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What Do Disneyland and Crowdfunding Have in Common?

2 Apr

Every year, millions of families flow through Disneyland’s amusement parks, gorging themselves on overpriced fast food and thrilling at themed rides.  Why do all of these people spend exorbitant amounts of money on just a few days here?  One reason: Disneyland has invested an extraordinary amount of energy, thought, and money into creating an experience for its patrons, to create what it calls “The Happiest Place on Earth”.  People aren’t there for the rides or the cotton candy, they are purchasing the chance to transport themselves (or their children) to a land of princesses, Indiana Jones, and chipmunks.

What many fundraisers don’t realize is that their donors aren’t making a simple financial transaction when they donate—they are purchasing an experience.  The experience of giving back, of contributing to a cause larger than themselves, or simply supporting a loved one.  The experience that each donor is expecting or hoping for when he or she gives may vary by campaign, but if you use the tools embedded in the Fundly platform such as video, images, customized email templates, and automated thank-you notes, to name just a few you can significantly improve the overall experience for your average donor.  And I promise you, when you deliver an incredible giving experience you will win ardent supporters, who will pass the word on to other potential advocates and donors.

As you work to build a captivating experience for your donors consider the following ideas:

  • Nothing Beats Visual: If it were possible, you would want every potential donor or supporter to experience your cause and solution in-person.  The emotion that an in-person experience evokes can never be fully replicated by any other medium.  But the next best way to tell your story is through visual media. Make a video of yourself explaining why your cause is so important to you. Post pictures of your solution in action.  Give the donor the feeling that she is right there, experiencing the pain, joy, and intensity that you are in that moment.
  • Reduce Frustration: In addition to evoking emotion through powerful storytelling, another key component of the experience is making the process of listening, empathizing, and giving as seamless as possible. Spend a moment thinking about this, from first contact to actual donation what does your donor experience? Does your flow make sense? What can you do to make it even more effortless to contribute to your cause?
  • Long-term engagement: Lastly, perhaps the most powerful experience you can provide someone with is the sense that they are needed.  That they are an integral part of your organization’s long-term success.   Explain to your donors that you are in this for the long-haul, and that you want them to feel the same way.   And treat them that way.  Don’t just hit them up when you need cash.  Tell them about your challenges and triumphs. Keep them informed of your progress, and share your goals and visions for the future.

If you engage your social network thinking of a donation as just a financial transaction you should expect a cold, impersonal response fitting of that approach.  On the other hand, you can give them an experience they won’t forget, and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by willing supporters and fellow change makers.

Give it a try, and let us know how it goes at


Can a personal story from a volunteer fundraiser be the path to new donor acquisition?

1 Apr

Absolutely and here’s why! Volunteer fundraisers have a personal story to tell about your cause since it usually explains the reason(s) why they support your cause at all. That personal story is hugely valuable since a volunteer fundraiser’s mom is far more likely to throughly read and understand their son’s story than anything your cause could ever put in front of her. The same can be said for any of your volunteer fundraisers’ other personal relationships.

The stories that are shared will reach a universe of people you may have never known existed, which will help your organization fill the top of your cause’s new donor acquisition funnel. We’ll be writing more about the ‘new donor acquisition funnel’ soon, but to give you a quick understanding it moves people from just barely becoming knowledgable about your cause to understanding why supporting your cause makes a positive impact in the world and eventually it converts them into donors.

Start the process of tapping into your volunteer fundraisers’ social networks by sharing personal stories.

The most important personal story is yours, so tell YOUR personal story first. Leading by example is important and works well when asking others to do something they may not be comfortable with. Many aren’t as comfortable writing or expressing their passion, especially knowing that their words could make it into the worldwide web. As the champion of your cause, you shouldn’t hesitate to share your personal story with the world, so share it loud and proud!

Once you’ve shared your personal story with your networks, ask your volunteer fundraisers to write about how your cause impacts their lives.

To many people, asking them to write about how your cause has positively impacted their lives is like giving them a way to say ‘thank you’ to your cause. That can make writing a personal story an easy task since there’s no risk in saying ‘thank you’ nor will it be viewed as self-promotion, which are two of the most common fears when it comes to sharing a personal story.

As part of asking your volunteer fundraisers to write their personal story, you’ll want to instruct them to include a paragraph asking every other recipient to share their personal story. At the very least, your volunteer fundraisers will find that their friends and family will pass their story along. In some cases, you’ll even get some of your volunteer fundraisers’ friends and family sharing their own personal stories about your cause with their networks! To make your life a bit easier, here’s an example of a paragraph I’ve used to ask people to pass my personal story along:

“As you can tell, I’m passionate about CAMP and hopefully that’s rubbing off on you a bit right now. 🙂 If it is, please share my story with everyone you know or share your own story!”

When asking your volunteer fundraisers to share their personal story, don’t forget to use your own personal story as an example of what you’re asking them to do. That might just end up being the reason why they feel comfortable promoting your cause with their personal story.

All that’s left for your volunteer fundraisers to do after their personal stories are written is to:

  • paste their personal story onto their volunteer fundraising page
  • ensure that their volunteer fundraising page is connected to their social media networks
  • use Fundly’s sharing tools to email, post their personal story to Facebook and Tweet with the click of a button
  • include a link to their personal fundraising page in their story

Give that a shot and let me know how it goes. We’re always interested in hearing from you!

You may reach me anytime with your thoughts, comments, or questions at

Could something like HRC’s red and pink equal sign work for you?

29 Mar

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve seen the red and pink equal sign splashed all over Facebook these past few days. You may also know that the Human Rights Campaign started this trend by changing their traditionally blue and yellow logo to red and pink, then encouraging their supporter base to follow suit by using their newly colored logo as a profile picture.

That is Genius for a few reasons:

  1. It’s super easy for anyone to change their profile picture,
  2. The sheer act of changing your profile picture is one of the most recognizable actions in everyone’s Facebook news feed,
  3. It costs nothing to change a profile pic and, most importantly,

If you’re reading this and thinking, “hey, maybe that will work for my cause” then you’re wasting your time reading this post. GO FOR IT! Gaining visibility will drive traffic to your fundraising pages and traffic on your fundraising pages means you will see more donations.

Don’t hesitate by thinking you have to use a logo that is well understood and meaningful, either. Use a flat color and let everyone know that it represents your cause (when people don’t know what it means, it’ll draw interest)… Use an image of a person who has been positively impacted by your cause… Use any image that you don’t hate and go with it…

Your friends, family, colleagues and supporters wouldn’t mind simply changing their profile picture to something meaningful to your cause if it will make a difference. Try it out and let me know how it goes by emailing me at

Is Fundly the fundraising world’s Easy button? Kind of, but not really…

22 Mar

From time to time an interesting question comes up in our initial conversations with customers as they ask  “How exactly does Fundly help me raise donations?  Do you provide me with donors? Access to new potential supporters? If I connect my campaign to Facebook, won’t people come in droves to donate like I’ve seen on so many of your successful case studies?”

At first glance, it may certainly seem as though Fundly is the secret sauce driving outsized donations for organizations that use our platform.   However, Fundly is just one piece of the puzzle in successful crowdfunding.  Organizations must have an existing base of supporters that they can tap into in order to effectively crowdfund.  Once that is in place, Fundly’s platform is able to kick-in and turbo charge the fundraising process in two ways:

Fundly Simplifies the Ask:

Ask any volunteer what the biggest barrier to fundraising is for them and the response is almost always related to the “ask”. The fear of imposing on someone on behalf of something you care about can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and let’s be honest it can be a drag to get out there and pound the pavement. I know, I’ve sold countless Makahiki tickets as a Cub Scout in Hawaii.

This is where Fundly starts to shine! Countless design and development hours have gone into a ridiculously simple and easy product that allows anyone to create and promote a cause in just minutes.  Seriously, check out this page created by an 8 year-old! From there Fundly automatically begins updating each volunteer’s Facebook Wall and other social networks with posts about their fundraising activities. That means little to no effort is required of volunteers to “ask” their friends and family members to support their cause.

Fundly Enables You to Tell Your Story:

You have a unique and powerful story to tell.  There’s a reason that you and your colleagues invest countless hours and a great deal of energy promoting your cause.  Your ability to harness this story and tell it will directly influence your fundraising results. Fundly helps you and your volunteers to tell your story in three ways:

  1.  Parent/Child Campaign Relationship: Fundly campaigns are built in hierarchical layers, with child campaigns pulling content from their parent campaign. In other words, if you invest the time upfront to develop a compelling story for your campaign, as volunteer fundraisers sign up to fundraise for your campaign their pages will seamlessly pull your original content onto their volunteer pages as well!
  2. Visual Media: A picture is worth a thousand words and meaningful videos can be incredible catalysts for creating positive emotional connections and driving donations.  Fundly’s current site and upcoming design enhancements feature visual media front-and-center, meaning you can showcase your cause with a variety of assets and medium.
  3. Templates Galore!: As a part of our effort to make social fundraising as simple and pain-free as possible we’ve developed all sorts of compelling templates geared for different audiences including volunteer fundraisers, donors, and casual supporters. These templates allow you to quickly spread an effective message that directs people back to your campaign page so you can reach as many people as possible.

Fundly isn’t a silver bullet for your fundraising needs…  But it can be a powerful enabler that allows you to more simply and fully access, expand, and strengthen your existing community of supporters.

Give a Fundly campaign a spin if you haven’t already, and we’re always interested in hearing your thoughts, comments, or questions!  You can reach me anytime at

My Thermometer is Not Filling Up–What do I Do?

19 Mar

Hi all!  This post is a trouble-shooting guide for your crowdfunding campaign.

I often get questions and concerns from people who have launched a crowdfunding campaign and are not seeing the results they expected.  More often than not, there is no reason for alarm, and some simple adjustments can get the campaign on track.  Here is the checklist I work through with people to help them tune up their campaigns.

Question 1:  How did you set your goal?

The rule of thumb for setting your fundraising goal is to plan for each individual fundraiser to be able to raise +/- $1,000.  If you are raising money by yourself, set a goal of $1,000.  If you have 4 other people actively fundraising for your campaign, set your goal at $5,000, etc.  If you are trying to do this by yourself, and you have a $20,000 goal, it is likely you will be disappointed.  And this part is important:  EVEN IF YOU HAVE A LARGE MAILING LIST.  Mailing lists are not good sources of donors, unless you have proven them to be so.  A mailing list is worth as much as a mailing list is worth. So if you’ve emailed to your list before and gotten $5,000, then you are likely to get $5,000 this time.  Don’t set your goal higher than that unless you have additional fundraisers reaching out to THEIR lists also.  Here is a simple formula you can use for setting your goal:

  • # of fundraisers * $1,000
  • + Previous yield from whatever lists you are using
  • = goal

By the way… if you follow the rest of the program, you will probably exceed this goal, but that is good… setting a reasonable goal and exceeding it builds momentum!

Question 2:  How many people have you told?

Generally, if you are working with your friends–people who know and love you–it works like this:

  • Tell 100 people
  • 30 people click through
  • 10 people support
  • 5 people donate an average of $100 each

So if you have raised $500, it’s probably because you told 100 people.  If you have raised more, it’s probably because you have told more people.

  • If you want to raise more money, tell more people.
  • If you have run out of people to tell, recruit personal fundraisers to work with you, and tap into their networks as well.

If for some reason you are not seeing results like the ones above–in other words, you told 100 people, but you haven’t raised any money–there are a couple of other things you can check:

  1. How well do the people you have told know you?  Are they actually friends, for whom you have done favors, and who will want to support you in this?  If they are just acquaintances, you may see different results.  And if they don’t know you on a personal basis at all, all bets are out the window.  In this case, you have to put them in the “mailing list” category and value them based on past yield (see “How did you set your goal?” above.  The key is to reach out to your inner circle first–your mom, your best friend, your college roommate, your neighbor…. people who will definitely respond and support your cause.
  2. How compelling is your story?  Is it the case that if a person lands on your page, they will be sucked in and compelled to donate?  You may need to tune up your story:  see “How compelling is your story?”

Question 3:  How compelling is your story?

Take a look at your page.  Imagine you had never seen it, and you arrived there through a referral from a friend.  Does it compel you?  Are you moved?  Are you motivated to pull out your wallet and give away some money?  If the answers to any of these are ‘no’ or ‘maybe,’ you probably could do some work on the page to get it there.  This is important:  FIXING YOUR PAGE WILL NOT SOLVE ANY TRAFFIC PROBLEMS.  You can have the most gorgeous page on the planet, but if you are not telling people about it, it will not produce results.  What we are addressing with this question 3 is CONVERSION, not traffic.   You still need to tell hundreds of personal connections about what you are doing and get them to visit your page if you want to raise money.  But I digress… let’s talk about how to make your page awesome.

  1. Does it make you cry?  If you were a brand new, uninitiated visitor to your page, would it make you cry?  Would it make you mad?  Would it make you feel worried, guilty, sad… anything?  If you want people to give to your cause, you have to touch some emotion deep within them.  Giving away money isn’t a casual thing—it requires an emotional connection.  Figure out what that connection is, and turn the dial up to 11:
    • Is it outrage?  Then emphasize the injustice or inequity.  Make sure the reader feels angry and resolved to help.
    • Is it sympathy?  Then show sympathetic images and tell  sympathetic story.  Make the reader fall in love and want to help.
    • Is it friendship?  Then show what an awesome guy you are, and evoke the good times you spent with your friends, and appeal to their friendship to help you out.
    • etc.
  2. Is it visual?  Step back from your page.  What do you see?  Do you see lots of words… blah, blah, blah…. Or do you see bold, evocative images?  Pictures sell your story.  PIctures, and especially videos make it more likely for your campaign to convert visitors and supporters into donors.  4x more likely actually.  So if you haven’t taken the time to put the very best pictures and videos you can into your gallery, do that now
  3. Is it specific?  Here’s an important one.  If I give to you, what happens?  I don’t want to give you money if I don’t think it will help.  So tell me….  what will my $100 do?  Will it allow you to run a race?  Go on a trip?  Feed a family?  Buy some medicine?  What’s the overall goal?  When you raise your $1,000, what happens?  When your organization raises its $100,000, what happens?  I want to know, because I want to be part of it.  Be very specific about what the money is going to do.
  4. Do you have initial supporters?  No one wants to be the first one to arrive at a party.  You need to make sure there are people there and having fun–then everyone wants to be there.  It’s the same with your campaign.  An empty thermometer and only one supporter (you) doesn’t look very compelling.  So do a little bit to get the party started.  Get your mom and your college roommate and your colleague to come in and support your campaign.  Ideally get 10 supporters on your page right away.  They don’t necessarily have to donate–just get their faces up there.  This will help it look like the party is already started.   The second thing you can do is “seed the tip jar.”  You can make your own donation to your campaign to get it started.  If you have a $1,000 goal, you can put in the first $100.  Now your friends know you are serious, and you have set the bar.

Question 4:  Does the beat go on? 

The average person has to hear about something 6 times in order to respond to marketing.   Have you sent a 2nd email?  Made a 2nd Facebook post?  A 3rd?  4th?  5th?  6th?  You should be reaching out to the people you know daily.  After they’ve heard from you 3 times they will know you are serious.  After they’ve heard from you 6 times they will start to understand that other people are supporting, the campaign is gaining momentum, you are paying attention, and they are not going to be able to slip away quietly without you noticing.

You may be saying to yourself, “What?  Daily emails?  That could get annoying.  I’ll do weekly.”  Or, “I’ll send out one and see what happens.  My friends will respond quickly.”  Well….  I don’t recommend testing that theory.  We have experience across tens of thousands of personal campaigns, and we know what works and what doesn’t, and it turns out that even your really good friends need reminding sometimes.

All that being said, you don’t have to literally send an email every day.  I admit–that could get annoying.  You just have to do something every day.  Here are some things we have done to make it easier to keep a daily drumbeat going:

  • Post a new photo.  When you do this, we send out an email automatically to anyone who is supporting your campaign and let them know to come back and look at the picture.  We also post to your Facebook wall to capture new people
  • Make an update on your page.  This update could contain information about how the campaign is going that will now get pushed out to everyone following your campaign
  • Connect your Fundly account to your Facebook account as well as any Facebook pages you administer.  This will give your updates maximum visibility
  • Share on Facebook using the Fundly tools,   A link back to your campaign will be included automatically
  • Tweet using the Fundly tools.  A link back to your campaign will be included automatically
  • Same for Pinterest
  • Same for Google+

Basically, don’t ever let more than one day go by without an update to your “crew.”  They will support and donate and promote if you keep them informed.

Question 5:  What results should I expect by when?

This is the real question.  Were you concerned about results because there is legitimate reason to worry, or do you just need to be patient?  Let’s assume you set a reasonable goal, you have told enough people, you page is compelling, and you have continued the drumbeat daily.  You are probably okay.  But just to set you at ease, here is how a typical campaign plays out:

  • The first quarter of the campaign you are campaigning the hardest, and you do get an initial surge.. but probably not more than 25% of your goal
  • The second and third quarters of your campaign seem “dead.”  The temptation is to think that your campaign is over, that you’ve done what you will be able to do, and therefore to sit idly by and watch your campaign fade.  But it is natural for momentum to stall after your initial surge.  If you know this already, you won’t lose confidence.  It is important that you continue to post updates and send out emails during this whole period….  it’s an investment in your 4th quarter, where all the magic happens.  Keep it up!
  • The fourth quarter usually raises a full 50% of your money or more.  This is where you start to “count down” to the end and celebrate wins with your followers.  Everyone loves to be part of a winning team, so they will be excited to celebrate your progress toward a reasonable goal.  Keep the drumbeat going, and brace yourself for a strong finish!

I hope these questions help you.  As always, let me know of any comments or questions at

Rock on!!


C is for cookie, it’s good enough for me!

14 Mar

Here is a little success story about a sixty some year-old organization, which most of us have probably heard about. This is a large nonprofit organization with paid members who actively participate in the organization. The organization uses a very innovative fundraising approach of successfully leveraging their members as amateur volunteer fundraisers (AVFs).

A couple of times every year, the organization launches a fundraiser and recruits their AVFs to literally go door to door and raise money for the organization. Can you guess the one that I’m talking about? Bingo, the Girl Scouts!

So, what do they do? They motivate children, who are definitely amateurs and volunteering as fundraisers, to procure and sell cookies to you by going door-to-door. Not only does the Girl Scout organization sell you the cookies, but they also get really clever and get the kids (who’s going to say no to a sweet little girl!?) to write down all the information about your purchase. The kids obtain your address, your phone number, and exactly what you purchased.

Now do you think that there’s someone back at headquarters who is taking all of that information and aggregating whether Palo Alto buys more cookies than Mountain View or more cookies than Manhattan? I am sure they do. Do you think they use that list to improve and expand their lists? They certainly do.

So, if a Girl Scout club can figure out how to turn their members into amateur volunteer fundraisers, I’m confident that your organization can too. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and Fundly is here to help.

Focused Campaigns Make CrowdFunding Work

13 Mar

When I was in eighth grade I had the assignment to write a report about the Prohibition for my history class.  My adolescent mind was excited to dive in and the more I researched the period the more excited I became. By the end, I had 8 pages about Al Capone and had submitted report, proud as punch.

A week later I received the report back with a big read “C+” on it and a note from my teacher stating that she wanted a report on the Prohibition, not a famous gangster.

I had lost my focus and my report lost its effectiveness as a result.  That same trap lurks around the corner of every crowdfunding campaign.  A crowdfunding campaign’s strength lies in its ability to be shared and when the positive impact of spreading the word about your cause isn’t well understood, people are much less likely to share your campaign or donate.   Driving traffic to your campaign is goal number one.  Staying focused on making your campaign shareable will do just that.

“Well, what does ‘keeping my crowdfunding campaign focused’ mean”, you may ask.  It means that you need to:



Clearly tell your supporters about your cause’s goal and how spreading the word and donating helps you reach that goal.  Say it on your campaign page, say it in an email to everyone you know, say it on Facebook, Twitter, etc… The more you share, the more your supporters will understand that sharing is important and easy enough that they can do it, too!


Think ‘elevator pitch.’ Most people want to make a difference in the world, but they don’t have the time or attention span to fully understand every aspect of your cause.  In all of your messages, be sure to hone in on exactly what action you want people to take and why you want them to take that action. It’s always tempting to provide details on your cause because it’s so close to your heart and, to you, everything about your cause is important. If you stave off that temptation, summarize your cause’s goal in a few short sentences and direct people to take action they will act on your behalf.


Tie every piece of content on your page (pictures, text, video and giving levels) and every communication you send (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to the goal you’ve clearly and concisely explained.

Don’t mix messages by providing updates on a new fundraising effort you’ve started and don’t create confusion by talking about unrelated events happening within your organization. Instead, stay focused on your campaign’s success by giving people updates on progress toward your goal, share with them how their donations are making an impact and let them know your fundraising deadline is approaching.


Make it simple.  Make it meaningful.  Make it shareable.

And keep your campaign “C+” free.