Crowdfunding 101: What It is, Why it Matters, and How to Choose the Right Platform

Crowdfunding 101

Crowdfunding is a phrase we’re hearing more and more, so we thought it would make sense to do a post on the who, what, where, when, and why around this popular topic. Let’s get to it.

What, exactly, is crowdfunding?
One of the best visual examples we can offer is this: you know that scene at the end of the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life where all of George Bailey’s friends and family show up at his house on Christmas Eve and offer money (thanks to a call made by George’s wife) to help save him from the evil Mr. Potter? That’s crowdfunding at work.

Crowdfunding is when a group of people collectively pool their money to support a specific endeavor. It could be a business endeavor (e.g. funding the manufacturing of a new product), a creative endeavor (funding a film), or charitable endeavor (funding a nonprofit’s specific need, like a new roof on a soup kitchen). Monetary donations can range from small, like one dollar, all the way up into the thousands.

On crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, the person or organization creating the campaign sets a monetary goal and deadline (such as one month). If the monetary goal is met, the endeavor (whatever it is) moves forward. If the monetary goal isn’t met, then the endeavor *usually* doesn’t happen (and donors aren’t charged). The crowdfunding site *usually* gets a percentage of the funds raised IF the campaign is successfully funded and moves forward. We say “usually” because other crowdfunding platforms do exist that employ different models, such as a personal “stake” in the venture in exchange for funds. Bottom line: before choosing a crowdfunding platform, it’s important to understand the model it’s using. Always read the fine print. Continue reading “Crowdfunding 101: What It is, Why it Matters, and How to Choose the Right Platform”

How to Plan Special Events – Part 2: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid

Earlier this week, we talked about how to plan special events and the 10 questions you should ask yourself to get started. Now, let’s talk about 10 pitfalls to avoid.

1. Not being realistic about how much an event costs. Unless you’ve recently planned an event, it’s easy to experience sticker shock. While we recommend having a budget in mind before you start any planning, this may be difficult to do if you have no idea what things cost. We recommend talking to two to three potential venues to find out a typical cost per person for food and beverage, which is one of the largest expenses, as well as entertainment, décor, and venue rental. From there, you’ll be able define your budget.

2. Not having focus. You need to have an established purpose for the event (e.g. charity event vs. networking event), reasonable expectations, and the ability to measure outcomes. Are you raising awareness, raising money, building your brand, thanking employees, appreciating customers, or something else? Don’t have an event “just because.” Have a specific goal/purpose and organize the event around this purpose.

3. Not being aware of “minimums” in the fine print. Many large venues have minimums for food and beverage, which does not include tax, gratuity, and fees. So even though you think you can get by with a small menu, it might not be possible at that venue. If you plan to do a cash bar, you should confirm with the venue that the proceeds of the cash bar can work against your minimum. Continue reading “How to Plan Special Events – Part 2: Ten Pitfalls to Avoid”

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits

Non-profits, we salute you. You work long hours on causes that matter and make a difference in our world. We know how important marketing is to help get the word out and raise money. So we thought we’d share some interesting marketing ideas for non-profits that we’ve come across…ideas that might re-inspire your team and your supporters while raising funds for your organization.

1. Naming campaigns. These are fun and fairly straightforward to implement. One example is a “buy a brick” campaign, where people buy a brick (could be for a new building or even a brick path in a local park) and the person’s name will be included on the brick.

2. Restaurant proceeds. We’ve seen this work especially well with religious organizations. Team up with a local restaurant and declare the first Monday of the month your organization’s “Awesome Restaurant Day.” When people dine or get take out from Awesome Restaurant – and they mention they’re with your organization – a portion of each bill will go towards your organization. It’s great for the community, for the restaurant, for your supporters, and for your non-profit.

3. Competitions. Whether it’s a cake bake-off or a gingerbread house showdown, competitions are a great way to build buzz in a community and reach people who might not normally know much about your non-profit. One idea we’ve seen works like this:

  • Invite local high school students to submit designs for a cake.
  • Get local bakeries to donate their time and a cake.
  • Select five (or however many) design finalists and assign each finalist to a bakery, which then turns the design into reality.
  • Designate a “cake design competition” day, where people in the community are invited to stop by some central location – could be a community or youth center – where people vote on the cake they like the best. (And, of course, you’d have plenty of visuals and literature available about your non-profit, since your organization would be sponsoring the event.)
  • The winning designer and baker get a prize.

This can be an effective campaign because of its potential “reach.”  The finalists would promote the competition to their family and friends, the schools would promote the contest to faculty and the entire student body, the bakeries would promote the contest to their customers (and, ideally, through social media), and it’s the type of feel-good story that the local press might be interested in covering.

4. Bake sales. Okay, so it might be easy to dismiss this idea as “done to death,” but bake sales are still extremely effective because  1) they’re easy to set up 2) they’re easy to explain 3) they cater to “impulse buyers” and 4) they’re fun!

5. Sponsored walks (and other sporting events). While these can take more work and coordination to set up, they also have great community and media reach. Make it an annual event that you center your other marketing activities around.

For the last three ideas above, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have the right promotional products available to give away. Here are some that we recommend to customers:

  • Banner Custom Keychains. Keychains are economical and easy to display at busy events, like bake sales and competitions.

Custom Keychains

7 Fresh Fundraising Ideas for Fall

Fundraising - Raffle
Photo by Catholic United financial

Fall is a terrific time for fundraisers—right between the lazy days of summer and the frenzy of the holidays. If your non-profit’s fundraising strategy needs a bit of a shakeup, you might want to give these fresh ideas a try:

  1. Try a fundraising event that requires little or no investment, like a car wash or yard cleanups around the neighborhood.
  2. Consider selling items that consumers buy anyway, like candles, chocolate, or holiday wrapping paper (it’s never too early!).
  3. Organize a raffle for a high-value item, like an iPad or a TV. You could even ask a local vendor to donate a prize in exchange for advertising. For a more integrated campaign, consider giving away custom stylus pens with that vendor’s logo (which are perfect for use with an iPad)!
  4. Take advantage of the beautiful fall weather by organizing a fun run or walk and charge an entrance fee. Offer entrants custom t-shirts or caps to make sure everyone who sees them knows which cause they’re walking for!  Continue reading “7 Fresh Fundraising Ideas for Fall”