Mission Mondays: Crowdfunding saves a cat

Bruce Almighty

This is Bruce Almighty. This sweet cat was found in Regina, SK, Canada in March, with his legs and paws bound in electrical tape. The good folks at the Regina Humane Society began caring for Bruce right away, but his care would be extensive, and costly.

Director of Development Karen Mercier quickly went to work on a crowdfunding campaign for Bruce, with a goal of $5k. The campaign quickly went viral, and raised nearly $25k. And there’s a happy ending…Bruce made a strong recovery and has a new adoptive home!

Karen shares with Fablanthropy how crowdfunding made a difference in helping the RHS save Bruce:

Fablanthropy: What made you decide to launch a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for Bruce?

Karen: I decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign the morning after Bruce Almighty was brought in by our officers. I knew he was in dire condition and would require extensive medical treatment that could drain our fund for injured animals. I also believed that once people learned of his story and all that he had been through, they may want to assist by donating. Using crowdfunding was an easy and cost-effective way for to raise funds while providing timely updates to donors.

Fablanthropy: Why did you decide on GoFundMe? What are the pluses and minuses of that platform?

Karen: I had previously done a campaign on GoFundMe for a dog requiring corrective leg surgery and it was successful, so I felt confident using the tool again. I was familiar with the set up and management. I also chose GoFundMe because it has a strong recognized brand in the media and on social media and members of the public are familiar with its usage.

Fablanthropy: How do you think what you raised on GFM compared to what you would have raised through other efforts (online and offline)?

Karen: There is no comparison. We did receive off-line and website donations for Bruce, but they pale in comparison to what was raised via crowdfunding. This is largely due to the huge reach of his campaign. We only posted his GoFundMe link once to appeal for donations, but that post was seen by close to a million people on Facebook. In addition, as media interest in his story went worldwide, the media was critical in sharing the donation link with the public. As a result, the bulk of the GoFundMe donors were outside of our city. Many were from outside of Canada. We simply couldn’t achieve that reach with a website link or appeal for mail donations.

Fablanthropy: What should fundraisers keep in mind when deciding to use crowdfunding to raise funds for a project/effort?

Karen: That it won’t work in every situation. In my experience, it works best in an emergency situation or in response to a very compelling story. People respond to crowdfunding primarily on emotion, and the idea that they can make a donation and immediately see how it is contributing in combination with others who are giving the same way. Seeing the goal thermometer go up, often very quickly as in the case of Bruce Almighty, it something many donors check back to see. It’s immediate gratification. This can be lost when a campaign isn’t successful or is based on a less compelling case. People want to join a winning team, which is why I believe you see Bruce Almighty’s campaign raising $20,000 over the goal. It was clear that within hours we had raised enough for his care but people kept giving. They wanted to be a part of his story and his recovery. I would also urge fundraisers to use the tool to post updates and often. I also used it to personally message each donor a thank you. The responses I received from hundreds of people around the world to these stewardship activities were incredible. We often emailed back and forth and the donors expressed how involved they felt with Bruce’s recovery despite being halfway around the world. To me that just wouldn’t have been possible without the crowdfunding platform.

Fablanthropy: What tips do you have, especially for integration into other social media?

You need to tend to your own garden first, meaning your charity needs to have its own strong social media platforms to make a crowdfunding campaign successful. Crowdfunding depends on social media and traditional media to be successful. If you don’t have a social media base that is engaged and at the ready to share your requests, it is much harder to raise donations in this manner. The same goes with traditional media. One only has to look at the crowdfunding campaigns that raised millions of dollars over goal (purchasing an individual a car, giving in response to bullying) to see that traditional media played a huge part in sharing the story and how to donate. When you have strong ties to both forms of media, you have a good basis to try crowdfunding.

Have a story where mission + fundraising skills = success? Email lisa@fablanthropy.com to be featured in a future Mission Mondays.

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Fabulous Fridays: A little clowning around helps the Houston Food Bank

HFB circus July 2015Photo courtesy Amy Ragan

It’s not a typical day at work when the circus shows up, but it was a special occurrence for employees and volunteers of the Houston Food Bank earlier this week. HFB Chief Development Officer Amy Ragan tells us about this fabulous instance of philanthropy:

Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus has a different theme every year, and they select a different nonprofit that they think ties in with their theme. This year’s theme is Legends and because we were selected as Food Bank of the Year, they saw us as a legend in helping feed thousands of people in the Houston area. We distributed 67 million nutritious meals last year, feed 800,000 people annually and have 50,000 unique volunteers pass through our doors every year.

The circus sent clowns and acrobats to put on a mini show in our facility for volunteers, partners and staff.  Chik Fil A was a sponsor and provided lunch. They also had 6 cows here dressed up as clowns for the morning. The circus donated $5,000 to us, which will provide 15,000 meals for people in need. This is particularly timely given the challenges of summer hunger. This time of year is difficult because children who rely on breakfast and lunch at school often don’t have an alternative during the summer. Additionally, utility bills go up and cars overheat, so those on limited incomes often don’t have enough money to put food on the table.

It was a great opportunity to partner with the circus and shed more light on the issue of hunger in our community. Though hunger is in no way funny, I think having the circus out here brought a lot of awareness to the issue and they made it fun too. Brian Greene, our CEO, will serve as the ring master at next Thursday’s show.  The circus also donated 400 tickets to their performances.”

Want to support the Houston Food Bank? You can donate, volunteer or get involved in a variety of ways.

Have a fabulous story of philanthropy in your nonprofit to share? Email lisa@fablanthropy.com and you could be featured in a future Fabulous Fridays post!

Thankful Thursdays: Summertime Stewardship

Ah summer…it’s so tempting to just kick back and take it easy on the fundraising front. But especially in educational fundraising, summer can be a great time to get organized and build strategies for success in the coming year.

Today was one of those days! I met with the chair of our Stewardship Committee to plan meetings for the new year. We’ve had this committee for only a few years, but they do a great job of helping our staff thank donors … a task which can easily but dangerously fall off the radar as the year buzzes along.

Some feedback our volunteers gave us on the committee last year, which we plan to expand on this year:

  • They like using part of our meeting time to write handwritten notes. We started out by sending them home with them to complete between meetings, but they shared it was too easy to put the packet aside and forget to complete the task until the next meeting reminder was sent. They like leaving the meeting with a sense they completed a task which helps us move the fundraising needle.
  • They find it increasingly difficult to reach donors on the phone … often leaving messages without return calls received. We had been working with volunteers to help do some qualification of leads/prospects, especially in the area of planned giving. But very few were getting to have the conversations we had hoped they would have. They want to make more “thank you” calls, where a message could be left without the pressure of further action from the donor. Since this add another “touch,” we are trying this as our “homework” this year between meetings.

We are very blessed at our school to have this committee, as well as other committees and boards which also help with notes and calls throughout the year. It’s a simple, effective way to expand your stewardship efforts, and helps build depth of relationship for your organization, both for the donor and the volunteer.

How are you engaging volunteers in your stewardship process? Comment below or email me at lisa@fablanthropy.com if you have a success story you’d like featured on Thankful Thursdays. And, I’ll report back later in the year on the changes and how they are going 🙂

Share your fablanthropy!

Much good happens every day in the nonprofit world. And we want to hear about it! Fundraisers, we’d like to hear your success stories…big and small. By passing on the positive energy, we all benefit.

To help the process along, we’ll focus on different themes for different days of the week. Note: this does NOT mean I’m posting 5 days a week every week! But some weeks I might. You never know 🙂

  • Mission Mondays: for those moments where the mission and philanthropy make a perfect match.
  • Technical Tuesdays: back to the basics … how has a technique made fundraising life good for you lately?
  • Women Wednesdays: female fablanthropy featured here 🙂
  • Thankful Thursdays: stewardship … how are you thanking your donors?
  • Fabulous Fridays: the sky’s the limit! Your brag moment of the week, a personal success or anything covered above is fair game.

I look forward to hearing from you! Email me at lisa@fablanthropy.com if you have a thought to share with your fellow fundraisers.

Want to Be Happier? Give More. Give Better.

Mind Wonder

Did you know that when you make a donation to charity, your brain acts in a similar way to when you are having sex or eating chocolate?

It’s true. Thanks to fMRI technology, researchers are able to see brain activity when certain acts are taken andin a study on charitable giving when people donated to a worthy cause, the midbrain region of the brain lit up. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for our cravings (food and sex) and pleasure rewards, showing the link between charitable giving and pleasure (Note: To my knowledge no study has been done looking at our brain activity when we have sex AND eat chocolate so I can’t say that giving to charity is similar to doing both at the same time. Although, I’m personally volunteering for that study in case you are a researcher who wants to…

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