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We live in a world where we all have computers more powerful than the ones that put men on the moon – in our pockets. So it’s obvious, if we are passionate about a cause, that we include fundraising online as part of our strategy.
Raising money is old-school. Very old-school, down to the activities we use and the ideas people come up with year in and year out. Just imagine how many chocolate sales, bake sales and raffles are being held each and every day.
There’s a reason these activities persist, of course – they work. They’re relatively simple to set up, require little investment and even the most motley crew of volunteers can make them work.
But we’re living in the 21st Century and, in this amazing digital age, we have access to technologies our predecessors in the game didn’t have. And we all know novel ideas get people excited and fired up.
Technology is a double-edged sword – sometimes triple-edged. The Internet, for example, has made fundraising in the modern age easier than ever.
At the same time, the ease of fundraising online has also made it possible for anyone who has a financial crisis to launch a campaign. People have looked to online fundraising for everything from film projects to paying bills to funding their honeymoons and holidays. The stigma of asking for money is falling away as the Internet adds layers of abstraction and anonymity to the process – and the end result is a world filled with fundraisers.
What this means is that, while the mechanical and technical aspects of raising money have got easier, it’s exponentially more difficult to cut through the noise and be noticed over all the other campaigns vying for people’s money.
So what are your best options and how do you stand out from the crowd? Here are 11 ways to make dollars (and sense!) of it all.
1. Be loud
The Internet’s a big place – you have to be loud if you want people to notice your cause over everyone else’s. Leverage your human resources – all of your volunteers have social media accounts. Train them in the basics of social media and get them to coordinate their posts.
Make sure everyone posts about your activity on Launch Day – and that everyone shares your announcements and marketing materials throughout the course of your campaign.
2. Be legitimate
It’s important that people know that your organisation isn’t just another random person begging for money for a trip or a pet project.
Whether it’s for a school, a church or a charity, make certain all of your materials and communications underscore your purpose. People are more likely to donate to what they perceive as ‘good’ causes as opposed to selfish ones – but first they have to understand where you fall on that scale.
The use of official logos helps here – whether it’s a school crest or an associated major charity, having recognisable logos on your web page and mailings tells everyone immediately that this is a reputable cause.
3. Use video to inspire support
We all know what a telethon is – why not put on your own? A YouTube channel, a smartphone capable of good-quality video and a volunteer or two with some technical know-how, and you can start releasing videos of volunteers performing music, magic tricks, stand-up comedy, dance moves – whatever!
Set aside a week for the event and promote it, then publish a schedule of video releases and add a call to action at the end of each video to donate via a conveniently provided link.
Alternatively, start pushing out a weekly vidcast, like a TV show, but centred on your fundraising efforts. Have a host and guests – and a weekly tally of the money raised since last time.
The great part about videos like this is that they are persistent and have a long tail. You’ll get most of your donations during a period of promotion, of course, but the video stays up there, being shared and collecting donations for weeks – sometimes even months – to follow.
4. Run an Internet Film Festival
Here’s another Internet video-based campaign that will be sure to get you some attention – an Internet Film Festival!
Charge a fee to aspiring film makers, who submit their finished film to you in an Internet-friendly format. You publish the films on your YouTube Channel and make announcements every time you do.
Over the course of days or weeks or even months, you invite the community to watch the films and vote on which ones are the best. Finally you award a winner with a small prize.
The key is that every time you announce a new entry, or someone watches a film, or submits a vote, they come in contact with a request for a donation.
Films could also be prefaced with a brief donation notice when they’re filmed. This not only gets the whole community involved, it gives people a creative outlet that will surprise you with its quality and inventiveness.
Go forth and innovate!
5. Run an online arts competition
The Internet makes it simple to run any sort of event these days, whether using a proprietary service or simply creating your own web page. What about a literary contest or film festival?
Aspiring writers can pay a small fee to enter a writing contest, submitting their manuscripts online. Have a theme for the writing and set limits on word count and any sort of content restrictions (like no graphic language or sexuality), and appoint judges.
The local teachers, professors or librarians could serve – and if there’s a local published author, they might be great for publicity. Offer a modest money prize and publication in the local paper!
6. Sell canvas prints online
People simply love seeing their photos brought to life on canvas – and soon you’ll be able to sell them online on behalf of your community group who will reap the financial rewards!
Our soon to be launched Big Hearted Canvas program is an easy, proven way to raise funds.
The best things about this online idea is that there’s no financial outlay. There is no risk! Once your website is live, you can start raising funds straight away.
We are so close to launching this opportunity, we can almost taste it. If you’re interested you can sign up here now.
7. Get donations via social media
If you’re like most people these days, the moment you read the words ‘social media’ you run the other way. Social Media has become a modern-day snake oil that is proposed as a solution to almost every problem in existence, usually with the caveat that you need to hire an expert to show you how to use it properly and effectively.
From a fundraising point of view, of course, that’s bosh: Many professionals and volunteers have been using social media in their school, club, church, and other charity campaigns for years now, and quite effectively.
But social media moves fast and it evolves very quickly. A year or two ago, using social media meant you set up a Facebook account and sent out Twitter updates. Today there are many more ways to use this powerful technology.
One major way social media has evolved is that it is possible to link bank or PayPal accounts directly to social media accounts – which allow for instant donations.
This means you can post videos or graphics and ask for immediate assistance – and people can simply click a link or send a text, and the money is instantly transferred. Sometimes normal fees can be waived as well, meaning that a $10 text donation is literally $10.
One charity group recently used this technique using the Twitter-owned Vine App and service. Vine allows users to create 6-second videos with instant editing, often resulting in very funny or affecting little videos.
The group created a Vine that had a very emotional and affecting scenario, with the final frame being a request to text donations. The effort was very successful – and shows how you can leverage this power by creating something funny or moving and urging everyone who enjoys it or views it to pitch in.
8. Use real time people power
Another way that social media has evolved is in terms of real-time. One ambitious idea that a toy company had was to set up a ‘pop up’ shop with a 3D printer. People texted small donations and, for each one received, the company printed a simple toy that was donated to a child for the holidays.
That sort of ‘real time’ aspect is powerful, because people can see the request or the news about a event, click in a donation and instantly see the result.
Since one of the many complaints people have regarding charity projects typically revolves around the mystery of how much of their money goes directly to the cause and how much goes to administrative costs and unnecessary expenses, this ‘real time’ effect can inspire people to donate more, because they see the instant effect.
Social media continues to evolve and change and you must stay on top of this evolution if you want to get the most out of a very powerful avenue for fundraising.
9. Open a CafePress Store
Sometimes the most obvious ideas are right in front of us. Raising funds for a cause doesn’t have to always be about huge events that last a few days and then finish, and you either made your goal or you didn’t. It can be a constant, year-round thing that’s always going on passively in the background, with more active special events punctuating the effort a few times a year.
CafePress (www.cafepress.com) and other sites like it are a great resource for the modern fundraiser. Just create some T-shirts, mugs, and other gifts using artwork you or your volunteers create then publicise the sale.
People can be encouraged to buy from your online store for any occasion and, since there’s no money down, it’s all pure profit even after CafePress takes their share.
A few ideas for the CafePress strategy:
- Take advantage of local events, celebrities, and odd occurrences by creating T-shirts and other items. Did a local get on the news? Make a T-shirt to commemorate the moment. A local political scandal – make T-shirts for both sides!
- Go seasonal and offer holiday-themed items at the appropriate times.
- Advertise! Don’t let folks forget your online store is always open.
- Contact local businesses and suggest they get their T-shirts for company events or give-aways from you so everybody wins.
10. Crowdsource for fundraising ideas
For many of us in charge of fundraising for an organisation, church or school, the biggest source of stress isn’t raising money itself, but coming up with great ideas.
You’re always trapped between truly creative and fun ideas that aren’t road-tested and the dull, boring fundraising ideas that have been shown to work at least to an acceptable level.
And sometimes the ideas just won’t come – fun and exciting or old and dull. That’s when we lose sleep, worried that our failure to come up with the idea will result in no money raised, the cancellation of everything, and our legacy being the year that no money was raised.
In the modern age, though, there’s a simple answer to this problem: Crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing is a simple concept. Instead of limiting idea generation to one or two approved folks, you toss it out to the crowd. In the modern Internet age, the crowd is as large or small as you like. The crowd could be the student body at your school, the entire parish of your church, or just the people who follow your Twitter Feed.
Crowdsourcing can be used in two distinctly effective ways:
1. Simply tossing the question out to the crowd, asking for fantastic ideas then sorting through the suggestions sent back.
2. Handing people goals for raising money and then leaving it up to them to meet those goals.
If you’re going with option one, you just choose the first idea that seems workable and exciting to you. If you’re going with option two, you have a lot of different ways you can work the crowdsourcing magic:
- For a school, you can work with parents and set Christmas holiday goals for each kid or weekly goals during the school year – and leave it up to them to devise how they will raise their funds, with prizes for not just the most money raised, but also the most creative ideas.
- For a charity, you can hold a contest for great ideas, and whoever’s idea is chosen is named the Honorary CEO of the season, or something similar.
- For a church, give each family a goal and let them come up with their own family ideas for raising money at a special event – an annual picnic or other community gathering.
The people in your organisation have a lot more ideas than you might imagine and, given the chance, will come through for you in a big way. Crowdsourcing isn’t just for Internet startups – anyone seeking a fresh perspective can put it to good use.
11. Get offline
The Internet is such a powerful tool it’s possible to do all of your fundraising there, but it’s vital that you not abandon the tried-and-true boots-on-the-ground approach. Online fundraising should be viewed as augmenting your efforts, not replacing the old-school methods. In fact, the best way to do it is to use it as an option for your donors’ convenience.
Certainly, it’s good to leverage the Internet, but combining online tactics with classic techniques is the best strategy, and the easiest way to differentiate yourself from other campaigns, for the simple reason that your donors will have met you, and interacted with your organisation.
The modern age is an age of individual power and amazing possibility, but it comes with the price of being slightly less distinctive, as the world gets crowded with causes. Maintain your impact by not over-relying on the Internet.
Remember, in the 21st century, the Internet isn’t just a place to get chat online! It’s an advertising and content delivery channel and offers some fantastic opportunities to support your favourite cause.