June 26, 2012

4 strategies for online fundraising campaigns

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Target audience: Nonprofits, fund-raisers, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises.

John HaydonIn mid-June, Razoo conducted the Twive and Receive national fundraising campaign in which 162 nonprofits competed to win a share of $30,000 in prize money. The Ellie Fund, based in Boston, won first prize for raising more than $53,000 in 24 hours!

Joe Waters and I worked with Julie Nations, executive director of the Ellie Fund, to pull off what we thought was impossible.

We put our heads together to employ the following strategies:

Don’t make it about the money

1The Ellie Fund isn’t in the business of begging. If we talked about the fundraising targets or how close we were to winning, we’d surely come across the wrong way sooner than later. Money is not the way to engage potential supporters, especially when we’re talking about $15,000 in prize money. The likelihood of winning was very low, and we knew it. And if we knew it, so would potential donors.

Create a compelling story

2When we first started working on the campaign, we concluded pretty quickly that talking about a match would get old very quickly. The chance of winning $15,000 would not be an effective story, and we knew it. We needed to uncover the bigger story — the one that matters.

Eventually, we decided to tell the untold story of breast cancer: how families and kids are affected in addition to women.

Our message was that these kids are superheroes – a team of Avengers who exhibited the superpowers of Love, Smarts, Action and Truth. Hugh MacLeod was generous enough to create a logo for the campaign, shown at top.

We also filmed five kids talking about their experiences and strung them together in a series of interactive YouTube videos, which you can view starting with this one:

Leverage existing assets

3Joe and I met with the Ellie Fund a couple of months in advance to start planning. We all agreed that Twive and Receive shouldn’t detract attention from the various things they were focusing on but instead embed Twive and Receive into activities and relationships they were already developing. We wanted to leverage any existing event leading up to Twive and Receive. We also leveraged their partners and sponsors, like a local radio station who mentioned Twive and Receive on air.

Have a sense of mission

4We wanted this campaign to be about something big, to generate huge amounts of passion and commitment among the Ellie Fund community, but also keep the core team excited! Early in the afternoon, we lost the first-place position, but via email, we encouraged each other to imagine the kids being so proud of themselves if we won. This gave us the fire to keep fighting!

What do you think of these strategies?John Haydon delivers social web strategy solutions for “the quick, the smart, and the slightly manic.” Curious? Then visit the John Haydon blog, follow him on Twitter or leave a comment.

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4 thoughts on “4 strategies for online fundraising campaigns

  1. Great article. We did all of this and put our ideas into an online pledge tool http://www.raiseathon.ca We used images, our story, etc and were able to share through social media, etc. our fundraising goal was blown out of the water.