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A New World of Fundraising

20 Mar

In a recent post on PhilanTopic, our CEO, Dave Boyce, describes a new generation of fundraisers, “one that simultaneously distrusts traditional institutions and places great value in social networks.”  This generation has demanded a way to directly impact the causes they care about and they’re getting it through crowdfunding. I highly recommend this quick read to anyone who has ever considered fundraising for any cause, whether that cause is a registered nonprofit, a local organization or a personal endeavor.

Read Dave’s Thought Piece


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!!


How can I support a cause without opening my wallet? Taking your support beyond the donation…

8 Mar

Donations are always a great way to show support for a cause, but most supporters can only give once in a short time period, if they can afford to donate at all. So how can someone support your cause without making a donation?

Answer: Spread the Word!

With that answer, not only will people feel like they have a way to channel their passion for your cause, but it also:

  • exposes more people to your cause who may never have had a chance to experience it
  • increases the likelihood of receiving more donations
  • completes the cycle by asking everyone who experiences your cause to ‘pass it on’

If you’ve watched our video “Crowdfunding Success in 2 Easy Steps,” you know that one of the keys to fundraising success is to drive traffic to your campaign page. Well, asking people to spread the word is just another way to ask people to help you drive traffic!

Spreading the word is crucial to ensuring you capture your supporters’ passion and realize the goals you’ve set forth for your cause.

Let people know they can channel their passion for your cause by becoming a:

  • Supporter – It’s as simple as clicking on ‘Support’ on your Fundly page
  • Donor – The most well understood and appreciated way to show support.
  • Fundraiser – Anyone can do it by just clicking on Become a Fundraiser from your Fundly page and then sending emails, posting to Facebook and/or Tweeting about a cause.

The best part of using Fundly to recruit Supporters, Donors and Fundraisers is that ALL of them are given an experience that encourages them to spread the word about a cause.

If you are diligent about reminding folks to become a Supporter, Donor and/or Fundraiser they WILL get involved and you will reap the rewards!!!

Every Fundraising Platform Claims to be Social. How do I Tell the Difference?

7 Mar

Hi guys… it’s me, CEO of Fundly.  I recently changed my title to Customer Experience Officer (keeping the same acronym, but focusing where my heart is–with our customers!)

Because I care about you and your success, I use this blog to communicate openly with you in a way I think will help you.  It doesn’t do me or Fundly any good to convince you to try something that won’t work.  If you should use a platform other than Fundly, I’ll tell you.  And if you are trying to use Fundly, but you have mis-set expectations about what it will do for you, I’ll tell you that too!

So this post is interesting, because I’m going to unveil some things that seem self-serving, but I really am just trying to get at the truth.  If you have comments / questions / corrections, please let me know!

Libby Leffler, head of social good for Facebook, has hosted Fundly a number of times at Facebook HQ–to work on product, to review roadmap, and to participate in her non-profit advisory council.  When Libby saw what Fundly was doing with Facebook’s Open Graph, she said, “I don’t think you guys know how advanced you are.  I haven’t seen anyone else in the fundraising space doing as much with Facebook Open Graph as Fundly is.  You should do a press release or something!”

“I don’t think you guys know how advanced you are.  I haven’t seen anyone else in the fundraising space doing as much with Facebook Open Graph as Fundly is.  You should do a press release or something!”

-Libby Leffler, Facebook

  • 90% of Fundly’s referral traffic comes from Facebook
  • 20% of overall Fundly donations come from Facebook
  • 90% of Fundly users authenticate with Facebook
  • The value of a Facebook-authenticated user grows over time and eclipses that of an “email / password” user in 4 months
  • Fundly generates over 1M Facebook OpenGraph impressions per month, growing at 1,900%

“Okay,” you say… “this all sounds impressive, but can you break it down for me?”


The bottom line is that no other social fundraising platform is Open Graph certified, and it really, really matters.

  • Blackbaud:  no
  • Rally:  no
  • Razoo:  no
  • StayClassy:  no
  • Crowdrise:  no
  • Donor Drive:  no
  • First Giving:  no

Let me be clear.  All of these platforms use Facebook.  You can see ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons, you can use Facebook to register / authenticate….  many of them “seem” quite social.  But here is what they don’t do and can’t do and why it matters:

  1. They don’t automatically notify your friends when you set up a new campaign
  2. They don’t automatically donors’ friends when their friend has donated to a campaign
  3. They don’t let friends know when their friends have supported a campaign
  4. They don’t prioritize the donors to show  you when you land on a campaign based on whether or not they are *your* friends
  5. They don’t integrate mobile with social (combine your cell phone address book records with your Facebook friends list)
  6. They don’t incorporate your specific friends into the emails you receive about a campaign

In short, they leave the bulk of the value of your community untapped.

Let’s take a case in point to drive home the importance of this distinction.

  • Annual 5K run
  • 100 runners–all amateur fundraisers
  • $100K target, all in

It’s scary to be a fundraiser!  Amateur fundraisers don’t necessarily know what to do, and you don’t have time to teach all 100 of them.  It has to be dead simple.  Meanwhile, they have assembled an impressive personal network that is available to them.  This is who they will approach to sponsor them on the race.  But if left to their own devices, they would type 5-10, maybe 25 names into an email, send it off, and then wait.  They may send 1 or two reminder emails, but most people would feel at that point like they were being a nuisance, and they would leave it there.

Putting ‘like’ and share buttons on campaign pages doesn’t change this.  The fact that you or your fundraisers created their accounts using Facebook authentication doesn’t change it either.  The only thing that changes this is AUTOMATIC actions that the fundraiser doesn’t have to think about and that remind his/her network enough times for them to take action.

And the average person–no matter how good a friend they are–needs 7 reminders to take action on something.

So here is what the Fundly platform would do above and beyond what any of the participants do on their own through their own email or through “like” or “share” buttons:

  • Post to each runner’s Facebook timeline when they launch their campaign
  • Post to each donor’s timeline when they donate
  • Post to each supporter’s timeline when they support
  • Notify all friends of donors and supporters when they donate or support (by email)
  • Notify all supporters and followers by email when the campaign hits 25%, 50%, 90%, and 100% of goal

Each of the emails would feature pictures of the recipient’s friends who are involved to drive a better sense of community.

All in all, for a $100K campaign, you could expect:

  • 1,600 donors & supporters
  • 1,440 who connect their Facebook networks to your campaign
    • 500,000 “friends of friends” who can see all activity their friends take on your campaign
  • 1M Facebook impressions for your campaign
  • 10,000 campaign update emails that are personalized with people’s social connections

These social activities simply do not happen with platforms that do not leverage Facebook’s Open Graph API.  And the result is that you miss out on millions of brand impressions, thousands of new donors, and 20% of the money you could otherwise collect.

Don’t take my word for it.  Sign up on any of these platforms using your Facebook credentials, and then go to your Facebook timeline.  Did anything show up there?  Donate on any of them and then go to your Facebook timeline.  Did anything show up?  If not, then the platform you are using is not leveraging Facebook Open Graph, either because they don’t know how, they haven’t been approved by Facebook, they don’t think it is important, or they haven’t gotten around to it.

You owe it to yourself to choose a social fundraising platform that is truly social.  This is how you will reach the friends of your friends and build and grow your community.

Questions?  Comments?  Fire away!


I have “Like” and “Share” Buttons. I’m Social, right? Wrong.

26 Feb

This social stuff is overwhelming. Just when you think you have caught up, the target shifts, and you find yourself struggling to understand the next MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… You can always hire a consultant or ask your niece or nephew to help you understand social, but these approaches are temporary and generally superficial. You can ignore the changes, but you have a feeling you are letting things pass you up, and you worry you may be missing a tectonic shift.

You are right.

Social has changed the landscape of the Internet forever. Remember when you didn’t have email? I do. Or when the Internet showed up in your mailbox about once per week on a disc marked ‘AOL?’ Those days were only 15 years ago, and the next 15 years have similar changes in store.

In the last 5 years, “Web 2.0,” or the “Social Web” has replaced version 1.0 of the Internet. Web 2.0 refers to an Internet where publisher and consumer are one and the same. Everyone publishes, everyone participates. Where once upon a time brands could craft their messages and broadcast them to the consumer public, now the public crafts messages about the brands and communicates those messages to their friends.

Why does this matter?

  • 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations
    • Only 14% trust advertisements
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands
    • Do you like what they are saying about you?
  • Nielsen estimates that social media and blogs will reach 80% of all active Internet users
  • One in every seven minutes spent online is spent on Facebook
  • 90% of US households have one or more social media profiles

The world has changed forever. Consumer brands are shifting advertising budgets from traditional media to social media as quickly as they can. 91% of experienced social marketers see positive returns from these investments.

“Okay, okay, okay…. I know that stuff is true. But my business is the business of philanthropy, and my core donors are not of this demographic. They write me checks. For the kids, I put up ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons, and I have a social media director who manages our Facebook page. I spent so much time and money last time around getting my online fundraising pages all working, I can’t possibly fathom doing that again.”


We all spent lots of time and money during the Web 1.0 phase integrating systems, customizing pages, etc. And now that everything works, we’re supposed to change it all again? For what?

This white paper is intended to help by answering two questions:

1) Why do I need to change?
2) How can I do it without letting it take over my budget and management bandwidth?

Question 1: Why do I need to change?

The answer lies in the nature of social media. The social web is an experience that feels a certain way. It is not transactional or ‘one and done.’ It is groups of people who interact with each other. On the social web, you know which product your friends like before you make your selection. You know where your friends went on vacation before you book yours. You see recommendations from friends on movies, books, TV shows… these all influence your decisions. Social means social. It means other people are there—people whom you know. It means people are having conversations and interacting with each other. For non-profit organizations, this is important. Why?

The #1 reason people cited for making an individual giving decision was “personal ties.”

Now think about your online fundraising program. If you are like most, you send out email appeals and drive people to a donation page. That is not friendly. That is not social. That misses the #1 reason for giving—personal ties.

Now consider if the email that got sent was from a friend. “Hi, Susie! I am supporting again this year, and I have signed up to rally 100 of my friends. Will you join me?” That is social. And that will get a positive response 10x more often than an email from your organization.

That’s why you need to change. Because all around you the world is changing, the fundamentals of persuasion have shifted overnight online, and if you don’t get out in front, you will find yourself way behind.

“But my donors are older,” you say. “My donors don’t give online. My online programs only account for 10% of my overall giving.” Okay. Consider this: every day, one of your older donors “graduates out” due to death or retirement or other circumstance. How are you replacing them? I’ll give you a hint: not with your current online donation form. 50% of the world’s population is under the age of 30. And this generation grew up with the Internet. For them, social media is the Web. Static donation forms that are hard to navigate and don’t pull their friends into the experience seem as arcane and out of touch to them as a rotary dial phone seems to us. Sure, it’s cute. But it’s not modern, it takes too long, and it’s going to dissuade me from making a lot of phone calls.

Here’s the good news. That next generation? They are generous. They give 50% more than the previous generation based on percentage of disposable income. Their gifts sizes are smaller, but they give more often. They want to give to causes that communicate with them. And they want to give to causes where their friends are.

Question 2: How do I make a change without disrupting my whole operation?

More good news. This is web 2.0. And along with web 2.0 comes Software as a Service 2.0 (SaaS 2.0). It used to be the case that if you wanted to roll out a new piece of software you had to buy it. And then you had to implement it, which meant hiring consultants to design and configure and integrate it. You were $10s or even $100s of thousands into a project before you could even start using your software.

Software is dead.

In the early 2000s I ran a SaaS 1.0 company. Our software was hosted, so you didn’t have to have servers onsite. But you still had to spend $100s of thousands implementing the software before you could get started using it.

That was then, and this is now. SaaS 2.0 means you can start using it today. It looks and feels like the consumer Internet. You create an account and launch a campaign. It really is that simple. That $100,000 project you did a few years ago to be able to take credit cards online and then log records of those donations into a database? Today my 84-year-old grandma can launch that same capability from her living room. She can create a great-looking donation page and be taking credit cards within 5 minutes. If she has a website, she can embed the donation page on her website just like embedding a YouTube video. And she can embed it on Facebook also.

What about the donation records? All there. Measurement and dashboards are all available at the click of a mouse.

Best of all, the whole thing is social. And I don’t mean social as in it has a ‘like’ button and a ‘share’ button. I mean really social:

  • When you show up, you can see which of your friends are already there
  • When you follow a campaign, you get regular updates
    • When a friend joins
    • When a friend donates
    • When a new photo gets uploaded
    • When someone responds to one of your comments
    • When 50% or 100% of the goal is reached
    • When there are only a few days left…
  • You are encouraged to invite your friends to join
  • Your activity is cross-posted to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other profile you request
  • Activities are aggregated and placed on Facebook’s timeline

At this point, it probably seems improbable that the $100s of thousands you spent getting web 1.0 systems up and running were all wasted. You probably think this new web 2.0 approach is overly simplistic and it couldn’t possibly account for all the customization you have done over the years to make your systems exactly match the way you conduct your operations.

You are right. It’s not a full replacement.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Keep your existing database. Online donor databases are not good enough yet to replace what you have. The one exception to this is, which is robust enough to replace any donor database. There are even non-profit configurations of Salesforce that make it look and feel like Blackbaud or Convio. But if you are not ready to switch, don’t.
  2. Embrace the power of ‘and.’ You don’t need to rip out all your existing online work… you can replace it over time. You can start by launching a social campaign or two and then over time replacing what you have.
  3. Go light on integration. If you are keeping your existing database, all you need to do is get information about new donors and new donations into that database. Simple. Keep it that way.
  4. Choose social tools for social programs. The strongest place to use a social fundraising platform like Fundly is in a social fundraising campaign. These are typically campaigns that are designed from the ground up to be social. You may already have some, or you may have been wanting to launch one, but the technology was daunting. Now’s your chance! Here are some ideas / examples:
    1. A “walk for good” (or run or bike or swim or jump or or or…). You can sign people up to participate in your event and give each of them a fundraising page on Fundly to help raise money for your cause
    2. A virtual fundraiser. Pick something you need to fund (a new shed, a new building, new equipment, etc.), and launch a campaign to fund it. People LOVE to know where their money is going
    3. Volunteer sponsorships. Do you have volunteers who travel to help you perform your mission? Let them raise their travel money on Fundly. There are thousands of campaigns like this on Fundly. “Sponsor me to go to Tanzania to help provide sanitary hospital conditions for new mothers.”
  5. Smile! This stuff is fun! Since we’ve taken all the heartache and headache out of the software, you can turn your attention to the fun parts—creative marketing!


If you feel like you are behind in social media, you probably are. If you are nervous about letting that go on for too long, you are probably right. If you wonder if your existing, old-school software company has the ability to bring you into the realm of the mobile, social web, they do not. Social is not an ‘add-on,’ it is a way of thinking that permeates the architecture of a solution.

At Fundly we have built the easiest-to-use, friendliest, most social and most fun fundraising platform on the market. It is trusted by some of the biggest names (Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals), as well as small non-profits you may never have heard of. We would love to help you get started and bring your online fundraising into the new realm of social. We promise not to break the bank or usurp all your management time and energy. Instead, we will make it fun!

Using CrowdFunding within Organizations

25 Feb

In this course you will learn how to set realistic goals and achieve them by recruiting, activating and training new amateur volunteer fundraisers. In addition you will learn how to organize fundraisers around specific fundraising events and campaigns.

This class demonstrates the experience our enterprise level clients receive including a “campaign tune-up” and retrospective on campaign performance.

Fundly on Teen Kids News – an Award Winning TV News Show for kids

19 Feb

teen kids news

Teen kids News does a great overview about how inspiring teens are using CrowdFunding to raise money for causes they believe in. View the segment on the Teen Kids News website for from Fundly’s Vimeo page.