Money week roundup: Opportunities & ideas

Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one.

This week we present: money.

Trying to change the world can be expensive work! So this Money Week, we’re sharing some ideas and opportunities to help you secure the cheddar you need to turn your awesome ideas into real-world action.

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Crowdfunding infographic by Anna Vital and Vlad Shyshov,
fundersandfounders.com

Nothing attracts a crowd like crowdfunding

This buzzword has become annoying to some (check out this amusing McSweeney’s send-up), but it’s been more than a flash in the pan for a reason.

In the past five years, Kickstarter alone has been the conduit for raising $918 million to help fund 53,000 creative projects. And now they’re far from the only game in town: Indiegogo, AngelList, and Crowdfunder are just a few of the other major players on the scene.

Interested in learning more about your crowdfunding options?

  • This good Forbes article breaks down what different sites offer and how to find the one that’s best for you.
  • See our recent guest post by the heads at CauseVox to get ideas for a workable crowdfunding strategy.

Show me the money

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These opportunities will have you feeling like this guy.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

If you want to try from the reverse angle and go for funding that’s already been allotted for specific purposes, here are a few current opportunities:

  • Presidio Graduate School’s Big Idea Prize “awards a full-ride scholarship to a Presidio degree program for the best ‘Big Idea’ to move the needle in sustainability.” The deadline for admission in fall 2014 is May 15 of next year.
  • You don’t necessarily have to be a 501(c)(3) to apply for grants. DoSomething.org hosts a database of grants available to entrepreneurs.
  • If you’re part of a nonprofit and want to get your website in order, apply for Elevation’s $1-for-$1 match program. For every dollar you spend on design, programming, and related work, the web solution company will chip in a dollar of their own. Last year they gave about $500,000 to 150 organizations.

Pick up some knowledge

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Restock your brain library.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Or maybe the time is right for you to hit the (proverbial) books and read a little more about different funding options. Here are a few ideas:

  • Don’t be afraid of corporate fundraising—there are dollars and non-monetary support to be found in the business community. For some tips on how to break in, read this DoSomething.org Q & A.
  • Online fundraising (and fabulously-named) gurus Stay Classy have a whole section on their blog dedicated to helping you get money. Check out guides such as “Growing a Community of Fundraisers,” “The 4 Phases of an Effective Peer-to-Peer Campaign,” and “Avoid the Big Mistake.”
  •  If you’re in a position to make grants, we know that giving money away (or doing it well, anyway) is seldom a walk in the park either: it can be tough to decide who gets funding, especially as strategies change. “Storytelling & Social Change: A Strategy Guide for Grantmakers” is a free-to-download publication that aims to “serve grantmakers interested in so-called ‘narrative strategies’ for their funding and communications programs.”

Party with a purpose

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Break out the costume box.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

From the “mixing business with pleasure” file, here’s With Love… The New Generation of Party People—a new book and accompanying website geared toward helping you put on great fundraising parties. Find ten complete party plans with everything from invitations to music playlists to help you show your friends a good time while bringing in some cash for your cause.

Have you had a good fundraising experience recently (or a not-so-good one)? Share your story in the comments.

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Crowdfunding tips from the pros at CauseVox

Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one.

This week we present: money.

Growing up, maybe you were the 4th grader who sold lemonade for 25¢ a glass to help feed hungry kids. Or maybe more recently, you’ve been rocked by the correlation between global warming and the natural disasters that hit developing nations the hardest.

Whether you’re a born do-gooder or had a life-changing experience somewhere along the way, crowdfunding can help you scale your social impact.

Here are a few tips to get started with crowdfunding your social good project.

Create a point of view

crowdfunding point of viewYou want to do some good. Great! Now what good, exactly?

You know what distinguishes vivid, memorable dreams from the vague, forgettable ones?

Details.

It’s not enough to want to make the world a better place, you need to tell the world how you plan to do that:

●      What particular problem are you trying to solve?

Is there a lack you want to fill? A mistake you seek to correct? Or even something good you want to make even better?

●      What’s your strategy for solving the problem?

What tools are at your disposal?

●      Who are you helping by solving this problem?

By trying to help all seven billion people in the world, you’ll hardly accomplish anything. Instead, start with seven and slowly but surely, you’ll start to reach more.

But you must have a point of view on how you’re going to change the world. Follow our guide on how to form a point of view before you start crowdfunding.

Identify your story

Your story is your most important asset in a crowdfunding campaign. It’ll drive people to take action for you, whether they share your story with friends or feel moved donate to your project themselves.

shutterstock_105363872Specifically, your story is important to crowdfunding for a couple reasons:

1. It’s an invitation

The fact that 27 million people are enslaved throughout the world ought to be convincing enough for anyone to get involved, right?

Ideally, yes; the reality, however, is that most people are more intimidated than moved to action by such statistics.

We’re more easily won over by the emotion and imagery that stories evoke than by plain numbers. Narratives bridge the gap we perceive between the helpers and the helped.

Learn how to use storytelling for your nonprofit or project.

2. It’s your own motivation, too

Spoiler alert: At some point during your crowdfunding campaign, you will hit a wall. What’s gonna keep your nose to the grindstone?

Your memory of the sight of faces, the smells in the air, the sounds, the tastes, the textures.

Your story will remind you that it’s not about hitting certain numbers, that people’s lives are at stake. Your story will keep you motivated, encouraged, and inspired through your crowdfunding campaign.

Create your tribe

Your tribe consists not only of the people you hope to serve, but those who will serve alongside you.

Social enterprise is a team sport; your people—prospective staff, board members, supporters, clientele—will help you work smarter, and not unnecessarily harder. Any successful crowdfunding campaign takes the time to create a community of believers that will help amplify the marketing and funding of that campaign.

It’ll be helpful to consider other like-minded social enterprises and projects not as your competitors but your teammates, as though you were all members of a relay team. Then, figure out which leg of the race you’re running: are you starting off? the anchor? in-between?

Create a crowdfunding campaign

STR-CauseVox-Fundraising-SiteNow that you’ve sketched the fundamentals of your social enterprise or social good project, you can create a fundraising site to start crowdfunding. An effective crowdfunding campaign has the following elements:

Visual storytelling

That a picture conveys a thousands words is cliche for a reason. It takes less time for someone to get your vision by watching a two-minute video than by reading a 600-word article. Rest assured that putting the time in to tell your story through a well-made video is worth the effort.

Impact metrics

You’ll need to show the crowd the power of their collective dollars.

For example, members of the Mocha Club donate $9 a month toward the organization’s project areas (clean water, orphan care, health care, etc.). By forgoing three coffee shop drinks every month, you could: give clean water to nine Africans for a year, save one child from malaria, or extend the life expectancy of one person living with HIV/AIDS.

Number-crunching that highlights the potential progress your enterprise could make instead of harping on the severity of the problem are what will compel the crowd to join your cause.

Seamless branding

Hopefully, you’ve invested time and thought into branding your social good project or social enterprise. Branding is more than just picking colors and creating a logo—it’s about the impression you make.

Your brand presents your identity to the public. A branded fundraising page is like a lighthouse that helps guide boats to harbor.

Studies have shown that branded donation pages get more donations than generic, unbranded pages!

Leverage social media

crowdfunding social mediaI’ve intentionally saved this step for the end, since you need to be grounded before your grow!

Most, if not all, of your crowdfunding efforts will take place online, and social media will play an important role. In fact, social media is a key tool. But no amount of social media savvy and strategy will make up for a lack of substance.

But by now, you have established a solid foundation: you’ve clearly defined your identity and point of view and story. Now you’re ready to broadcast your presence! This is where social media steps in.

Here’s one simple, obvious-yet-easy-to-forget strategy in using social media: Keep it social.

This is about connecting with people.

In your effort to quantify and measure and be results-oriented, remember that all of this is ultimately supposed to be people-oriented. Make sure your numbers and statistics represent people with unique stories and gifts. You’re starting a social enterprise, after all.

Wrapping up

Crowdfunding to launch your social enterprise is about more than raising money—it’s a means of building relationships. Your tribe, your clients, and your supporters are part of the momentum that will sustain the movement you’re starting.

Taking this holistic approach to starting your own social enterprise or social good project will set you up for success, not just survival.

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Sara Choe is a crowdfunding expert at CauseVox, a fundraising platform focused on crowdfunding for nonprofits and social good projects. They’ve helped thousands of people raise millions of dollars via crowdfunding.

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Reciprocity + Co: The power of collaboration and perseverance

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One of five tote bags from Reciprocity + Co. The blue straps indicate your money will go to a featured health project. (photo courtesy reciprocityandco.com)

Almost one year ago, we wrote about Samuel McPherson, a young social entrepreneur who was starting a company to help improve education worldwide. The idea for Reciprocity + Co. was simple: buy a canvas tote bag, help a school get needed supplies.

But executing this model proved difficult, and Samuel realized the one-to-one model wasn’t sustainable. Wanting to support more long-lasting projects like installing wells and building schoolhouses, he made some changes.

In the time since we last spoke, Samuel developed a partnership with the crowdfunding website GlobalGiving, with the goal of raising $1,000 for projects across five issues: health, hunger, human rights, children, and education. Now when you buy a Reciprocity + Co. tote bag, a portion of your money goes to a cause of your choice.

During his journey, Samuel realized the power of collaboration—and perseverance. He wrote on his blog after a meeting with GlobalGiving:

As I was leaving their office, filled with adrenaline and excitement, I began thinking about the history of Reciprocity + Co. and all that has happened over the years. I started to reflect on one of the most important lessons I have learned about starting the company: nothing is more important than never giving up.

There were a number of times when most signs were suggesting that I should close up shop and consider Reciprocity + Co. a failed attempt. There were times when I had no sense of direction, nobody asking what was next, and moments when I realized my friends and family were convinced it was done.

There came a time about a year ago when I had to decide if I was going to keep the website or shut it down. I couldn’t bring myself to do this. It was not in the cards. I began working through ways to reinvent the company. I took a fresh perspective and brought new life into the idea. I started from scratch and rebuilt everything.

How did Samuel know he needed to keep going and make it through the dip? It was a gut feeling.

Have you ever wanted to quit but your instincts told you otherwise? Tell us about it!

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