Picture this: a black and white bulldog named Bonsai born with multiple rare medical conditions that left him with only half a spine and no pelvis playing with a big pink squeaky toy, still just as rambunctious and playful as any puppy with four legs. Luckily, a group of individuals from Friends of Emma, a small rescue organization, took to crowdfunding to give Bonsai a leg up in his treatment. So far, they have successfully raised just over $20,000 with their YouCaring campaign Bonsai – Half a Bulldog, Twice the Love to give Bonsai a happy and healthy life.
Now imagine four sisters struck with tragedy after their mother, Elizabeth Diamond, passed away from cancer. Elizabeth had asked her longtime best friend, Laura Ruffino, to take care of her daughters if anything ever happened to her, and Laura agreed. When Elizabeth died, Laura and her husband Rico, already raising two daughters of their own, opened their home and their hearts to Tara, Samona, Ella and Lilyan Diamond. Their YouCaring campaign, Ruffino Family Adopts All 4 of Elizabeth Diamond’s Daughters, went viral after being picked up by several news outlets, and to date, more than 2,000 people around the world have been touched enough by the Ruffino’s kindness to donate to the fundraiser. Their campaign has raised more than $113,000.
Both of these stories were made possible with crowdfunding due to its ability to reach and compel individuals across the globe to pay it forward. Since crowdfunding’s inception, people have had a new way to give back, and campaigns like these prove that countless individuals are excited to give even a small donation to a meaningful cause. With strength in numbers, total contributions continue to soar. According to Massolution’s 2015 Crowdfunding Industry Report, the crowdfunding significantly expanded in 2014 by raising up to $16.2 billion compared to $6.1 billion in 2013.
The crowdfunding model jumpstarts more donations by making causes in need of funds more accessible to individuals interested in contributing. As a crossroads of social media and financing, crowdfunding catapulted fundraising into the new digital-driven world. In a sense, crowdfunding is a social platform and meeting place for like-minded individuals looking to either raise funds for a cause or give back. Whether you are an individual or a nonprofit, crowdfunding can help, and it’s starting to catch on as it becomes more mainstream.
There are various crowdfunding models that cater to different types of causes. Deciding what platform is right for you will depend on what you need funds for. YouCaring is a free online fundraising site that focuses on Compassionate Crowdfunding, helping people raise money for personal and charitable causes without worrying about giving up a percentage of their donations.
Ask the Expert
Rose Spinelli is the founder of The Crowdfundamentals, which provides experienced crowdfunding consulting. In 2014, Spinelli was awarded a place on the 100 Most Influential Thought Leaders in Crowdfunding Today.
Spinelli’s advice for individuals learning how to start crowdfunding? Realize that the technology is a tool that must be mastered. Then pull out all the stops to engage your community.
“Learn about the tool,” she says. “Then find your crowd on social media and communicate and engage with them before you even think about launching a campaign. You are not ready until you have an engaged following online—and off.”
The first step in becoming a crowdfunder is getting your footing. It will be invaluable to your crowdfunding success to understand how to use crowdfunding as a lucrative tool before launching a campaign.
Five Vital Principles for First-Time Crowdfunders
- Presentation is Key
Your campaign’s visual content and story description should be deliberate and captivating. This serves as a first impression for most of your donors so you want to appear professional, which means staying clear of stock images, blurry photos and clip art. Effective use of powerful visuals can boost donor retention so try to utilize high-resolution photos and videos, and make sure to set up your photos or video with good lighting and appropriate angles. Your story description should evoke emotion and passion in potential donors who will feel compelled to donate to your cause.
Boekell Family Adoption, YouCaring fundraiser
- Online Impact
There are countless ways to take advantage of the interconnected nature of the Internet. Before you launch a campaign you should seek out your crowd and start connecting with people interested in areas similar to your cause. With social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, sharing campaigns is simple and fast. But there are ways to ensure that your posts are garnering traffic to help grow your online community, like creating a personal hashtag, writing a blog to accommodate your campaign, adding high-resolution visuals and asking friends and family to share your campaign. Don’t stop with just your network; reach out to local news, popular bloggers or columnists via Twitter or LinkedIn and pitch your story. They may cover your cause in their newspaper, blog or even on their news report, which can only add to your online community.
The Rich Apuzzo Sunny Day Fund – To Beat Brain Cancer, YouCaring fundraiser
- Offline Efforts
One crucial aspect of any online campaign is offline fundraising efforts. Organizing a fundraiser event to complement your campaign will not only boost your donations but will also help rally a community around your cause by bringing people together. There are a multitude of fundraising events that can cater to your cause—whether you’re raising funds for your sports team or your community, events like benefit concerts, golf tournaments, silent auctions and community barbeques can serve as an enhancement to your online efforts.
- Proper Donor Appreciation
Consider offering donor appreciation perks like handmade trinkets or art for donations of a certain amount and recognize contributions. Always write thank-you letters or emails, consider catching up with a phone call or hosting a video chat with donors, and post thank-you updates as your campaign really gains momentum.
- The Value of Updates
It is important to stay connected with your donors throughout the process of your campaign, but pay attention to quantity versus quality. It is more valuable to update your donors with good information weekly than to update them daily with frivolous information. You don’t want to bore or annoy your donors, but you do want to demonstrate that their donations are having visible positive effects for your cause. Updates may include meeting certain fund goals, progress of an event or of the beneficiary, any media coverage and big milestones of the campaign.
The crowdfunding model has made fundraising more about the people than the finances by changing the way we give. With large amounts of individuals making donations—however small or large—to campaigns, the collective pool of contributions as a whole becomes quite significant.
Feel like you’re ready to become a compassionate crowdfunder?