to weigh in on what we’re going to offer?”
Use Facebook to take a poll of what people might want to give. Then you’ll already have their buy-in and they sort of got to choose what they’re going to get. It’s a way to get some publicity and all that kind of thing.
Marc: That’s great.
Dana: Collecting and acknowledging is people actually donating, collecting, and acknowledging is that appreciation strategy. It’s a constant wheel. Two and three are happening the whole campaign. Marketing, processing, acknowledging, getting people to share for you, etc.
Then cashing out is redeeming your money. You just want to find out how the sites do it. We let you cash out at any time throughout your campaign as often as you like. Some sites make you wait until the end, so you just kind of want to know what you’re getting into.
Marc: With the acknowledgement, it looked like the way you were putting it with the comments and all too, the acknowledgement isn’t just… Many people hear acknowledgement and will think gift acknowledgement, an instant email that goes out saying, “Transaction. Your credit card was processed.” Am I right in hearing that successful crowdfunding too, part of it is not only the thermometer where it goes up incrementally, but it’s also the comments that people are able to give if they want to about why they gave the gift?
Dana: Yeah, but that’s actually why they’re giving. Usually when you check out, you’ve got a box where you can leave a message of support. That’s not really in your control.
For example, every site is going to send out an automatic receipt technically acknowledging the gift. Our system, and this is something else unique, we actually have a custom receipt tool. You can actually add a personal note from you with your tax ID. I look at it as project management plus gratitude plus marketing. It’s saying, “Thank you. Will you spread the word? Here are some ways to do that.”
I’m talking about personal acknowledgement. We’re going to get to that appreciation strategy in a little bit. I’m talking about don’t be lazy. No automated messaging. That’s going to happen anyway.
You’ve got to send personal emails. Say, “Hey, Marc. Thank you so much. I just wanted to reach out and personally say thank you for giving. You’ve already done the hard part. You gave us your money. Can we ask you a tiny favor? Would you share this with 10 friends? Here’s a quick email you can send off. Thanks so much. I’ll check back with you in a couple days to make sure everything went smoothly.”
A couple days later, you say, “Hey, Marc. Just making sure you sent this out. Here’s the blurb again.” A week later, say, “Hey, Marc. Hey, an exciting update on the campaign, blah blah blah. Would you help us keep it going?” These are all personal messages.
Marc: I’m loving this because it sounds like you can automate those personal messages. Is that what you’re saying too?
Dana: Yeah. The way I say automated is that you pre-write the script and then you kind of just leave a little place to say something personal. I usually have a canned script and then it says, “Dear so-and-so,” insert name, and then, “How are the kids? I hope you’re having a good week,” and then the script.
Marc: Interesting. It is still manual.
Dana: It’s still manual. You can use a system probably to automate it, but the thing is, so many third-party email systems send those to the Gmail Promotions tab.
Marc: That’s a good point.
Dana: You can tell when it’s automated. That’s why I was saying the investment with crowdfunding, the cost is your time. It’s really cheap to do price wise. It’s a time investment. You want to have tools to make it easy, so you have the script pre-written.
Part of your daily crowdfunding hour where you do all of your follow-ups is I’m going to take 15 minutes and say thank you to everyone. I’m going to use my script. I’m just going to bang these out. When an email doesn’t feel like it was written to someone personally, they just delete it. It’s called the bystander effect. They think that someone else will take care of it.
Marc: Great. Thank you. That was very helpful.
Dana: You’re welcome. What does it take to put together a campaign from beginning to end? When you’re putting together your campaign, you’re going to return back to this slide. Marc is going to make sure you guys all get the slides afterwards.
This is your initial checklist. Did I state my goals and purpose clearly? Have I explained my cause, why it’s important, how we’re going to use the money? Actually, this is even your checklist at the beginning beginning. That’s like setting up your site. Do I have a marketing roadmap? Do I have an appreciation strategy? These are the signs of a successful campaign.
From there, this is actually your checklist of when you’re setting up the site. Does my site have engaging visuals? Does it have brief, well-organized text? Is it clear? Do I have typos? Am I using insider speak or am I talking like a normal person?
Our site lets you include a suggested donation amount. Some sites do, some sites don’t, but we find anecdotally that you get a higher ticket value. People give at a higher amount because it’s just easier. It’s just right in the contribute box.
Set a realistic goal, and then communicate a sense of urgency. It’s really your job to make the case why they should give today and not tomorrow. You’ve got to come up with a sense of urgency whether it’s a deadline, whether you create little mini false senses of urgency, like saying, “A donor is offering to give us $1,000 if we can raise $1,000 in 24 hours. Go,” or, “Everyone who donates within the next 72 hours is going to get entered into a raffle to win X.” Those are sort of mini senses of urgency separate from your actual deadline.
The main thing is that you want to create a campaign that your supporters can see, smell, and taste. You really want them to feel like they can wrap their arms around it. It’s got to feel personal. Pictures make a big difference.
Some of you might be wondering about video. I would tell you it just kind of depends. Don’t stress. Don’t feel like you need to go spend money on some expensive video. You might even be able to interview people on your iPhone and string something together. A video is not always necessary. Pictures really are. You’ve got to put a face on your campaign that people can’t deny.
We have a cool tool, which is a donation registry where you can actually create line items that people could give to. Let’s say you’re raising money for a new park. You could make it fun, that people could contribute to the slides, the swings, the tires, or whatever, or they could contribute to a general fund. That’s another way to tell that story.
Marc: That’s a good way to describe it too. That’s what it’s doing. It’s telling that story.
Dana: Exactly. Also, a lot of donors are really finicky. They want to choose how their money is going to be used. We were just talking to a nonprofit yesterday that deals with waste management stuff and green things. We’re trying to help them come up with their story and goal. They said, “Actually, a lot of people want to know how they can live more sustainably, but they’re kind of intimidated.” I said, “Oh yeah, me. That would be me.”
They said, “One thing that we’re raising money for is to offer some programs, like how you plant a green garden, how you do this and that.” I said, “That’s cool.” Use the donation registry function to break down that programming. Then people can almost kind of vote with their dollars.
That’s kind of a neat use of that. You can do a general fund, or you can do donation registry, or you can actually do it as sponsorship levels. That’s another way to do it.
One thing that I think is really important when you’re doing a campaign, before you start, is to define your metrics for success. You need to have something to be able to measure this by. This requirement, in my opinion, and the site is not going to force you to do it to make the site, but I think that it really helps make sure that you don’t put up a campaign as a Hail Mary because you actually have to think about what you are trying to get out of it.
One thing that’s really neat about crowdfunding that’s different than regular fundraising is that it is a marketing platform. I know I’ve repeated that a lot, but it’s worth saying because it can help you make the thermometer rise, but what else do you want it to do for you? You need to really think about that. That becomes kind of like your dartboard where you can check yourself and see if you’re tracking and doing what you’re trying to do.
You’re trying to make the thermometer rise, but what else? For example, we had one organization that wanted to engage new donors. You may want to redefine exactly what new donors means. A lot of times people think, “I want all of these random people to give to my campaign,” because of all these famous campaigns in the media. You hear the founder of the campaign saying, “I don’t know what happened. It just went crazy. I didn’t do anything.” It’s usually a load of garbage, first of all.
Secondly, I usually ask nonprofits, “You want new donors. Everyone wants to widen their donor base. Fine. How big is your email list?” They’ll tell me, or their direct mail list, whatever. I’ll say, “Of those 5,000 people, 400 people, whatever it might be, how many of those people actually donate? Ten percent? Twenty percent?” They’ll say, “Yeah, 20%, if that. If we’re lucky.”
I’ll say, “Focus on the 80% of people who aren’t giving because those people have already raised their hand and said, ‘I sort of remotely care about what you’re doing. Make me care enough to give you my money.’” Engaging new donors could literally be engaging people who are lurkers who are following you but not doing anything.
Marc: I was talking to somebody last year who had actually called me up and said, “Marc, everyone is telling me I have to do Giving Tuesday, but we usually raise $250,000 to $350,000 this time of the year because of the heating assistance that we provide. I’m afraid Giving Tuesday is going to under-ask people. I’ve already got a good system going now.”
As we talked about, she opted to go for a spring crowdfunding because she wanted to get the lurkers. That wasn’t the term she used, but that was exactly it. She said, “There are other people on our list that haven’t given. We already have a proven time when people are giving. Boy, we could use this as an excuse to get in front of people and try to activate them some.”
Dana: That’s smart. That’s thinking through the strategy instead of just saying, “Oh, this is hot. We should do it.” Yeah, it’s hot. You should do it. It’s where things are going, but make sure you’re going to get something out of it. It’s going to help you plan your marketing tactics and everything. Another thing that a lot of organizations are using this for is changing the culture of giving to get more people to engage online.
Also, it’s not just about the fundraising. You need to think about how people are trained to hear from you. Do you send a newsletter, like an e-newsletter? Not just once a year or twice a year, but every month or every other week. Are you communicating to people and building a relationship with them when you’re not asking for something so that then when you do ask for something, you get maximum impact? You’ve got to think that.
Most organizations, they all think they’re unique in saying this. They’ll say, “We’ve got an older donor base. We don’t know if they’ll do this.”
Marc: Sorry. I’ve heard that a lot. That’s why I’m laughing.
Dana: Yeah. It’s very a common thing. Everyone thinks they’re the only one with that problem. You’re not the only one. Most of them have iPads.
Marc: They’re communicating with their grandkids already, so get over it.
Dana: If you don’t make it easy for people to give offline, meaning don’t give them an offline response card. I know everyone is probably saying, “What?” Don’t do that because you need their email addresses. You need to change the way you communicate with them. Don’t make it so easy to do it offline. That’s really it.
You just want to think about, what are you trying to get out of this? Then you set your campaign up accordingly.
What makes a campaign successful? You can’t just put it up and pray.
Marc: Dana, you’ve burst my bubble. I’ve gotten this far into the webinar and that’s what I was really looking for. I want to be on Mashable. Won’t they just put me there?
Dana: No. The internet is not going to shower you with money. I know I sound completely cheeky and sarcastic, but a lot of people think that.
Marc: Just so everybody else hears, I get this question all the time. I was just dealing with somebody else that was saying, “Who are the people I should talk to?” like I had this magic Rolodex of donors that was just waiting, pining away, wondering, “Where should I give my hard earned money?” No one is pining away looking for this. You need to be doing exactly what Dana was saying about being interesting, being informative, and developing a relationship so that when you’re ready to ask you have a group of people who are willing to listen to you.
Dana: You’ve got to be willing to put the elbow grease in to create community. It’s going to pay off in dividends in so many ways. It’s really worth the time.
A good campaign is like a good manicure, or if you don’t get manicures, like painting a wall. I actually hate getting manicures. I sit there and they’re spending 45 minutes on my nails. I might be the only woman who hates getting a manicure, but I’m a utilitarian.
They’re sitting there primping, primping, primping. When they actually put the nail polish on, it’s like 30 seconds. It’s a similar concept when you’re painting a wall, although the prep takes a few more days. When you actually put the paint on, it’s a much less amount of time as compared to how long it took you to prep.
If you don’t prepare properly, your manicure or your paint job will look like garbage. It’s the same thing for a crowdfunding campaign. It’s probably really the same thing for anything.
In fact, back to that book that I really like, one of John Wooden’s, one of his favorite sayings is “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” John Wooden, really smart man. It’s so true. People want to take shortcuts. It’s not that hard to prepare for something like this.
Actually, we offer extra coaching at Deposit a Gift. Something we’ll give you is a little workbook that even shows you a mock campaign. We’re going to do an eight-week campaign. This is what’s going to happen each week. That’s how you want to lay it out. It’ll take you an hour or two, but it’s going to save you so much in the long run.
They key is that to get from Point A to Point B, you’ve got to have a plan. Don’t think you can get away with not having a plan.
What goes into that plan? If any of you are tuning out now because you’re saying, “Oh goodness, I hate marketing.”
Marc: “I just wanted a quick fix.”
Dana: Or, “Oh goodness, marketing is intimidating to me. I don’t really know how to do it.” That’s what we’re here for today. We’re here to help you. If you can be open and be coachable, then this is accessible to everyone.
That’s really the goal. I know that this is a pretty hefty presentation with a lot of information, but we really want you to walk away feeling inspired and like you can do it. You understand this. You know the steps. You can engage with our support team and we could give you ideas and stuff that you could actually implement.
Think of it this way. The marketing plan is kind of like a trifecta of advocates, people who are going to help beat the drum for you, and consistent communication, which a lot of organizations are really afraid of because they’re afraid of people opting out of their newsletter.
The reason that you’re constantly getting barraged still today with emails in your inbox is because email marketing works. People also will opt out all the time. Hopefully if you do your marketing efforts right, you’ll be adding new people to your list, so it balances itself out. Don’t worry about the fact that people are going to opt out.
Somebody once said to me that you should email until you’re almost uncomfortable. Email and post until you’re uncomfortable. Then you know you’ve done the right amount. It’s the same with social media posting. You can’t just post this once. You’ve got to post every day.
Then follow-up and appreciation. You’ll be following up with people, making personal asks, saying thank you, making sure that they sent out the email they said they were going to send out, make sure that they posted on Facebook like they said they were going to.
Marc: Dana, one thing I want to say on the consistent email communication. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years, and I’ve been doing this since 1999 with email lists, is that we don’t want a large list. We want a responsive list. We want as many as we can for our charities, but if people are on our list and are getting offended because we’re asking for support or communicating too much, that isn’t the right place for them. That’s okay.
If 98% of your list is saying, “Uncle. You’re in my inbox too much,” that’s something to listen to, but if you have one or two people saying, “I’m never going to give another cent to you again because you seem too much in by inbox, or you’re asking all the time,” people have been saying you’re asking for money all the time since before we had email. That’s not a new thing. Just know that with those negative people, great, thank you for helping us clean our list. We only want responsive people on the list.
Dana: Actually, you bring up a good point. One way that you can kind of manage people potentially being frustrated is you can actually manage their expectations. Remember, we were talking about if you bring people into the loop on what you’re doing, they’re more likely to be supportive and engaged.
Before you launch your campaign, you do a bunch of teaser emails. Say, “We’re going to be doing something really big. Who’s ever heard of crowdfunding? Would you think this is a cool idea for our organization? We’re going to be doing it.” Come up with better copy than that.
You want to let them know, “We’re going to be launching a campaign soon, and that campaign is going to last six weeks or whatever. You’re going to hear from us a lot during that time period. We hope you don’t mind.” Then make good on your promise. Go super strong during that period and then maybe back off afterwards. You have more license to go strong because you told them you were going to.
Before, I gave you a checklist for when you’re putting together your campaign site. Now I’m giving you a checklist for when you’re building a marketing plan. If you don’t have any marketing experience, this is a good thing for you to reference. You’re going to be asking yourself, who’s your target? What’s your network potential?
You want to break it down into your mass audience, which you are communicating with via your email distribution list, via social media. You’re going to hear me talk about, in a second, using every means possible to connect with people.
If direct mail works well for you, I might just say don’t spend so much money on it. Take the budget you had for one really huge, glossy piece and break it down into three postcards so you can at least send them a lot of times. That could be mass communication.
Key influencers are those individuals that you’re going to be fostering. You’re going to be trying to foment as many key influencers as you can.
Marc: You’re talking about crowdfunding, right? You might have just thrown some people for a loop when you mentioned other ways other than just emailing and social media to communicate.
Dana: Yes, I am. People often mistake the crowd in crowdfunding for this just being a mass play. Crowdfunding is a relationship tool. At the end of the day, people do things for people that they like. That’s why you want to have an online engagement strategy. You want to have a relationship with people, as many as you can. Sometimes you have to approach that in a mass way, but as many people as you can connect with personally, which is why we’re recommending that you send personal emails, personal emails to get involved, personal emails to say thank you, personal emails to follow up. These take a lot of time.
Actually, I was reading a blog post on your site last night, Marc, somebody else who guest blogged. I don’t know if it was from 2013. It was guy. He was telling best practices of what he learned on his campaign and sort of how you’re going to need individual people to help you push your campaign and I think he calculated 840 personal Facebook messages.
He said, “They take a lot of time.” This is a good point. He said Facebook realizes that you’re sending all of these emails and they start to monitor you and make you fill out the little captcha code. You actually have to spread it out over time. You can’t just sit down for eight hours in one day and email everyone through Facebook. You could do it through regular email, but even Gmail has a cap that you notice.
Marc: Gmail will throttle you too.
Dana: They’ll throttle you too. You’ve got to have a plan. Just know that it’s a relationship tool. Yes, you have to communicate mass, and that’s how you’re going to get lots of updates, but the personal piece of it, personal asks, asking people to give during your soft launch, asking if someone would offer a match to rile people up halfway through the campaign, asking for people to share, that’s going to be really important.
In doing that, you need to think about what marketing vehicles does your audience respond well to? Email, your website, social media? Those are all easy things to think of. They’re online. They’re obvious. They’re all marketing vehicles, but then what other ways would your audience respond?
Even a phone call, you may need to call some of your really rich donors and say, “Hey, we’re doing this. I know you normally give in this way. We would really appreciate it if you would give online because it’s going to prompt you to share. We’re trying to get people engaged in that way. Would you do it?” They say yes. You have the email queued up and you send it to them right then.
Marc: I can’t stress this enough. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, since the late ‘90s, online engagement. The best tools sometimes for getting the right engagement is picking up the phone or writing a letter. Those offline channels make the online engagement look even more organic, but it also prompts people to action.
We’re at the bottom of the hour. I know that some of you that have to leave now can. This will be recorded into the vault. I knew this was going to be so good. I asked Dana and she agreed generously to go through, take the time it needs to go through this well. We’re not going anywhere. I just wanted to let you know that if you have to, it’ll be in the vault.
Dana, thank you so much for continuing with this because this can help anybody’s fundraising, let alone just crowdfunding. This is really taking the mystery out of, “Why didn’t my page go viral? I put it up there.” This is great. Thank you.
Dana: You’re welcome. We talked about the mass and one-to-one communication strategy. The key here is just creating frequent excuses to share.
Then when you create a marketing plan and you think through these points, you’ve got to make sure you make that promotional calendar and actually plot it out.
You’ve got to plan for network potential. Again, this doesn’t happen by magic. It might even mean that you have to spend time creating a network before you launch.
You want to think about, is your network ready? Some organizations, you could be inspired and say, “Hey, we want to launch a campaign next week,” put it together, and go. That’s totally doable. For other people, you might say, “I want to spend the next month or two getting ready.” You might say, “We’re pretty unengaged online. I want to make our target that we do Giving Tuesday.” Giving Tuesday is basically built for social media and for crowdfunding.
Actually, we do a pretty cool program where we waive our fee on Giving Tuesday and we offer extra coaching and stuff like that. Again, you don’t want Giving Tuesday to be a Hail Mary that you’re doing it just because the cool kids are doing it. You want to do it because you have a plan. Maybe you start thinking, “It’s May. We’re going to start sending a newsletter once a month.” Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm yourself.
If you haven’t been doing anything and you say, “Holy cow, we’re so behind the eight ball,” take a deep breath. Don’t worry. You can do this. It’s not an overnight thing. Start by doing two things. Start making sure you send out one newsletter a month, and start by making sure you have a Facebook page.
Marc: Everybody that’s on here, just look at that slide because this slide is so important in fundraising. The 1-2-3-4 approach that Dana has laid out here is crucial. This is really a good slide.
Dana: You can think of it in a couple ways. Some people like to think of it like this, like branches of a tree. Sometimes, in my mind, I think of it like a bull’s-eye and the rings of a bull’s-eye, kind of starting in the middle with your key influencers and then how it reverberates out. You often have to make it reverberate. It doesn’t just randomly happen. It will start to happen on its own once you get the momentum.
How else can you reach people? This is what we were talking about, about getting creative earlier. You might think, “Oh, this is an online campaign, so I should only do online.” Your best ROI is still online, but if you have an actively engaged audience or a large audience offline and you don’t have one online, you might say, “We want to grow our email list by 100 emails,” or whatever it might be in terms of percentage.
You might say, “We’re going to do full court press offline because we only had 50 emails.” Some people might say, “I can’t do crowdfunding because we barely have an email list.” You could say, “It might be a little bit slower, it might be more baby steps, but actually, crowdfunding could be a tool to help you grow your email list because you’re going to market the heck out of it offline.”
You’re going to get people to give online. You’re going to make a case. You’re going to let them know, “We need you to give online because we need to start engaging with you in that way. We want to be a greener organization. We want to be a more cost effective organization. Online helps us do that. Please go to this URL and donate. Please share it with your friends.”
Once they give, you have their email. Then you can follow up with them and ask them to email it to their friends. That’s what I mean by this backdoor approach.
Marc: One of the things that I was thinking about, just this past Sunday I was visiting a church. This is going to date the webinar. I apologize for that. They had something for Baltimore. A church burned down in Baltimore and they needed help. They just put on the screen behind them hundreds of people in a nightclub in D.C., hundreds of people watching this thing. There was a crowdfunding URL to go support that. They just did it. They just flashed it. It was one of the options for giving.
What you could do is take that and stop there in your event. Everybody pull out phones. I’ve seen this work. Type out your URL and put it in there. Make your gift there. If you’re with your board members or your volunteer team in a smaller group, you could do the same thing. Say, “Everybody on the board, let’s do this now. Let’s get 100% board participation in this crowdfunding so we can say that our board is 100% behind it. Let’s all pull out our phones right now and give the gift.”
Dana: Actually, something you can do to even try and make that happen more is you could schedule an email to drop during the event. You could stop the event. Of course, it’s up on a screen and all that, but you could announce it and say, “Hey, you all just got an email from us. Open your phones and click the link.” Then you won’t have to type it.
Marc: That’s a lot easier than typing a long URL. That’s great.
Dana: That’s another thing you can do. The main thing, and I think you just drove the point home, is that this is all call and response. Don’t think people are just going to remember your campaign and say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got to go back to that.” People reply to emails. They reply to social media. They respond to outreach.
Your job is to create frequent excuses to engage people on the journey. Don’t just ask them for money. That might sound counterintuitive, but you want to be able to get in front of them daily on social media, and weekly or twice a week on email, or more than that with personal emails. You have to have something more to say than, “Why haven’t you given yet?” Don’t ever say it that way, or, “Just a reminder.”
You want to tell people, “Guess what happened. We just passed the 20% mark. Guess what happened. Someone just gave us $500. Oh my god, we’re freaking out. Guess what happened. We are at 40%. Who wants to push us over 50%? We raised enough money to put a down payment on the swing set. Here’s a picture of us clicking Submit on the order on the computer.” Take pictures. Do silly things.
Use public ways to appreciate people as part of your frequent excuses. There’s something called the tag and thank method that you can do on Facebook where you actually tag people and you can say, “Thanks to Marc Pitman, Dana Ostomel, so-and-so, and so-and-so for donating. We really appreciate your support.”
Maybe they didn’t give yet, but someone gave you access to a friend who’s got 20,000 Twitter followers, or they just spent time doing a strategy session with you and you just want to thank them for their support. When you tag and thank people, it then shows up in their friends’ feeds. It applies subtle social pressure that feeds the herd mentality. People think, “Oh, so-and-so gave? I want to give too.”
Marc: It’s social pressure, but it’s also social proof. It’s the carrot and the stick. The stick is social pressure - maybe I have to give. The carrot is social proof, which Robert Cialdini talks about in his book, and influence of, “Oh, people like me are giving, so it’s safe to give. I’m not going to be the only one doing this.” There’s that both-and approach. That’s really good.
Dana: I’m going to add that to this slide before I send it to you because I like that, social pressure and social proof.
Marc: Thank you.
Dana: Then creating a sense of urgency, so you use your frequent excuses to give a deadline, announce a contest, announce a matching incentive, whatever it might be. Talk about a milestone that you hit.
Here’s a case study of an integrated marketing plan. This is what worked for this organization. It gives you a sense of how it’s not just one thing. It’s a confluence of things. It’s also about knowing your audience.
She did a lot of online stuff, but this woman was doing a campaign and she happened to be in a neighborhood that’s very neighborhood-y, feet on the street. She created posters because she knew that where she lives, people actually look at posters.
Something that’s a unique feature that Deposit a Gift has is a ticket sales functionality. We’re the only crowdfunding site with ticket sales. The only reason I mention that is that her campaign started as an online campaign. It got so popular that she ended up having an in-person event, turning it into a film screening, a panel, a raffle, and all of this stuff. With our site she was able to just turn on the ticket sales widget and keep it going. It was at that point actually that she made the posters.
Then somebody in the neighborhood took a picture of the poster on their phone and then stopped by the event. That’s how they remembered. Then they came to the event and they gave $1,000.
She just did a good job of knowing her audience and how they would respond. That’s what you really want to think about, how to be creative.
How do you get your campaign to take off? These campaigns don’t just magically go by themselves. You have to plan to create virality. I would write this down that I always think of it this way. Crowdfunding is a tool to work your network. You have to actually line people up in advance to donate when you want them to, to share when you ask them to, to give you access to influencers like somebody who has thousands of Twitter followers. You want to ask if they’ll tweet for you.
People won’t just do it on their own, for the most part. Most of that is manufactured behind the scenes. You want to ask them to advocate for you. Most of the time they won’t just forward it to friends. Maybe if it’s super compelling, but especially in the beginning, you just don’t have enough momentum on your own. You have to contrive it.
That’s one way to make the campaign take off, to fundamentally understand that crowdfunding is a tool to work your network. It’s a relationship tool. You actually have to line people up in advance to do these things for you.
Marc: If you feel like that’s being contrived or manipulating or somehow disingenuous, I just give you permission to let go of that because that would be like telling a farmer, “You just have to harvest, but you don’t have to actually till the soil. You don’t actually have plant any seeds. You don’t actually have to fertilize it and weed it. Just get the harvest.” All the stuff that we’re talking about right now is just normal processes of getting people to take action.
Dana: It’s normal marketing.
Marc: It’s tilling the soil. It’s planting the seeds. People don’t know what to do until you ask them to do it. This is great.
Dana: That’s a good way to put it.
Another way to get your campaign to take off is to not be a one-man band. You don’t want to be this guy. You need to create an online street team. You might say, “We’re a really small organization. I’m it,” or whatever it might be. That’s fine.
Every band, every orchestra needs a conductor. You’re the conductor. The campaign organizer is the conductor. You need musicians. You need to ask people to join your band, whether they’re board members, really enthusiastic volunteers, or someone who’s never been involved at all but you know that they’re an influencer that people listen to and you’re going to ask them to be on your team.
You need people to help beat the drum for you. You cannot do this alone. You need to understand and accept that right away or else it’s going to fail. You’re going to feel overwhelmed.
That doesn’t mean that people will just do their job. They won’t. You’re the conductor. You’re the boss. You need to have a nudging schedule. You’ve got to make sure people do what they say they’re going to do.
Also, how do you make your campaign take off? Create messaging that people cannot ignore. You have to make it personal. That’s why we’re really recommending those personal emails. They sound like a pain. They will take a little bit of time, but if you have a script pre-written, you just fill in the blanks. It’s not that big of a deal. If people get emails, just think of it yourself. You get an email that you know was written to a ton of people, you usually delete it. It doesn’t feel like it’s for you.
Marc: It’s true.
Dana: How else do you get your campaign to take off? You plan for a soft launch. Giving begets giving, so make that thermometer rise 10% to 20% before you go mass. Some people even say more than that, but that might be hard. At a minimum, make sure you do it then.
Use that soft launch for feedback and fine tuning. Get community buy-in. When people feel behind the scenes, they’re more psyched to support you. If you’re going to go after press, now is a good time to give exclusives. That may or may not apply to you. Make connections. Who do you know? Sometimes it takes time to really think of that. Who’s in my network?
The main thing is that you need to create the perception of a successful campaign. People want to be on the winning team. Sometimes we’ll get a question. Actually, this happened on Giving Tuesday. An organization called us a 2:00 in the afternoon and said, “What do we do? We just hit our goal.” I said, “Awesome. Send another email.”
Marc: This is when people actually start giving to you.
Dana: Exactly. Send another email. Tell them that you hit your goal, that you’re so excited. It was the Cell Phones for Seniors campaign. You hit your goal and that this means that you can now give X amount of cell phones to X amount of seniors, and that Giving Tuesday is only halfway through, and will they help you keep up the momentum? If you double it, they’ll be able to give X amount more cell phones to X amount of seniors.
It’s just an excuse for another email, an excuse for communication. That’s great news to share. Don’t say, “Uh-oh, what do we do?” Shout it from the rooftops. Be ready, have a plan, and create tools. You want to make it really easy for people to share. You’re going to literally write things for people.
Clickable Tweets is a tool that you can find at ClickToTweet.com. It’s free. You can literally write tweets for people. Then you send them the link. All they have to do is click on it and it populates their Twitter. They just have to post it. You get to control the messaging. I don’t think there’s a similar tool for Facebook, but basically you can just write the blurb and give it to people. Same with an email.
There actually is a thing that I’m starting to learn a little bit about called Thunderclap, another website that I have to look up, for orchestrated waves of sharing. That’s a great way to get a lot of people on board about tweeting something for you. Then when you hit your critical mass of people opting in, it’s kind of like crowdsourcing messaging, and it automatically tweets for everyone your message. If you set a goal of 50 people and then you hit your goal, all of a sudden it’ll clap out your message.
One of those websites is Thunderclap and the other one I just learned about is called HeadTalker. They’re both free.
Make it easy for people to share for you. Have tools ready to go. Make it easy for yourself. Create systems. This is really basic, but if you’re not a naturally organized person, this whole thing might sound really intimidating. This would be a good time for you to work on your organization.
I’m not being cheeky at all. It’s true because you’ve got a lot to do. You’ve got other responsibilities. That’s one of the big fear factors. We talked about this earlier. “Oh my god, is this another thing I have to do? I already have so much on my plate.” You’re doing a campaign for six weeks, eight weeks, three months, whatever it is that you’ve set out as a duration. You want to be able to promote your campaign, but you’ve also got to get your other work done.
Let’s say you put an appointment on your calendar and 11:00 to 12:00 every day is crowdfunding hour. You’re going to sit down and you’re going to do all of your tasks right then and there.
You want to have a checklist. You sit down and you know exactly what you’re supposed to do. Then when you’re done at the end of that session, make yourself your next checklist for the next day so that when you sit down for your next shift you know exactly what you need to do. You don’t have to scramble and think about it.
Marc: Not only are you making it easy for other people by scripting it up, but you’re making it easy for yourself. For those of you who, like me, felt really uncomfortable about scripting people, people will use your script or not. They are never giving up their ability to use. You’re making it ridiculously easy by giving them the words.
It’s like somebody asking you for a letter of recommendation. Out the blue it feels like, “I don’t know what to say about this person. I don’t want to offend them. I’m not sure I’ll get the wording right.” If you suggest a few things, it can really help them streamline it.
It usually feels uncomfortable if you’re the one handing the script, but if you’re the one receiving it, it makes it a lot easier to, “That’s the gist that they want me to take. That’s the way they want me to communicate their campaign.”
Dana: It’s like good networking. Forget crowdfunding, just good networking. If you want someone to make an introduction for you, write the email for them. Most people are so busy and you’re going to fall to the bottom of their list. I do that all the time. I spend half my day just networking, trying to get connected with lovely, nonprofit people like yourself. Whoever I’m connecting with, I’ll say, “Is there anyone you think I should be talking to?” They say, “Yeah.”
Marc: They should do that with donors too. The other analogy is sort of like cooking a cake. Your grandmother may tell you how to cook a cake, but she’s probably just guessing. What you need to do is get her ideas but then go to a recipe book and get the actual measurements. By scripting it out for people, we’re actually giving them the recipe. They’ll tweak it as they want. Anyway, that’s really good.
Dana: Yeah, it makes it easy.
It’s easier to share with an email list. If you don’t have one yet, there are lots of tools out there. Some of them are even free like MailChimp. I don’t work for them, but you can send, I think, up to 2,000 email addresses for free. That’s an awesome tool. There’s MailChimp. There’s Constant Contact, Vertical Response, there are tons. Although the one nice thing about that is there’s not immediate opt-out.
Let’s say you were doing a personal campaign for a friend who was sick and it was more personal. Still, if you made a distribution list in your Gmail, then you can just BCC that distribution list. You know exactly who you’ve been emailing to. It’s much simpler. Make sure you’ve got a list to share with.
Finally, a campaign without an appreciation strategy can only go so far. This is sort of the last piece of marketing. We were talking about this earlier. I referenced this continuum, but just so you have it in writing, your job is to move people from being lurkers to supporters to advocates.
Lurkers are people who are not taking action. Supporters have given you some money. Those people are the ones you want to turn into advocates and start getting them to share with their friends.
You have to ask them to do it. You can’t just ask them once. You can’t be afraid to follow up with them. That’s when you have that schedule to do that. Turn supporters into advocates. Don’t wait until the end of the campaign.
Put people in the mood to share with appreciation. It really goes a long way when someone says thank you. You think, “That’s awesome. I want to tell more people about this.” It’s amazing.
I think simple things that a lot of people have a hard time with on a personal level are “thank you” and “I’m sorry,” taking responsibility. Both of those things clear the air and people are ready to do what you want them to do.
Marc: They make it human again.
Dana: When you are reaching out to people to say thank you and following up, you’re following up but you don’t want to just be a nudge, by saying, “Hey, did you do this for me?” You want to tell them something new. There always should be value to your content. Say, “Hey, Marc, just touching base. I sent you an email a week ago. I wanted you let you know how well things are going.” You’re also doing something that I call curbing buyer’s remorse. It’s not something I call, but it’s a term more from real estate.
Marc: It’s true though, isn’t it?
Dana: The thing in crowdfunding is you’re trying to make sure that people feel really good about the impact that they’re having. For yourself to be able to stay on top of this, just like good networking, you want to have a schedule for yourself. You just kind of know that. Individual supporters, you’re going to send them that thank you script within 24 to 48 hours. Then subsequent to that is you should be sending them two or three more emails. You’ll have to make yourself little calendar notes for that.
Mass emails, you want to at least do a weekly mass blast. If you have some new news to share, you could probably get away with a second one. There’s the online street team. Don’t expect people to share even though they said they will. They have good intentions. They’re not not doing it because they’re bad people. They probably just forgot. It’s your job to remind them. Just don’t expect anyone to remember to share for you. You’re just going to be disappointed. Plan to be ready to work with them.
The last piece which we’ve talked about a little but is such a big question. This is I think what people think crowdfunding is, and it’s not, really. Crowdfunding is to get to your friend’s friend’s friend. It’s not a tool to hook in strangers, at least not right away. Maybe they will, but that shouldn’t be your focus. This is your opportunity to squeeze the juice out of the people who you already have access to, who told you that they’re interested. That’s where you want to start.
Then you’re going to take all the people of the 10% to 20% who already give and you’re going to make sure they give. Those are your advocates. You’re going to get them to share. Then you’re going to work really hard at getting the next 80% to 90% to give. Then you’ll work really hard to turn them into advocates. As those people start sharing with their friends, you’re going to be getting random new people.
I want you guys to be able to see yourselves as we wrap up. How are nonprofits using crowdfunding? I cherry-picked a bunch of different examples simply because I wanted you to hopefully be able to see yourself in some of these campaigns to give you ideas. There are probably so many more ideas, but just so you get a sense.
Benefits, galas, and tournaments, this is, I guess, a little promo for us because we really are the only site that has a ticket sales functionality, but it’s great for so many organizations because it allows you to create an online home for your event and do what I call opening up the virtual doors on your event.
It’s really just a little mindset shift, but think about it. Traditional events aren’t going away. I don’t necessarily think they have to. In fact, we were talking earlier about strategies for how you weave your crowdfunding campaign into an event. Like Marc said with the event in Baltimore, getting people to type the URL into their phones, or dropping them an email right before the event starts.
If you do everything in one place, ticket sales and feed the thermometer, it’s an excuse to open up the doors on the virtual event. Now you’re able to market it to everyone.
Usually, by their very nature, an in-person event is limiting. You’re only going to market it to the people that you know can attend, or that you think you know can attend. Then you’ve got this whole other distribution list of people who care about your organization, but you’re not inviting them to get involved because you’re sort of assuming that they won’t or can’t.
What you want to do is say, “Hey, everyone. We’re using this benefit as an excuse for a larger campaign. If you can come, awesome. Click here to buy your tickets. If you can’t, this year, we’re doing something new. You can actually click here and offer your support.” It’s just a little bit of a mindset shift, but it makes a really big difference.
Other ways you can use crowdfunding are you can do annual campaigns, educational appeals. This particular organization actually had one reward because part of their strategic objectives that they decided was that the wanted to try and increase average ticket. They said, “We’re going to offer one reward for everyone who gives over a certain amount.” That was something unique that they did.
Marc: Is that amount their pre-loaded amount?
Dana: Actually, it’s not. Their pre-loaded amount they did was what they thought was a more accessible number, maybe slightly aspirational, and then they advertised it in that banner that says “Donate $180” and they gave a deadline for that. That’s how they did that.
You can do specific needs like a science lab, special programs. You’re thinking of what the story is you want to tell. Holiday fundraising.
This was a cool one this food bank did. They always had Hunger Action Month of September, but they never asked people to take action with their wallets, only bringing in cans and wearing orange. They were totally blown away that they almost raised $15,000. When they’re usually so focused on end of year, they’re already working on holiday food banks. They didn’t cannibalize the end of the year and they raised this incremental $15,000 just by making it really easy for people to do it instead of just saying, “Bring in cans when you visit this mall.”
Service and mission trips. Startup nonprofits, so if you know someone who is doing something small, a strategic objective could be brand awareness or launch. You could actually use a campaign for that as a way to kind of grow your list. You could use it for conferences. Let’s say you’ve got an organization or a community that would like to have a conference and this is a way for people to have skin in the game and all contribute.
Memorial funds, this might look more individual, but a couple of things on this. One is, you’re part of organizations, but your organizations are communities. Often, you are doing things to show that you’re caring for your community. If something happens to someone where they die or they get sick, you might want to raise money for them.
If you think about it another way, as a tool for raising money for the organization, let’s say a prominent board member dies and you want to do something to honor them that benefits the organization. You could set up a crowdfunding campaign. This way, it’s just more personal. You can really feature that person and their story.
You can do Giving Tuesday projects. This is actually that Cell Phones for Seniors I was telling you about. They did such a good job. They were so psyched. They even got a lot of staff engagement that they were surprised about. This is service projects.
Marc: Did everybody just hear that? Your crowdfunding isn’t always outward focused. It can be your internal group if you’re working with physicians or others, whatever your employees are, and they haven’t let you give, this can be a fun way for people to participate. That’s excellent. I hadn’t thought about that.
Dana: Then also, just thinking about a lot of times nonprofits get contacted by people saying, “I want to get people to donate to you for my birthday,” or something like that. This can actually be a tool for volunteer service projects that you can help.
We work with a bunch of organizations to help them have individual setup campaigns. This can be good for a board give/get. Actually, you can use the donation registry function to create a little picture face of each board member and create a little horse race to see who raises the most. That’s pretty fun.
You can have people doing the volunteer page like I was talking about earlier. This is specifically for a gala, so getting individuals to each raise money and sell tickets to the gala. This one is just getting off the ground.
Animal rescue. I picked immigration and refugee work just to show you sort of the vastness of topics you can cover. Medical support could again be sort of supporting a community or personal crises.
Finally, just thinking about the creativity of crowdfunding. We’re pretty much out of time, but this is really that point of not making it easy for people to give offline, so ditching that response card.
Also, using it as a tool to do creative things, like start thinking about how you can use it to fill pipelines. One idea is to use a crowdfunding campaign to run a contest so that maybe you reserve one table at your gala. People could donate to try to win a seat at the gala.
Someone who wouldn’t normally be able to afford a ticket, if you get them there, everyone always walks away from galas really inspired, like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe the organization really does all these things.” Now you sort of get new people there, fresh blood, as a way to get them excited.
That is the end of the webinar.
Marc: I’ve got a couple of questions, but I do want to put this up for people because this is important. One of the things, as Dana and I have been working on this seminar, she graciously offered to let Nonprofit Academy members use the full service platform without having to pay the upgrade $49 fee. It feels odd to say this, but the code is Pitman, my last name. This is just an offer that they’re giving because they value what we’re doing here at the Nonprofit Academy.
Actually, I’m going to say this now because I want to remember too. The other cool thing that Dana is doing is she’s got a special tip sheet that she’ll share with you. The slides, of course, will be in the vault, but if you want to email her at dana@depositagift. I’ll put this in the forum and I’ll try to remember to put it in the follow-up emails. I’ll email it to everybody.
If you just send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, she’ll send you another tip sheet because we covered so much, which is great. I want to make sure you have all of it.
Dana: Just mention that you’re a part of The Nonprofit Academy so I know to give you the special materials.
Marc: Say you’re from The Nonprofit Academy and she’ll know.
Two big questions are coming up. One of them is recording offline gifts. A guy goes to that event, gives a thousand bucks. Some platforms let you record them. Some don’t. Does Deposit a Gift let you?
Dana: Yes. We have an offline donation posting tool. That’s a good question. Giving begets giving, so you absolutely want to feed your thermometer with everything you’ve received and also just for transparency and, frankly, for record keeping for yourself.
That would be one of those things when you’re filtering platforms and you’re looking at special tools, figuring out who’s got the ones you need. An offline donation posting tool is a good one.
Marc: I don’t have a horse in this race, for those of you who are listening. I don’t have a particular platform that I’m akin to. I don’t have any relationships with any particular one, but I would say you need to find something that’ll let you do the offline. Even if you’re going to make offline giving hard, there are people that when you have them right in front of you, if they want to make a gift there, they should be able to and you should still be able to have the transparency of letting it be credited online to the thermometer. That’s excellent. I’m glad you guys do that too.
The other one, a big question, is the dollar amounts. When most people think crowdfunding, they think $5 or $10. Is that what you’re pushing at this level? Is it like a capital campaign, get the major gifts in the soft launch and then the small gifts in the big launch, or is it different for each campaign?
Dana: It’s different for each campaign. We get thousand-dollar gifts going through all the time. People absolutely give at the big ticket level. Part of that soft launch could be lining up some of those big donors and making sure they’re going to give their big gift online because it does set that precedent. You can also do it for small gifts.
Whoever is interested in this, we can certainly talk about it offline, but we do have various organizations who are using this as a complement to capital campaigns. Part of it is just because of that metric for success of community awareness and engagement, that maybe you’ve been doing the capital campaign for a year privately and now you really want to open it up to people. Don’t think you’re going to be limiting yourself just to small gifts.
Marc: That’s really good because it’s just like direct mail. I’ve gotten a $25,000 check from a direct mail piece. One personal letter to one personal donor and I got a $25,000 check out of the blue. People are doing that online for any number of reasons, whether they want it to be visible, whether they want the points on their card. Whatever it is, there are a lot of good reasons.
Dana: Credit card points are a big one.
Marc: Yeah, mine all go to Amazon stuff. I know other people that fund their family vacations that way. Don’t limit yourself in your dollar amount as you’re thinking about what you actually need to raise.
Dana, I am so sorry, but we’re out of time. I am so glad that you’re offering your email for people if they have questions. I know we’re going to be able to have it posted in the vault.
Everybody, thank you so much. I’m actually intrigued that our attendance went up as we went past the normal hour amount. That says something for this topic. I’m sure you’ll want to replay this as soon as you can. I should have it posted very quickly in the vault. The slides will go up in the vault later this afternoon. Of course, we’ll have the transcript of the audio up there in a short time too.
In the meantime, if you have questions, please reach out to Dana. Please reach out to myself. You can check us out in the Facebook forum. I want to make sure that you guys are all supported in the way that you’re trying to do fundraising. Crowdfunding is an important aspect. It doesn’t necessarily have to be yet another thing that you add to your schedule, but it could be something that could actually breathe life into some of the boring things that you’re doing on a regular basis.
With that, we bring another episode of The NPA Presents to a close. Thank you so much, Dana, for being here.
Dana: Thank you for having me. It was amazing.