While browsing the interwebs for a scholarship ticket to Netroots Nation, I stumbled upon Rally’s Raise the Future Competition which gave contestants the opportunity to use the Rally fundraising platform to win a VIP ticket to the conference. How it worked: The top 10 fundraisers with the most donors for their chosen cause win a ticket.
I had a couple weeks before the competition deadline so I figured I’d give it a shot. Along the way I learned some lessons in online fundraising and won a scholarship ticket to Netroots Nation. I ended up raising over $400 in 4 hours (20 minutes per day for 12 days) for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) using Rally. Here’s what I learned:
Step 1: Hit your “Tight Knit” Network,
By “tight knit”, I’m referring to close friends and family. I don’t think it’s smart to begin a fundraising campaign by targeting strangers you follow on Twitter or designers you admire on Dribble. If they aren’t close friends or family, don’t contact them for a donation… yet. Not yet.
You want your Rally page to show activity, to have a life of it’s own and if possible, to be entertaining. Friends and family start the forward momentum of your fundraiser. Acquaitenances and strangers will be more likely to donate if they are joining a cause or movement with activity and momentum.
Quick Aside: When Contacting Friends and Family…
- Send a personalized email or Facebook message.
- Explain the cause you are raising money for.
- Explain why the cause is important to you and why it’s important to your friends/family
- In your email, include a call to action to your Rally fundraising page (a url or button if you are using one of those fancy email templates).
- Ask friends/family to invite their network to donate
- Follow up. These are your friends and family! Have manners, show your appreciation, call them and thank them.
You may find it helpful to give a quick call to your potential donor ahead of time, explaining that you are about to send an email their way with a link to your Rally page and that you are not spamming. I received a few calls from older family members asking if my Rally fundraising page was legit.
Grams: “Jerry, am I going to get a virus? Jerry is this one of those Nigerian scams?”
By calling ahead I could have put Grams’s identity theft and virus worries to rest.” *note* All old people will call you Jerry if your name is Jared. It’s a natural law or something.
Jared: “Nope Grams, this is just a cause that I’m raising money for and that I believe in. I need your help. Please donate on the internets and invite your friends.”
Step 2. Mass Message Your Network & Create More Content
Once you have some momentum on your Rally page, it’s time to mass message the rest of your network. When composing your email, remember to concisely describe your cause, ask for their donation and include a call to action to your Rally page.
Keep updating your Rally page with relevant posts, and links to external but related articles. Constantly thank your donors.
Step 3: Reach Out to Strangers with Social Media
After you’ve hit your entire network, reach out on Facebook and Twitter to users and organizations that might be interested in your cause. Getting retweeted by large non-profits and thought leaders in your space will spread the word about your Rally page.
Effectiveness of this strategy varies. Sometimes it can be difficult to get through the social media noise and to build rapport with people and organizations that you have no connections to. However, you are much more likely to get their attention if your Rally page has activity and momentum. If you have one donation and one post, they won’t take you seriously. 20 donations and a dozen posts in the past couple days? They might listen. They might even lead by example and donate.
Step 4: Reward Your Donors
It’s important to show appreciation with a thank you. It’s also important to go beyond a thank you to reward your donors in another way (get creative). I’ve listed common-sense ways to say thank you and also a way to digitally reward your donors (meme style).
- Acknowledge your donor with a sincere thank you on your Rally page.
- A follow up personal email or personal facebook message is a good idea as it gives a personal touch. This is also a great opportunity to ask for additional support by asking your donor to invite their network or by asking them to become a "fan fundraiser" for your Rally Page.
- Tweet your thanks. It’s a great way to simultaneously promote your cause and give your donor some exposure on Twitter.
Connor, my co-founder, suggested that I further reward my top donors by finding animal pics and photoshopping them to be animal memes. In the spirit of I Can Has Cheezeburger, I looked online for photos of wildlife, fired up Photoshop and created personalized thank you’s for the top donors. Several of my donors loved the animal meme’s so much that they showed their friends and family which resulted in further donations.
Here are my 3 favorite animal meme’s from my NWF Rally Page:
I enjoyed using Rally’s fundraising platform to help the National Wildlife Federation and I’m thankful for winning the scholarship ticket to Netroots Nation. Below is a quick recap on my lessons learned in Online Fundraising:
I. Timing is important.
With zero momentum, you start by contacting friends and family; with a bit of momentum, you contact your acquaintances; when your Rally page has energy, you reach out to complete strangers on line.
2. Go Beyond a Simple Thank You
Creatively rewarding donors is fun and results in more donations. I took the animal meme approach and my donors loved it. This may not be applicable for all campaigns, but I’m curious as to how other Rally users have rewarded their donors. Please share.
3. What Rally is for Me
For me, Rally enables people to fundraise for a cause and reach the maximum number of people online and raise the maximum of funds in minimal time. You don’t have to make fundraising your full time job to further a cause you believe in. A few hours a week should be enough if you’re smart in your execution. I didn’t invest much time in my fundraising campaign; I was able to raise over $400 in approximately four hours. Without Rally as a fundraising framework, I wouldn’t have been nearly as efficient in my fundraising efforts. I’m curious as to how other people have raised money efficiently using Rally; please share your techniques.
That about wraps it up. Thanks for reading.