What we can learn from successful crowdfunding campaigns
Doctors of the World UK international
JustGiving have now developed campaign pages so that individuals and charities can raise money for projects.
In March 2016, Doctors of the World UK launched a Campaign on JustGiving to help refugees in Greece. More than 12,000 refugees were stuck after being refused entry to Macedonia. Huge numbers of people were arriving every day. Volunteer doctors and nurses on the ground providing medical care urgently needed more supplies. The campaign raised over £22,000 in a week – an incredible amount for a small charity.
Doctors of the World launched their campaign on the same day that the documentary Frontline Doctors: Winter Migrants Crisis aired on BBC One. Doctors of the World UK volunteers featured in the documentary, and the charity knew it would be a huge talking point on social media. As it aired, they were ever present on the #FrontlineDoctors hashtag, that’s now had over 1.3 million impressions.
Learning – seek opportunities to leverage press and PR opportunities to drive traffic to your campaign.
The Lightyear Foundation is a small charity that exists to change the public perception of science. With support and encouragement from the RSA Catalyst programme and in partnership with Ignite, they developed Lab_13 Ghana, a pilot for a hands-on project for science education in Africa. They choose the Kickstarter platform which takes an all or nothing approach to funding. If a project doesn’t raise the full amount they don’t get anything and all backers get their money back. This can feel risky, but it also provides an urgency that drives fundraising. The campaign was live for 30 days and raised £15,369 from 211 backers. This project was a pilot that then provided The Lightyear Foundation with evidence to go to the Welcome Trust for a grant to scale the project.
The project has now been running for a year and is going from strength to strength having delivered science competitions between UK and Ghana Lab _13 schools, community lectures, teacher workshops and Saturday science clubs, alongside the ongoing programme of scientific investigation for young people. Six scientists are in residence working from two labs and the project has secured funding from grants, corporate sponsors and individual donors.
Learning – a successful crowdfunding campaign can test if a concept can work and help leverage support for a bigger project.
Get ER to Oxford
When Emily-Rose Swirlesque approached crowdfunding site Hubbub.org to ask if they would support her campaign to raise £26,000 to fund her one-year masters in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology they said ‘no’.
Their policy was not to accept a personal campaign like this; they had low success rates, and their social value was not in line with Hubbub’s vision and mission.
When Hubbub said no, Emily-Rose was determined to prove them wrong, and said she was going to do it anyway. She persuaded the team at Hubbub to test her campaign. She already had a detailed plan of who she was going to ask through her social networks. She also identified people outside of her network who might be interested in helping her. She hand wrote letters to influential scientists in her area. Several of whom gave significant gifts.
In its first week the ‘Get ER to Oxford’ campaign was 20% funded. Then our friends at the Daily Mail picked up the story “’Posh brat’ Oxford student who calls herself a ‘scientist, hula dancer, singer’ raises £14,000 from strangers to pay for her masters after failing to get 200 jobs” The thing is that when the Telegraph and Independent responded to the Mails’ story, in shall we say a more ‘balanced’ way it appealed to their readers, some of them donated to Emily-Rose’s campaign and Get ER to Oxford went on to raise £26,569 from 485 backers.
It also inspired Hubbub to change their policy; “There are not good and bad causes to fundraise for crowdfunding – it’s just the way you tell your story” Jonathan May, Founder, Hubbub
Learning – don’t always accept no for an answer, have a plan and follow your gut instinct.
If you are thinking of launching your own crowdfunding campaign, I’d suggest you put a fiver in someone else’s campaign first and experience a campaign from a backers perspective. Replicate the good experience in your campaign and improve on it where you can. Also check out my article in The Fundrasier with some practical tips to get you started.
Let me know how you get on.