Our in-person event is happening on October 3rd at 6pm at the Wix Lounge in NYC. It’s a deep introduction to crowdfunding. Attendees will receive: Ideas, courtesy of the WeDidIt team & refreshments courtesy of the Brooklyn Brewery.
The webinar will take place on September 26th on the internet. It will cover the same material as the in-person seminar for the people who can’t make it to NYC on October 3rd.
Both will be educational. Ideas will be discussed. We hope any/all of you can make it. Follow the links above for attendance.
Here’s why we’re doing it.
Let’s start with one of my all-time favorite quotes:
"Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people."
Education is one of the most valuable resources we have. It helps us better ourselves, our situations and our surroundings. It rivals experience as one of those things you just can’t have too much of. We’ve spent the past year educating ourselves on crowdfunding. We’ve done it by jumping into the deep end and running crowdfunding campaigns, religiously monitoring the crowdfunding scene, reading everything we can get our hands on and asking questions to everybody who could weigh in.
A goal we’ve had is to become thought leaders - students that become thinkers that become influencers - in the crowdfunding world. In the coming weeks, we’re putting our money where our mouths are and trying to do Eleanor proud. Both the webinar and the seminar are our way of contributing to the crowdfunding mind-space. The goal is to spread our ideas on successful crowdfunding to the people and organizations that need it most.
See you there.
*we didn’t actually build or land the Curiosity rover
And, for good measure, my second favorite quote:
"One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz."
The music nerds of the world can thank Lou Reed for that one.
How do you measure an athlete’s strength? How much they can put up on the bench? How quickly they can sprint the 100m? Or swim the 400m IM? Let’s talk numbers:
9.58 – the number of seconds it took Usain Bolt to run 100m in Berlin, 2009.
243.84 – the number of seconds it took Michael Phelps to swim the 400 IM in Beijing, 2008.
15,400 – the total number of miles Lance Armstrong biked to win the Tour de France. Seven times in a row.
Now let’s talk some different numbers:
2,889,187 – the number of Jamaicans that Usain Bolt empowers every time he steps onto a track
211,000,000 – the number of Americans who watched Phelps win in Beijing.
Athletes carry more on their shoulders than their last names. They show their strength on and off the field. They empower their communities – whether those communities are their neighborhood, town, city, or country. A handful inspire the world. The United Athletes Foundation (UAF) is a non-profit organization that leverages the inspiration professional athletes give to their communities by focusing on giving back. Their mission is to improve the lives of the athletic fraternity and society in its entirety. These aren’t small goals. But these aren’t small problems. And these aren’t small athletes.
A few more numbers:
66 – the percentage of people beneath the poverty line in the Southeastern District of Baltimore.
71,008 – the number of seats in the M&T Bank Stadium in the Southeastern District of Baltimore.
52 – the number on Ray Lewis’s Ravens jersey. This will be his 17th season wearing it.
Lewis is a Baltimore institution. He sees the needs of his community first-hand when he drives to the stadium every Sunday. He’s also the Vice Chairman of the UAF. Lewis and the UAF’s President and Executive Director Reggie Howard (who played seven NFL seasons) are currently running an initiative in partnership with Consumer Education Services Inc. (CESI), Builders of Hope & the Ameri-I-Can Foundation to revitalize blighted communities. They’re developing quality, safe, affordable housing and teaching financial literacy to the new homebuyers and renters moving into the renovated houses.
The crucial aspect of this project is its emphasis on not only building houses and filling them with families, but on providing education on financial literacy so that they can improve their circumstances. It’s a project that will be paying returns for generations. A donation today will still be helping in 20 years when the kids in these families buy and fill their own homes.
The UAF have put together an all-or-nothing campaign to raise $10,000 in 45 days. As of today, they have 21 days left to raise $7,435. We show support for our communities’ athletes every time they step on the field and get to work. Let’s show our support for the work they’re doing off of it. Donate here. Then share the campaign with your friends so that they can contribute too.
Not too long after college, I took on the side project of co-founding a media production company and recording studio. Which was A LOT of fun. I gotta admit, this project turned out to be an extremely rewarding and important experience in my life. My successes - and failures - in the music industry taught me a lot about how social media is changing the way we do business. For the most part, the people and organizations that have the resources (talent and capital) are the examples everyone else looks up to. But it’s clear that the big players are experiencing the game-change too. For example, a lot of music artists and labels try to establish relationships with radio station DJs to gain airplay and increase record sales. But think about it..when was the last time you consistently listened to the radio? Don’t get me wrong - those relationships are still valuable. But it’s a fact that fewer and fewer people are relying on the radio as their primary source for new music. How much do you think we’ll listen to the radio 10 or 20 years from now?
Now for unsigned - and even some signed artists - they must not only create great music but also promote themselves and their music as a brand. Which is very hard to do. Major labels have million dollar budgets to spend on marketing and album promotion. An up & coming artist has few if any dollars to spend on promotion. So what’s an artist to do? Flip the funnel.
The lessons I learned from the music industry apply directly to the nonprofit space. Both scenarios deal with people and organizations fighting to spread their message - with little to no resources in comparison to the major players. When we compare nonprofits to musicians, and their supporters to fans, you’ll see that building and engaging your donor base can be done the same way as building a fan base. (Illustrated by our buddy Seth Godin…one of those ways includes flipping the funnel.)
Flipping the funnel is the idea of giving your fans a megaphone and letting them broadcast your message to their own friends and supporters. Artists jumped on this bandwagon early with the advent of mixtapes and street teams. And before social sharing there was simple file sharing. So while record labels cringe at the idea of having music given away for free - Artistic instinct supports that many free listeners is far more valuable than a few paid listeners.
Some of the most successful artists of the last 10 years got their start by giving the majority of their music away for free. This is a perfect example of “flipping the funnel”. Rather than trying to control what your fans or supporters do, you give them the power to control, share, and respond to your message. Yeah sure - this does go against what traditional corporations and business schools teach us about corporate communications. But it seems like going against the status quo is highly rewarded today. File sharing, the broader internet, and social media are examples of how the times are changing. This message applies directly to nonprofits. If you put your message directly in the hands of those who care about it, you have just enabled them to spread your cause.
This is the true power of social media. Allowing your supporters to do just that, support you. Rather than spend millions on a Super Bowl ad, why not generate some awesome and free content that people will WANT to share with their friends? With the power of social media, those shares can reach thousands – if not millions – with simply the click of a button. Do you know of any examples of how organizations are flipping the funnel? Share your thoughts and fill us in….we’d love to hear from you.
I started WeDidIt because I am a passionate believer in crowdfunding. My previous career as a social media consultant helped me understand the idea of empowering your supporters and creating discussions through social media engagement. Future generations will take it for granted that you can go on the Zappos Facebook page, lodge a complaint and get a thoughtful response. I’m far from a dinosaur, but I too grew up in an era of waiting on hold for the next available operator. When the economy crashed, the nonprofit clients I worked with were hit really hard. Anyone whose passionate enough to work at a nonprofit knows that fundraising and development is like the lifeblood of the organization. So to lose an expected grant or corporate sponsorship can be devastating. In short, funding sources were drying up and their organizations were suffering.
Through my involvement with a side project that involved launching Kickstarter campaigns, I eventually realized that the success Kickstarter was having with creative/artistic-types could be applied to nonprofits. I thought…crowdfunding would not only help nonprofits raise the funds they needed, but it would also increase their social media presence and their donor engagement. The bottom line: crowdfunding is not just about the funds raised, but also about making sure the crowd has fun doing it.
It’s easy to think that because our friends and families are socially enlightened that the majority of the world is as well. After all, Obama unambiguously stated his support for gay marriage, and well-respected public figures like Anderson Cooper are stepping proudly out of the closet and into the spotlight. I asked Robin McHaelen, the Executive Director of True Colors Inc (TCI) to pick one thing she wishes the public was more aware of. She told me:
“That things are both better – and they are not. Some LGBT youth come out and the people in their lives go, ‘whatever’. Those youth go on to lead happy and productive lives. Others come out and get thrown out, or beaten or even exorcised… Those youth use substances, attempt suicide, run-away, are truant, sexually act out and are homeless at significantly higher rates than their peers.”
This is (and should be) an eye-opener for modern Americans. It certainly was for Robin. While completing her master’s at UConn, she researched LGBT advocacy groups in the Hartford area. There was one group. Broaden that search to the entire state of CT: two groups. To use Robin’s words: “In short, LGBT adolescents were an invisible and under-serviced minority.”
To fill this gap, TCI was born. Since its inception in 1993, TCI has “educated more than 25,000 participants; provided resources and training to hundreds of school and agency programs; contributed to the formation and/or continuation of the more that 160 existing Gay/Straight Alliances; launched and manages CT’s only LGBT youth mentoring program. Our work has helped to create a safer, more inclusive environment for LGBTIQ youth in school, at home, and in the community at large.” They’ve managed to do this by rolling out a variety of programs and initiatives, including:
Managing this many initiatives demands, of course, a reliable stream of funding. When I asked Robin to elaborate on some of her fundraising successes and failures, she candidly told me that they’d had so many bad fundraising experiences that they started calling them ‘fund-losers’. TCI runs three fundraising events per year that Robin refers to as “marginally profitable, but don’t bring in anywhere near the kind of income they should.”
When we discussed online fundraising, Robin informed me that TCI brings in about 20% of their individual donations through a ‘donate’ button on their website, and that this should be an area for significant fundraising potential. Since TCI utilizes facebook & twitter in their mentoring program and their mission is to help young people, they’re already well on their way to activating a substantial group of new fundraisers.
By leveraging their social media assets, TCI should be able to foster an even greater sense of community and solidarity for the kids they support. They can also grow their networks of kids, mentors, supporters and resources by letting their kids use their social media acumen to recruit new donors and believers. Increasing awareness, accomplishing mission goals and raising funds are all essential in helping TCI succeed. We’ll be launching a WeDidIt campaign with them in the coming months, but you should get involved today:
And check out some photos from TCI’s annual conference:
TCI’s annual conference is the largest and most comprehensive LGBT youth issues conference in the nation. Nearly 3,000 youth, educators, social workers, clinicians, family members and clergy participate in more than 150 workshops, films, activities and events over the course of the 2-day event.
When Megan and I discussed non-profit fundraising, she told me one story that’s going to stay with me for a long time. Placer were told they’d be getting a surprise visit from the California fire marshal. This meant they had very little time to raise $1,200. Megan told me how they were worried and struggled to find the funds, and when I said “well you’re still up and running, so obviously you raised the funds.”
“Yeah,” she said, “we let somebody go.”
It was awful to hear – a bad situation no matter how you look at it. The silver lining that Megan & I discussed from here however was that with online fundraising, and crowdfunding in particular, we’re trying to eradicate situations like this. WeDidIt wants to be able to help raise $1,200 in two weeks. In one week if need be. The traditional methods of nonprofit fundraising like throwing galas and applying for grants are great ways to get larger donations, but they take a lot of time and preparation.
Megan put this really well: “[Small nonprofits’] budgets are small enough that they cannot access simple services like proper business checking and credit cards or apply for certain grants. Competing for donation dollars is also extremely challenging because small nonprofits do not have marketing budgets – the majority of time, effort and budget go directly into delivery programs and services. Having options that help build capacity can make a world of difference for a small nonprofit.”
Megan – you nailed it. That’s what we’re trying to do with WeDidIt. We want to help you raise money when you need it most without spending (extremely) valuable staff hours and other resources. I asked Megan about her thoughts, hopes and even reservations about working with WeDidIt. She told me: “ I have seen what crowdfunding has done for other forms of business and I do think it can be applicable to the nonprofit sector. Crowdfunding helps excite people and helps instigate conversations. I am really excited about the reach crowdfunding could have.” Regarding working with a startup, Megan said that she wanted to work with a company that would listen to her suggestions. We’re listening.
PNC needs outreach. When I asked Megan about her ideas for programs and activities she’d like to do but can’t at PNC’s current capacity, she had a list ready to go. She wants to get more people outdoors, and that should be something we can all get on board with.
Check out PNC’s website and like their facebook page. Follow them on twitter and (for our Golden State readers) pay them a visit. They’re doing great work and believe me, it’s worth helping them keep doing it.
You can also get in touch with me:
….2 words. Interesting Rewards.
Our friends at Kickstarter have paved the way for us crowdfunding enthusiasts. If you’re unfamiliar, Kickstarter is the most popular stage where creative/artistic projects can find funding through an online platform. What’s great about Kickstarter is that creatives are encouraged to reward their backers (donors) with a gift or token of appreciation. We’ve seen this donation-reward system have incredible success on Kickstarter, and wanted to dissect why this system works so well.
Let’s briefly take a look at the 5 most successful Kickstarter projects (to date):
Goal: $125K, Raised: $928,771 from 5,358 backers
Goal: $15K, Raised: $942,578 from 13,512 backers
Goal: $57,750, Raised: $1,254,120 from 14,952 backers
Goal: $75K, Raised: $1,464,706 from 12,521 backers
Goal: $400K, Raised: $3,336,371 from 87,142 backers
For projects focussed around a deliverable, you can have amazing crowdfunding success if you reward donors with something they actually want. These campaigns went viral because they compelled people to share and donate with the hopes of receiving the proposed deliverable (e.g. the watch, the new video game, speakers, etc). Yes, people will donate from the goodness of their hearts, but that isn’t sustainable. It sure isn’t sexy. So let’s give people a reason to donate. And reason to share your campaign with their friends and family. You can do this by offering interesting rewards in your crowdfunding campaigns that galvanize people towards action (specifically sharing and donating).
Now, I understand that as a nonprofit organization, you may not have access to sexy products/gifts to reward your donors. That’s okay! Your rewards don’t have to be tangible items…they can simply be creative ways of saying ‘Thank You’ to your donors (e.g. hand-written thank you note, short video message, dinner, personal blog post). Nonetheless, the team at WeDidIt is making it easy for you to find rewards that your audience will both LOVE and appreciate :)
So as Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android approaches Kickstarter History with their ground breaking project (already raised over $3MM with over 30 days left!), think about how your organization can give people a reason to donate if you too want crowdfunding success.
Ten years ago, online shopping was only for early adopters or products that were hard to find locally. These days, people are buying everyday items like toilet paper online - Soap.com anyone? This is just one example of how the internet has changed our lives. What does this have to do with fundraising? Well, many nonprofits still rely on traditional fundraising methods, such as direct mail campaigns and annual galas. Online fundraising is not intended to replace these methods of fundraising, just as Amazom.com is not intended to replace Target.
Online shopping and online donations are simply means to diversify options for donors and shoppers. Of course there are donors that still prefer to give by mail or come to the annual gala, just as there are still shoppers who prefer to buy their soap at Target. But the simple truth is there are a lot of donors - especially young ones - who will only donate money online.
Let’s draw an analogy. Cartoon Network originally aired content only for children. With most of their audience in bed by 9PM, Cartoon Network would simply air reruns late at night. This is where Cartoon Network came up with a brilliant idea. After 9PM they would start airing adult oriented cartoon shows, calling it “Adult Swim”. This way they could keep their traditional audience during the day and reach out to a new audience at night. Also, when younger viewers outgrew their favorite shows, there would be options available to keep watching on Cartoon Network.
Online fundraising works in exactly the same way. Keep your traditional donors, but reach out and engage new and young donors. The wave of online fundraising through social media is right now, and remember, if you’re not riding the wave, then you’re standing on the shore.
We just wrapped up our Friends & Family campaign. I wanted to share some insights into how our sales training helped us conceptualize & develop our campaign.
From day one we said we needed to be personally experienced in crowdfunding in order to offer first hand advice on how to develop, launch and manage a WeDidIt crowdfunding campaign. We finished our Friends & Family campaign last Friday at $6,340 - 127% of our $5,000 goal. Obviously, we’re extremely happy and proud. I wanted to talk about how we managed our campaign and offer some tips on how our sales experience helped us strategize for our campaign.
Me, Su & Ben all come from a sales/business development background and we treated our 30-day $5,000 goal in much the same way we would have treated a monthly sales quota. Achieving an all-or-nothing fundraising goal is very similar to hitting a sales quota: both require preparation, implementation & execution and in both cases, if the specified dollar amount isn’t achieved, no money changes hands. Way before our campaign launched, we set ourselves each the individual goal of raising $1,000 towards the campaign from our own friends & family and then we each made lists of people we expected to donate and how much we could expect from them. Between Su, Ben, Nick and myself, this accounted for $4,000 (80%) of our goal, leaving $1,000+ to come in through 3rd parties, word-of-mouth, and peripheral members of our own social networks (people we hadn’t expected to donate who did).
The first day the campaign went live, our goal was to play a numbers game. We wanted to let people know that the campaign had launched, direct them to the site, and build exposure for our cause on a broad scale. We did this by posting facebook status updates, updating our twitter accounts and sending mass emails to our friends & family. As the campaign progressed, we started getting in touch with the people we’d put on our lists by calling and/or emailing them directly. Once they’d donated, we asked them to help spread awareness for our cause by personally asking one of their friends or family members to donate. This took us to over 50% of our goal by week three and provides an essential lesson in sales/fundraising - the more personal a solicitation, the more likely it is to be successful.
We also had a number of ongoing, non-time-consuming initiatives during the campaign - the ‘little touches’. The first was to publicly thank people who donated. For example, I posted updates to facebook & twitter that tagged people in my social networks who had donated. It’s a great way to show your appreciation and also to let everybody else in your social networks know that people are believing in your cause. We also made a point to follow up with people who said they were going to donate. Another valuable rule of sales is that ‘verbal’ contracts (“I’ll sign on Friday…”) don’t count for much except theoretical dollars (which are way harder to spend than real dollars). Crowdfunding donations take less than 3 minutes to make, so when somebody says they’ll donate but don’t do it right away, chances are they’re going to forget. I kept a list of friends who said they’d “get around to it” and politely reminded them to donate as the campaign continued. Thanking donors and reminding donors-to-be took me less than 15 minutes a week and brought in hundreds of dollars.
The final piece of sales advice I want to share is that you never want to be short of your goal in the last week with no idea where the money’s coming from. In sales we call this ‘closing week,’ and it’s where you either make money or you don’t. With seven days left in our campaign, we were 29% shy of our $5,000 goal, but because of our planning, we knew exactly where we would get the final 31%. Our preparation allowed us to call in all the stragglers who had said they would donate, and since we over-compensated we ended up exceeding our $5,000 goal by 27%.
And don’t forget that “coffee is for closers,” so never stop looking for ways to solicit donations.
Creating your own crowdfunding campaign can be very exciting. Finally a chance to be creative and show your organization in a light that inspires action! True. We’re all looking for new donors and volunteers who believe in our cause. But developing a crowdfunding campaigns poses a new set of challenges that many don’t realize until it’s too late.
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. Let’s review the common elements to an engaging crowdfunding campaign so that you folks can get your ducks in a row wayyyy before launch day. Your “To Do” list:
Define your type of fundraising - General Operating Funds vs Project-based
Are you raising money simply to keep the lights on, or are you fundraising for a specific project or initiative. These things matter a lot when crafting a clear message to your online audience. Moreover, project-based fundraising tends to be a bit more sexy, allowing for a more engaging fundraising campaign with a deliverable. Either way, decide this early and plan your campaign accordingly.
Define your central message - Using a short video or a compelling photo/image
The powers of a compelling video message cannot be understated. Here’s the perfect opportunity for you to show donors exactly why they should believe in you and donate. It’s also your best opportunity to include the most relevant details related to your crowdfunding campaign (e.g. your story/mission, how the money raised will be used, exactly how each donation helps, enticing rewards, etc). Pics and images can also be used, but they won’t give you nearly the kind of viral-ness we’ve seen in these campaigns [Ipod nano watch, DoubleFine Adventure)
Determine your promotional strategy - Social media, traditional media, direct connect
If your organization has the resources…platforms like facebook, twitter, Google+ and other online networks should be a part of your promotional arsenal. However, there’s something quite personal about an email or phone call that give organizations who keep an updated email list a great advantage. Overall, we must remember that the only way people are going to donate to your campaign is because you’ve put it in front of them. Whether it’s your adorable grandmother or a popular blogger, you have to actively put your campaign in their hands if you want a chance at having them donate or at having them share the campaign within their own circle of friends/family. Nonetheless, any coverage in print or broadcast radio/TV will widen your potential audience dramatically, so be sure to identify every possible angle for promoting your campaign so that you can reach new donors most effectively.
Hopefully, I haven’t simplified developing a crowdfunding campaign too much. Let me know if you have any questions and perhaps we can map out what a potentially fundraising campaign would look like for your nonprofit.
The benefits of online giving are two-fold. First, raising funds over the internet is generally cheap and without risk. The second hidden benefit is the potential to reach out to new donors and supporters. This potential has immensely increased with the ease of online sharing. If donors give to an organization that they support, then they are likely to share their donation with their friends by posting it in their online social network. How will this bring in new donors and supporters? Let’s refer back to the Millennial Donors Survey.
If you already have a compelling cause, you will be happy to know that a compelling cause is what motivates 85% of donations. But, how do you turn your compelling cause and initial donations into a viral fundraising campaign? 52% of those who gave to an organization were prompted by a family member and 42% were prompted by a friend, creating what we call donor sharing. If people are already attracted to your cause, they will want your cause to be successful so that their donation can actually make a difference. If the donors share the cause with a family member, they are helping ensure that their donation goes to a successful campaign by broadening your pool of potential donors. Their desire to share broadens your donor base and your support network. This is the hidden benefit to online giving and donor sharing. With traditional donations, you can only hope that the person who made a donation spreads your cause through word of mouth. With online giving, sharing your cause with thousands of people is only a click away. Getting people to actually donate and share is the tricky part, but it is something I will cover soon in an article about crowdfunding.Source: millennialdonors.com
It’s 2012 - which means it’s time to answer the B-movie question: “Will machines one day take over the planet?” The answer is a definitive yes. From cell phones to checkout counters, no one can dispute that “skynet has become self-aware” and computers now rule our lives. Example? People text and email while driving their car. Aside from allowing you to text while driving, these machines are not here to destroy us. Rather, they are here to make our lives easier. The hard part is understanding how to use these tools to work efficiently for you. Let’s look at fundraising in the new Millenium. Do people want to make donations online? And if so, how do you find and engage these donors?
Let’s do a quick review of the Millenial Donors’ Study, a survey on donors between the ages of 20-35 and my source for this article. The study found that the majority of donors gave to a charitable organization through traditional routes - checks, raffles, private solicitations, charitable organizations’ websites, etc. Interestingly, those who gave online scored a much lower percentage. However, the respondents also suggested that they prefer to give through online tools. The message? People ages 20-35 want to give online, but organizations haven’t caught on to the technology of making online giving lucrative!
Thus, if donation based organizations want to reach out to the next generation of donors, they will have to evolve their methodology. Does this mean traditional fundraising is dead? No, not at all. Online giving is simply another tool to add to your fundraising arsenal and to diversify your resources. Part 2 will go over some added benefits to online fundraising.Source: millennialdonors.com
This morning, I received an inspiring email from Jessica Lawrence, Managing Director of the NY Tech Meetup. It went a little like this…
Dear NY Tech Meetup Community:
WE DID IT!
The Senate has postponed its vote on “cloture” effectively ending the possibility PIPA will ever be voted on in its current form.
This morning Senate Majority Leader Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement on the Senate’s PROTECT I.P. Act:
“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.…