Interview With an Annual Campaign Team
In 2014, the Bridges2Prosperity student group launched the first of not one, not two, not three, but four annual crowdfunding campaigns on the University of Colorado-Boulder’s platform.
Year over year, they’ve grown the sophistication of their organization’s crowdfunding strategy, learning new community building and segmentation tactics for their growing number of donors.
We spoke with Madison Sankovitz and Alexis Ahlert, the team leads for the 2017 campaigns, and Mia Fill, Crowdfunding Platform Coordinator at CU-Boulder: their mentor and guide. They gave us the scoop on the crowdfunding process from start to finish which we’ve included in short snippets from our interview along with best practices for creating a successful campaign.
So sit back, listen, read, and enjoy!
Assembling a Team
Ideally, try to create a team of more than two individuals: between campaign responsibilities and the number of supporters you’ll need to reach your goal, smaller teams tend to struggle.
Team members can be friends, family members, staff members or coworkers, volunteers, interns, or anyone who will be passionate and persistent from start to end.
- Passionate about your campaign, organization or cause.
- Willing to invest several hours per week for the campaign’s duration to engaging your community.
- Comfortable reaching out to the community to ask for support.
- Provide input and feedback on campaign content.
- Create a list of the people and organizations in their network they will personally contact for support.
- Read the campaign team’s updates and respond accordingly.
- Send individual, personal messages (email, phone calls, or in person) to their community asking for support.
- Share the campaign’s social media posts to their personal pages on a regular basis with a personal message.
- Attend events and invite their friends, family, connections, etc.
Identifying Your Audience
Think about your campaign at its core:
- What do you value?
- How does your proposed campaign support this value?
Now think about other groups or organizations that share your values. Make a list of people or groups you could reach out to and start building relationships within that community.
Take an Internet Pulse: Set up Google Alerts based on relevant terms associated with your campaign. Google will send you emails when new results match those search terms.
Start a Conversation: Is there an influential blogger that writes about what your target audience cares about? Start following and commenting on their blog and get their contact information.
Shake Hands: Are there Meetup groups in your area with like-minded people would be interested in hearing more about your campaign? Make a list, including where and when they meet. Attend and network.
Say Hi on Social: Are there Facebook pages or groups that share your campaign’s values? Join the group or like the page, and start participating. You can also use Facebook and Instagram ads to target specific groups that share your affinity.
Connect with Organizations: Are there organizations that share your campaign’s values? Sign up for their newsletters, follow them on social media, reach out to their members, and attend their events.
It’s easier to start building relationships with new people and join new groups before you start asking them for money! It makes reaching out a lot more natural.
Planning the Campaign
1. Set a Realistic Goal
Set a conservative, realistic goal that your community can support. Note that 80 – 90% of your funding will come from your immediate community (unless you’ve already got a devoted fan base), so think about your goal in terms of how many people you will need to make it successful.
Do this quick calculation to see an estimate of how many supporters you will need: take the total amount you need ($10,000 for example) and divide that by $25 (average donation amount for a single supporter, across all campaign types). So, $10,000 / $25 = 400 approximate supporters needed.
Consider how many potential supporters you can ask. If that number is lower than the number you calculated, consider setting a more conservative goal and spend some extra time building your network. Remember, you can always fractionalize your fundraising: campaigns can often be broken down into several distinct, progressive goals. Decide which part of your campaign needs to be done next and fundraise for only that (while clearly communicating how additional funds will be used).
Break down your required funding into a budget that you can show to supporters. This will help you structure rewards to encourage average gift amounts while creating fiscal transparency for your donors.
2. Keep Your Timeline Short
Shorter campaigns have a higher chance of success. According to Kickstarter, a 30-day project has a 35% success rate compared to a 29% success rate for a 60-day duration.
- Shorter campaigns create urgency, which helps to motivate people to donate right away.
- Every project goes through a “valley” in the middle when momentum slows. The shorter the valley, the better.
- Remember that daily engagement with your community is critical to your success – don’t get tuckered out by a long campaign!
3. Start Planning Early!
You should be planning your campaign 60-90 days in advance of your launch date. This includes reaching out to your network to begin introducing the idea of your campaign and growing support. In addition to setting up your campaign page with a concise description and video, you should also create:
- Email lists of potential supporters
- Social content calendar starting 30 days before launch through the end of your campaign
- Templated outreach messages for donors
- Press releases for relevant media outlets
Marketing Your Story
What is your media of choice for which contacts? There are many options, so consider each one and how they fit the groups you’ve identified as potential supporters.
Email is a great approach for reaching people and organizations and is still one of the best ways to start a conversation. However, most people can spot a canned message a mile away. It’s critical that you create as personalized a message as your time allows, this is truly what drives people to engage. Also, consider that people do not want to read novels and would rather know the basics. Include the who, what, why and how questions and make sure you have a plead for action and engagement. They can always find more information on your linked campaign page, so your email should get right to the point.
Make sure if you are sending direct group emails that you use the BCC line for addresses out of respect for those who may not want to share their contact information.
Social Media provides a direct connection to your network of friends and family. Each platform is used slightly different and a unique plan for each channel be developed. These plans must include frequency, message type, and content. Here are some ideas for various platforms. It is important that you consider the things you want to promote
It’s important to consider the things you want to promote about your project while leaving room for milestones and happenings (i.e. “_____ offered matching today” or “We hit 50% today!” or “Check out our NEWEST Community Offering from _______”).
Start a consistent and interactive, social media campaign that engages people with powerful messages about your project. Be active in your online communities and promptly reply to questions and comments.
Consider having events throughout your campaign’s lifecycle:
- Pre-launch events to create awareness for the project and seed initial donations
- Launch events to announce your campaign and give you funding momentum
- Final stretch events to communicate your progress and the remaining needs of the campaign
Events can be as creative as you want. Examples of events include bike parades, flash mobs, BBQs, black tie events, car washes, bake sales, silent auctions, parties, tournaments, etc.
We have a list of 75 creative ideas if you get stuck!
Just by searching “How to use a press release?” you will find many resources providing education and understanding. We even have a resource of our own. It’s important that you view press releases as critical one shot attempts that should be refined before release.
Remember: be persistent. Keep following up with the media, as it may take several tries to find the right outlet for your story.
Newsletters are a great and easy way to get the word out about your project. Find organizations that regularly send out a newsletter and write to them asking for your project information to be included. Find newsletters that make sense for your project. For Example: A Downtown Business Association member sharing their project on the DBA Newsletter is a good match.
Memos are often sent in organizations to employees and partner businesses. Always ask if an involved organization sends a memo, how often, and if your campaign can be included. Try and align your campaign with organizations that would want to promote your message (i.e. A bike shop for a bike project, or a brewery with a beer-related project).
Even though your press release can be used to stir up attention in the online media world, there are still many smaller blogs that are not as largely recognized that can have a big impact. You can usually find blogs by searching online or setting up Google Alerts for specific keywords. When utilizing blogs try and ensure a consistent message and timing where and when appropriate based on your plan.
Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy in which low-cost unconventional means are utilized, often in a localized fashion or large network of individual cells, to convey or promote a product or an idea. Here is a list of 100 Guerrilla Marketing ideas to get you started.
Stewarding the Community
The long-term value of crowdfunding lies in the community that has engaged and grown because of your hard work. Stay in contact with them and continue to engage with them. These supporters are now fans, advocates, and customers. You should establish guidelines for the following:
1. How quickly a donor should be thanked after a campaign gift.
Pro Tip: Ideally a donor should be thanked right after they make a gift. However, if time doesn’t allow make sure to thank everyone the day a campaign ends. Even if the update is a simple thank you with a reminder to stay tuned, this helps keep the donor invested.
2. How many updates donors should receive at a minimum and over what time period.
Pro Tip: Try to give at least 3 post-campaign updates. We recommend the day the campaign ends, a week after, and 1-2 months after or when the impact has been fully reached. To create an even more meaningful experience, you can send donors an update six months or a year after the campaign ends as a check-in.
3. How long you should wait before another ask is made.
Pro Tip: A survey of nearly 3,000 donors found that 63 percent of respondents preferred an organization to wait at least seven months before asking for a second gift.
Make sure your emails to donors use “you” language: this about how amazing your donor is. Also, don’t “thask” your donors by including a solicitation in your follow-up. The #1 reason people stop giving is that they’re over-solicited and under-appreciated. Keep your messaging focused on donor impact.
Challenges, Rewards, & Advice
You heard ’em! The best advice we can give you is:
- Plan ahead and prep early.
- Create a personal connection through your story. Add pictures and videos in your updates and speak with your true voice.
- Bring your passion to the table and celebrate your wins. You deserve it after all your hard work!
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