Setting the Stage
I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now. Basically, since early December when I checked out our tracking chart for the eight clients we helped with end-of-year campaigns and realized the smallest one was having the most success.
That’s right, an organization that ended 2015 with $244k in revenue was on track to raise $150k in one six-week campaign (after already pulling off another $100k+ crowdfunding campaign this summer).
The organization is SuNica, an international nonprofit with the mission to make disciples of Jesus in Nicaragua through clean water, education, and mentorship. In a little more than three years, the organization has funded two full-scale sustainable water projects, the development of a recreation center, and a full year’s worth of overhead expenses — all through crowdfunding.
On paper, SuNica shouldn’t be such a capable fundraising machine. As a young nonprofit, it doesn’t have decades and decades of proven work. As a faith-based organization, many grants and corporate dollars aren’t available to them. And there’s only one full-time staff person dedicated to fundraising.
So, how are they doing it? Executive Director Alan Wilser has found a process that works really well, and I’m going to break it down for you in four tips. If you follow them, you should find similar success.
1. Identify a Tangible Goal
What drives crowdfunding campaigns is the anticipation of the tangible goal. Musicians crowdfund debut albums. Many startups crowdfund to launch their businesses. The goal isn’t the dollar amount. It’s what the dollars will do.
“Improving our programs” or “increasing our impact” isn’t tangible enough. One of SuNica’s crowdfunding campaigns centered around its overhead expenses – staff salaries, office rent, vehicle maintenance, etc. These weren’t sexy, but they were tangible. SuNica put together a list of its 20 greatest overhead needs and assigned its most committed supporters to help fundraise for those items (more on this in a second).
2. Take a Phased Approach
Maintaining people’s interest is tough. Even in a month-long campaign, you need to break it up. SuNica divides its campaigns into week-long phases.
This makes the goal seem more attainable. Your people aren’t feeling the burden of $15o,000 in Phase 1. Instead, they’re looking at a manageable chunk. The phases should be staggered. Don’t expect to raise the same amount in Phase 3 as you do in Phase 1. The most money will come in Phases 1 and 4.
Application: Get the most out of your phased campaign. Hold a quiet stage before the public launch and hit up your major donors for pledges. This way when you kick off your campaign, you have some money to infuse into phases that may be off track.
3. Lean on Commitment of Core Tribe
This is SuNica’s secret sauce. Their core tribe is committed to the mission. This group consists of 20 0r so people, and it’s not stacked with a bunch of money bags. Each campaign, Alan reaches out individually to this inner circle.
Some can only commit to raising a couple thousand while others push for closer to $10,000. The multiplication of multiple fundraising captains is how SuNica grows its “crowd.” SuNica doesn’t know every person who contributes. But it doesn’t need to. SuNica knows its core tribe. And that tribe is reliable.
4. Plan Out Constant Communication
You can’t wing this thing. Before the campaign launches, you need a communications plan.
Before SuNica launched The List campaign in November, the number of email sends to the master list (and when to send) was already planned out. SuNica also made sure to have a communications plan for its core tribe. Weekly, and sometimes more often, Alan reached out to check in on his tribe’s fundraising, offer encouragement and share exciting updates. This step ensured his tribe was getting the guidance and attention it needed to grow the crowd!
That’s it folks. Now go plan your next campaign!
– Seth Crawford, Digital Marketing Strategist