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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


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!

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.

Where is the ‘Social’ in Social Fundraising?

5 Feb

By Dave Boyce – CEO, Fundly

We talk a lot about Amateur Volunteer Fundraisers (AVFs).  AVFs are the cornerstone to any successful social fundraising campaign.  But where do they come from?  You’ll often hear things like:  “Every donor a fundraiser,” and “convert your donors to fundraisers.”  These statements are misleading.

You may also hear things like, “crowdfunding is growing to $500B,” or “you can crowdfund anything,” or “crowdfunding is lightning in a bottle.”  So that may lead you to believe that if you launch a crowdfunding page, supporters and money will start pouring in.

If that were true, why do less than half of the crowdfunding campaigns on the major platforms like Fundly and Kickstarter succeed in reaching their goals?

Here’s the dirty little secret.  Social is NOT the answer.

Well…. it’s not the whole answer.

A Fundly-style crowdfunding campaign starts with AVFs.  These are people who are willing to raise money for you.  That’s hard and scary.  But these AVFs have signed up to something hard and scary–raise money for you.  They will pour their personal network and their blood / sweat / tears and their reputation into this and ask their friends for money.  It’s a big ask to get someone to sign up to be an AVF, and you will not be successful asking them to do that just based on them having donated to your cause.

“Hey, thanks for your $100, now would you like to shake down your friends for their $100?”

That doesn’t work.  We’ve tried it.

So where do you find AVFs?  AVFs are people with deep, personal connections to your organization or cause.  AVFs are board members who are committed to your success, committee members who are actively working on your cause, volunteers whose lives have been changed and shaped by the work you are doing, survivors or alumni who have benefitted from your services…  AVFs are people with deep, personal connection.  Or…. AVFs are people you can sign up based on a team or event model.  Corporations will sometimes commit to raise money for a cause.  Or churches.  Or sororities / fraternities.  If you tap into one of these service organizations you can also find active AVFs.

But the truth is, you are not going to find AVFs through social media.  It’s too big of a commitment.  Social media can’t secure that big of a commitment in a meaningful way.  You will have to make phone calls, have meetings, send email.  Recruiting AVFs is hand-to-hand combat.

“What’s so social about that?”
“So where’s the ‘social’ in social fundraising?”

Ah…. now we’re getting to the crux of it.  Once you have AVFs, the social begins.  Think about how you are going to make these alumni, board members, committee members, volunteers, etc. successful at fundraising?

Short answer:  Fundly
Longer answer:  social media.

Each of these AVFs has a personal network of 300+ people on average.  They keep track of this personal network in multiple places.  Their close circles are on their mobile phone and in their email address book.  Their professional contacts are on LinkedIn.  Their extended networks are on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Quora, Tumblr, etc.

Fundly makes it easy for the AVF to connect all the sources of their personal network to their fundraising campaign, so they can reach out to the people who are most likely to give.  FINALLY a productive use for social networks other than growing virtual crops or online gambling.  40% of the traffic to Fundly is referred by posts people have made to Facebook.  It turns out when you have a passionate AVF who is raising money for your cause, their friends will pay attention and support them.  They will click through on a Facebook post from a friend, even when they would not click through on a Facebook post made by you.  Sorry–that’s just the way it works.  🙂

So that’s the answer.  The ‘social’ in social fundraising comes into play after the AVF is recruited and activated, and she goes out to round up her personal network to support her in doing something she cares about.

You get the AVFs through hand-to-hand combat; they get you donations using their social networks.

Secret unveiled.  It’s worked for 30,000 campaigns raising $300M on Fundly to date, and it can work for you.

As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to email me at:

Rock on!

Want more?

Your Facebook Page vs. Your Website

26 Sep

Most companies and nonprofits have both a website and a Facebook page, but which one should have more maintenance time? Which web address is projected to get more traffic?

On Mashable, writer Samantha Murphy reports on a new study conducted by Lab42 which found that about 50% percent of consumers think a brand’s Facebook page is more useful than a brand’s website (see full infographic below). “In fact, about 82% of respondents said Facebook page is a good place to interact with brands. But one of the top reasons to follow a brand on Facebook is to print coupons and discounts. The study revealed that 77% of those who ‘Like’ a brand on Facebook have saved money as a result,” comments Murphy.

As a nonprofit, why should you care what is going on with Facebook and the influence it has on its consumers? Quite simply, developing trends in the for-profit world will eventually make their way to the  philanthropic arena. Check out some of these stats from the same study:

  • 69% of Facebook users have “Liked” a brand just because a friend has
  • 50% of Facebook users believe that their Facebook page is more useful than their webpage
  • 73% have “unliked” a brand because they posted too frequently or had a bad customer experience
  • 36% of those who don’t “Like” brands on Facebook opt out because they don’t want to be contacted

As a nonprofit, there are some valuable conclusions that you can make from this study. First of all, peer pressure is alive and well regardless of your age. The more people you can get to “Like” your nonprofit, the more people you are likely to get to follow your nonprofit and spread the word of the great things your organization is doing. If the average Facebook user has 130 friends and 69% of users are likely to “Like” a product because someone else does, you have a strong chance at reaching a new audience.

Secondly, while 50% of users who believe a Facebook page is more valuable than a webpage may not seem like a majority, it shows the continued momentum that Facebook is having in social media. While many charities continually update and tweak their home pages, they often times neglect to post consistently on Facebook and update their timelines. A Facebook page may very soon require more attention as it becomes a destination for your supporters rather than just a side note.

Next, the frequency of your posts and the contact experiences of your donors certainly have an impact on your donor relations. Post too infrequently and donors don’t think of you. Post too many times a day and you become that pesky fly that buzzes around and is swatted at. A few times a week at different times during the day should suffice to reach all of your donors and their varying online schedules.

Finally, about one third of Facebook users don’t interact with a brand on Facebook because they don’t want to be contacted. Now here is the dilemma that many nonprofits face: if a donor felt that your cause was worthy enough to give to you once, they should be willing to give again. On the flip side, how long do you pester this person and spend valuable dollars on postage and mailers without getting any results? You could create a “one-time gift” check box and hope that others give since it is commitment free. On the other hand, it also depends on your type of charity. My best advice would be to try it out for a few months and see what your results are. A large part of fundraising is experimenting and the outcome is often times individualized to each organization.

Studies are published all of the time based on marketing research and technological advances. As a nonprofit and online fundraiser, it is valuable to assess and apply the results to predict the trends that are headed towards our industry. While not everything may apply or the estimated conclusion may not come to fruition, it’s better to create a hypothesis than to fall behind.

Check out the the complete findings from Lab42 study: