Personal Crowdfunding Success Tips From Firsthand Experience.
Background: A recent problem in my own life led me to think about personal crowdfunding as a solution. At the outset I was optimistic but as I built the campaign and loaded it with MOUNTAINS of information and documentation clearly proving my need it occurred to me before launch it would probably fail. I reached this conclusion even though I nailed all of the biggest challenges personal fundraising campaigns face such as:
1) Sincerity. The campaign’s objective was to help a member of my family in fundamental ways. I proved they needed the help and the help needed would be expensive, far outside the price range of ordinary problems like an expensive car repair, college tuition, etc.
2) Conversation. I set up an associated website expanding on the key points made in the campaign itself to prove the need not just from personal perspective but published research, statistics and all kinds of validation supporting the reasons why this campaign is important and how it can help.
3) Transparency. I set up this personal crowdfunding campaign in such a way that every donation was 100% tax-deductible and that an independent non-profit organization would receive the funds and insure the funds only went to the cause. I stressed that not one dollar would end up in my own pocket.
By the way, make sure your personal fundraising campaign has all three of the above. Your project is dead-on-arrival if one is missing and could struggle if you don’t have COPIOUS amounts of proof of the need. You don’t necessarily need to set up and maintain a website like I did but do make sure you’re having a conversation with the public through updates, comments, etc. Ditto for transparency; you don’t need to go my route with tax-deductions and non-profits but leave no doubt in anybody’s mind that the funds raised will be handled responsibly and properly. All that being said it only helps to go the extra mile.
The campaign launched and I went right to work on leveraging my own personal network of friends and family and associates to donate as much as they could and share it with everyone they know. I worked fiendishly on outreach. From working the phones with direct personal contact to a very well written email which I sent to each and every person one at a time. No bulk email, no lists, no automation at all.
Donations were anemic. Response was, I must admit, astonishingly small and the reasons why were fascinating. I analyzed what happened and have come up with the reasons why personal crowdfunding campaigns can fail:
Your friends and family feel put on the spot. There’s some stigma here as people close to you feel this sense of pressure of being judged by you. What if they only give $25 instead of $250? Will their donation be perceived as too small or not enough? I perceived this sense of fear of judgement and the potential that our relationship could be fractured as a result.
People have their own problems. The personal challenge my family was facing was not unique. Indeed, many of the people I contacted were facing the exact same problem in their own families and COULD NOT help as they needed every extra dime to help their own family through the exact same thing. Others had just made big financial commitments and could not spare any extra money to commit to my cause.
Resentment. This realization was a bitter pill to swallow. More than a few responded candidly that they went through the exact thing and nobody was there to help them so why should they help me? In other words – “Buck up, buttercup.” Responses like these were a little rough but not mean-spirited. I gained some very valuable perspectives of my own problem talking to people about their own experiences and reactions when they went through the exact same thing.
Ironically, a couple of successful personal crowdfunding campaigns made the news this past week as I made my own personal fundraising push. These stories were so good I shared them in my weekly email newsletter and they’re perfect for this article as I bring the message home…
A Caribbean Cruise for Kabir Ahmed
This GoFundMe campaign is only 4 lines long. But it links to a New York Times article that tells the world about Kabir. Result? The campaign raised more than double the goal for his family’s vacation AND Kabir Ahmed is making more money every day than ever before. Here is a second New York Times article about Kabir as a follow up piece.
Emergency GoFundMe for Lana Wood
An older generation remembers Natalie Wood and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death over 30 years ago. Her sister Lana Wood was all but forgotten despite the fact she was a Hollywood actress in her own right. She was even a Bond Girl playing across Sean Connery himself. Lana fell on hard times. Really hard times. She lives a very different life compared to her Hollywood days. Her GoFundMe campaign says it all. Here’s the thing… I learned about Lana’s campaign on Thursday night watching Fox News. I woke up Friday morning and the campaign more than doubled what it raised.
Based on all of the above get a pen and paper ready….
Personal Crowdfunding Success Tips
Make sure the fundraising project is not about you. When Jennifer Joan Nelson launched the GoFundMe campaign to help Kabir and his family go on vacation it was obvious there was nothing in it for her. She just wanted to do good for someone else in need. Here’s the best possible example of this: The Detroit Walking Man GoFundMe campaign. Google the term “detroit walking man” and you’ll find a torrential flood of press coverage and the very happy ending that didn’t just get James Robertson a new car but a new house too. They even made a movie about him.
Try and help a person, not a cause. People connect much more easily and far more personally when they hear a story about a person going through a very trying time. Person-to-person giving strikes me as being much more powerful in the very personal way someone can directly help someone else. Over the years I’ve seen personal stories raise much more money than even the worthiest of causes in the crowdfunding world.
Do a major public relations push. Looking at the three personal crowdfunding success stories in this article there is one critical factor that made all the difference: Media coverage. Between TV, radio, newspaper and online coverage it’s clear that these campaigns did so well ONLY BECAUSE there was epic media coverage of these worthy causes. You just can’t get results like these from Facebook ads or Google Adwords or any other advertising. Heck, advertising in cases like these doesn’t make any sense. Only public relations made it happen.
When it comes to personal fundraising, Crowdfunding PR is the only way. Public relations for a crowdfunding campaign can open the floodgates allowing hundreds or even thousands of backers to learn about your project and get involved.
We’ve done PR for personal crowdfunding campaigns for years for causes ranging from helping a homeless man in Halifax, Canada to a soup kitchen to an after-school program for at-risk kids in Los Angeles and so many others. We have a proven public relations strategy to help you get the news of your fundraising campaign in front of a lot of people fast.
We realize that fundraising is all about taking money in, not paying it out.
In the spirit of giving we will give every personal crowdfunding campaign a free upgrade in our PR services.
Just order our Base PR package and enter “fundraising” in the comments section and we’ll upgrade your press release with multimedia for free.