I just finished a crowd funding campaign for the Pokey the Penguin comic in December. We got 90 donors in 30 days!
I never thought we would get more than $500. But then, I have very low expectations in general when it comes to fundraising. I encourage my friends to have low expectations too. It makes you so much happier when ANYTHING happens.
How much did we raise? $4,200! Starting from zero.
How did we do it?
Well, first of all, we created a spreadsheet. Key part of any campaign. Start a spreadsheet.
What did our spreadsheet say?
The columns said, “Date” “What We did” “Result?” and “Further result?”
At first, we thought about making donate buttons for this website. So we made some silly donate buttons.
But then we decided not to use them, and made an Indie Go-Go instead. Why did we decide to do that?
Well, because making an Indie Go-Go was a way to start to gather community and create urgency around giving, and I think we achieved that.
We had to create a Mailchimp account as well. I had never used Indie Go-Go or Mailchimp so part of this campaign was hampered by me learning how to use these tools. I also used Animoto to make videos for the campaign, so that was a learning curve as well.
We started out with not ZERO list, but we might as well have had zero, because we had a list of a couple hundred people who had bought Pokey books in the last 4 years. These people had not paid more, usually, than $20 total. So imagine a list of people who had simply had a transaction with your nonprofit, who had never been solicited for a fundraising campaign.
What was the cause?
Well, the cause was that Steve, the comic artist, needed money to make more comics. Yep, as compelling as that. So next time someone tells me, “Well, our cause isn’t compelling enough!” Let me tell you. Your cause can be ANYTHING if you are persuasive enough. That is why fundraising is a lot like sales. You are selling the dream of a better world. And this dream was, “let’s make 20 more comics and make the world a happier place!”
He didn’t want to do client work anymore. So he asked for money to make 10 comics by the end of the year. His comic had been sporadically updated for about 10 years, but he never stopped updating it. I should mention that he had been making comics for 17 years and had never done anything like this before.
People knew about his comic, and were talking about it on Twitter, on Facebook, and on Tumblr already.
What did we do right with the campaign?
We started immediately tracking everything that we did.
This is how I can go back and see, okay, here’s what we did and here’s how it resulted in donations.
We highlighted fans every chance we got. We made videos with fan tweets, with fan art, and we thanked fans via emails to the entire list.
We talked to people on Twitter, and we thanked them for mentioning the comic. Then we asked them to contribute. Sometimes just thanking them profusely for even tweeting about the campaign made them give. That was one thing that made me happy.
We talked with people on Tumblr and facebook too, but Twitter was by far the most active platform.
We made prizes that people were amused by. Namely, we made a prize that the character of pokey the penguin would write you a LinkedIn recommendation for $50.
We used Indiegogo instead of another platform. I thought it was a flexible and easy to use platform, and the donation thermometer was easy for people to understand and keep track of. I also liked how easy the shortened URL was to remember.
One fan even tweeted at the very end, let’s get Pokey past his goal! That really blew me away. Very rarely have I ever seen a tweet from a donor or supporter telling people to get a nonprofit past their fundraising goal.
Innovations or Mistakes?
We had a $100 level of giving, and then we had a $500 level. I thought perhaps maybe we should have had a level in the middle there, $250 or something. But… who knows?
We didn’t know about this in the beginning, but there is this thing called Patreon, which allows monthly donations for cartoonists and other people to crowdfund their work. Pokey now has a patreon which has been launched, and the initial results have been promising, and I can’t wait to see how that continues to go!
We used pictures of Pokey books in the picture section of the campaign, which resulted in more book sales. Not sure if we should have used something else there, like fanciful photoshopped pictures of Steve making comics or something.
I don’t know if this was a mistake or not because I don’t know if it helped people give or not, but we printed up some flyers and posted them all over Portland State University. We also posted them at a couple of co-ops and we went back later and saw that people had taken pieces of them.
What I mainly liked about the flyers is that they felt like we could help people discover the comic and maybe give if we had another campaign. Also, they made me laugh, because the tear-offs said, “Help Pokey, Read Pokey, Love Pokey, Kiss Pokey, Pokey Gun, and Pokey Pokey”.
Mistakes we made:
We didn’t warm up the small list we had before the fundraising campaign.
Also, since I didn’t know how to use Indie Go-Go, I didn’t know how to download the donor names into Mailchimp, so that didn’t happen til the end of the campaign. It would have been nice to give donors more updates instead of just a few at the end of the campaign.
It started out with me as the face of the campaign, and people on Twitter did not trust me, and said, oh, she’s scamming Pokey! But then Steve got in there and said, actually, no, we’re running the campaign together. So he decided to officially run the campaign. And that was much better.
Steve tried to hide behind the persona of “the authors” because that was what he had done for 17 years. But after he came out as himself, we found that people really responded positively to seeing him.
Trying to pitch huge media outlets that had no reason to care about us
Working sporadically on the campaign when we should have worked on it once a day, every day.
What did we do after the campaign?
We wrote a lot of thank you notes! And Steve actually got some handwritten notes back from people, and presents too!
We sent out the prizes!
We did a lot to make donors feel special, including sending out an email with a screenshot of a comic and links to 3 new comics, saying, “YOU HELPED US DO THIS”. And pictures of Steve celebrating (see above). So people could feel that they had not only gotten prizes, but had accomplished something worthwhile.
After your year-end campaigns, do you send out emails saying, “YES, you helped us do this?” if not, that’s something I would definitely do.
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