Monday, May 6, 2013

The most thorough list of crowd-funding sources you will find online

I wrote this article about three years ago and thought it would be a good time to update it with all the changes in social media and available options for crowd funding. Especially with the demise of ChipIn; I was as saddened and frustrated as anyone at the loss of the funding site that I have used for many, many years.

I provide my clients with a full analysis of how they're currently appearing online, as well as a synopsis with my ideas on how to create more opportunities to network and fund-raise. Since fundraising questions are so frequently asked, I'm providing a cheat sheet today on the subject of crowd-funding. I have tons of advice, opinions and strategies for fundraising, but that's not the point of the information I'm trying to provide today and is, quite honestly, reserved for my clients.

Let's start with the basics for a campaign:

The team: don't leave home without it
  • Are you a nonprofit charity needing ongoing donations, or urgent funding? 
  • Are you an individual who's down on their luck (or know someone else who could use a helping hand)?
  • Are you an inventor with an incredible idea for a product and don't have the funds to launch it?
  • Are you an entrepreneur who needs a kick start on your brilliant business plan for a chain of retail stores?
  • Are you a starving artist?
No one should launch a fundraising project on their own. There needs to be someone spearheading the campaign, of course, to provide direction but a team is essential for its ultimate success. So think about it and go out and search for other like-minded supporters who will agree to be part of your fundraising team. You're going to need them.

The soft launch: who are your friends really?

48-72 hours prior to launching a campaign you should secure a base network of individuals who have supported you in the past.  Not necessarily people who've forked over money to you before, but genuinely supportive people who believe in you and have offered help.  Engage those folks with the exclusivity of being a key player involving the official launch of your campaign.  Express your need for them; be humble, be honest, be frank.  Ask them to commit ("pinky promise") that they'll be there for you from step one to final funding.  This group should include anyone from family members, to friends, to colleagues to previous donors/contributors.  You might have a great-uncle Frank who's got more money that he knows what to do with and will give you funds just for asking.  Well take that leap and ask, but take it one step further and insist that he not hand you cash, but help to launch your campaign.  Most of the crowd-funding sites have a thermometer or status bar showing the current contributions.  It's not recommended that you officially launch a campaign that says "$0" - even if YOU have to fund it yourself (Rob Peter to pay Paul with your own bank accounts), do so.

Asking twenty close friends to give you five to ten dollars should not be a burden on anyone.

The official launch: engagement 
Adding the "share this" app should be a offered on all funding campaigns. Utilize fan gates. Tagging and cross-promoting are key features of social media. On Twitter all posts should include RT to encourage followers to "retweet" all posts. Give your followers on Pinterest something interesting to repin; a clever, moving or funny image.

Maximize your SEO, metatags and hashtags because these are as important as the aesthetic qualities of your fundraising campaign. It can have beautiful graphics, a fabulous video and tons of emotion-evoking photos but if no one's finding it, well...  Accounts should all be linked so one posting can create a feed that posts across all social networks.  Post frequent updates of progress.

There are many sites to utilize in promoting, if time and ambition permits! And it should, if you're serious about fundraising.
YouTube, Yelp, bookoo, craigslist, meetup.com, brownbook.net, GooglePlus, LinkedIn, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, postad.us, classifiedsforfree.com, flickr.com, photobucket, tinypic, backpage.com, kijiji.com, olx.com, epage.com, adpost.com, ClassifiedAds.com, classifieds.myspace.com, ClassifiedsForFree.com, domesticsale.com, ezilon.com, FreeAdvertisingForum.com, hoobly.com, isell.com, itsmymarket.com, loot.com, oodle.com, thefreeadforum.com, usfreeads.com, Penny Saver, vflyer.com, livesimon.com, ad4free.net, beatyourprice.com, porkypost.com, theadsbook.com, ads2promote.com, postadsonnet.com and last but not least, begslist.org
Is she nuts? You're thinking "These sites provide opportunities for posting ads for services and, uhhh, yard sales." Yes, yes they are. Each of these sites also allow you to post "events" - you're having an event, aren't you?

Features available on all of the social networks, including your email hosting services as well - yahoo, gmail, hotmail and such - permit you to post updates - use them!

The process

This should seem obvious but from personal experience I can't leave it without saying. Say PLEASE and THANK YOU every step of the way.  I receive an annual inheritance with which I take about 10% each year and donate to one or several groups.  I will be blunt here (what else do you expect from me?) and tell you, those organizations that do not send a simple "thank you" do not see donations from me twice.

You can do shout outs, public acknowledgements, hand-written notes, gifts, perks, or special privileges. Whatever you can afford and whatever you deem appropriate.

It's simple manners, folks.

The key is here PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE! Try not to offend your personal friends although my close friends understand my passions and interests and are not bothered by the promotion of something I feel strongly about.  Have a game plan together not to spam your own nor your friends' profiles.

The finish line

This should probably be number one, but before you even begin your campaign, determine your real need for funds, include the fees and costs of the campaign. Nothing is free and the last thing you need is to reach your $10,000 goal to find out you owe $2,000 in expenses.

With pledge based campaigns that are "all or nothing" you might fall short of your goal. What if you're only $1,000 away from reaching it? Secure a contributor before you begin who will give you that last bit to reach your stated goal. Borrow it if you have to, but don't let all those pledges fall by the wayside, unless you pre-determine that you will absolutely not proceed with your project unless you are able to raise every last cent.

Now that I've covered the basics for a campaign, choose your hosting site

I usually hear (or see) the question: which is better Kickstarter or IndieGoGo? I'm here to inform you that you have a plethora of choices for your crowd-funding hosting site and to also inform you that it doesn't really matter (except for the comparison of fees and key features, i.e. "all or nothing" or "I need every penny I can get and I need it NOW"). What really matters are the "Thes" above and how you utilize them throughout your campaign.

I have found nearly seventy crowd-funding sites for you and compiled the list below, organized... well sorta.  I have researched many, if not most of these, in order to make recommendations to my clients and advise which one might work best for their fundraising purposes and financial needs.  I could go through and give you my notes on the costs-benefits of each, but that information is going to be retained for my paying clients. Fair enough, right? I do have three kids to feed.

So here's a semi-organized list of the crowd-funding sites available:

Anyone and Everyone

A pledge based fundraising site states your goal for funding clearly. You're being forthcoming about the financial needs of your project. There are several types of sites which varying terms and conditions, included fees and how your money will reach you.

The following are "all or nothings," meaning you raise the entire amount or it doesn't fund at all.
  • crowdtilt.com
  • kickstarter
  • startsomegood.com
  • peoplefund.it
  • pozible.com 
  • pledgemusic.com
These are pledge based but if you fall short of your goal, contributions will still be collected, once the campaign ends.
  • indiegogo
  • sellaband.com
These fund instantly; real time sites (like the former ChipIn) are sites where contributions are linked to a financial source on your end (PayPal, your bank account, etc.) and the funds become immediately available to you for your use.
  • gofundme
  • fundrazr.com
  • sponsume.com
Need or Industry based

  • funding4learning.com (students)
  • artistshare.com (musicians, songwriters)
  • petridish.org (fund science)
  • GiveForward.com (intended for medical needs)
  • YouCaring (helping others in need: medical expenses, memorials and funerals, education and tuition assistance, adoption fundraising, funding for mission trips, pet expenses or animal rescue)
  • newjelly.com (for art, food, technology, film, music or design.)
Charity (nonprofit) based
  • globalgiving.org
  • changingthepresent.org
  • razoo.com
  • givezooks.com
  • sixdegrees.org
  • justgive.org
  • crowdrise.com
  • universalgiving.org
  • pifworld.com
A no-brainer for nonprofits, as far as I'm concerned, is using GoodSearch which is not a crowd-funding site but generates daily, ongoing income. GoodShop.com, iGive.com, givingworks.ebay.com, missionfish.org, networkforgood.org, care2.com, causes.com are all sites that should be considerd for 501c3 charities - get to work!

These are interesting and for corporations to participate and encourage employees to do the same,
  • www.yourcause.com
  • FlipGive
Startup, small business based
  • startupaddict.com
  • fundable.com
  • crowdfunder.com
  • wefunder.com
  • quirky.com (for Inventors - product development)
  • eppela.com/eng (for Italians!!)
Equity (they're taking a cut of your success on the back end) or Loan (you're paying it back) based 
  • kiva.org
  • mycofolio.com
  • peerbackers.com
  • equitynet.com
  • microventures.com
  • secondmarket.com
  • circleup.com
  • prosper.com
  • seedrs.com
  • upstart.com
  • banktothefuture.com
  • crowdcube.com
  • fundedbyme.com
  • joinmosaic.com (Solar power only!)
And then there are companies you can hire, apps you can purchase and download and software programs you can invest in (I don't think you need to, but I'm cheap so consider the source)
  • causepro.com
  • Causefinity
  • firstgiving.com
  • mgive.com
  • angel.co
  • rockethub.com
  • artez.comconvio.com
  • donorperfect.com
  • blackbaud.com
  • givingimpact.com
  • leverage-pr.com
  • towema.com
  • mimoona.com
  • ignitiondeck.com
  • fundly.com
The most important thing I can convey (yet it frustrates me because I seem to be the only one that cares about this) is to NOT TO USE THE WORD "DONATION" if you are not a nonprofit charity, registered and approved as a 501c3 with the IRS.  If you haven't gone to the trouble, time and expense to form one, then you are actually seeking financial favors; gifts, contributions, funding, loans, investments, partners.  Let's face it, you're begging.   If people part with their money and give it to you, I recommend being very clear that it is NOT a donation, it is NOT tax-deductible - it is simply a gift. (This is the reason I have been referred to as a lawyer's dream for years).

If you're a regular donor/contributor and have stumbled upon this blog, the place to check for non-profit status of the group you're about to impart four-hundred bucks upon is GuideStar.  If you'd like to read reviews of non-profits and what they're doing with the funds you're donating, visit GREATNonprofits. I've met many individuals who claim it doesn't matter if they're contributing to a non-profit or not; if they're feeling compelled to give, they will.

In my opinion and experience, clarity is the most important piece to your fundraising efforts.  Be able to answer:
WHY (do you need funding)?
WHAT (will you do with the funds once you receive them)?
HOW (will the funds be spent)?
WHEN (will you need them)?
WHERE (will your effort take place)?

With appropriate disclaimers (these don't have to be boring and dry), you save your potential contributors and supporters from asking any of the above questions.  Be thorough but concise.  You want them clicking through to PayPal, not bookmarking it to come back to when they have time to read.


If this article is overwhelming, you can always consider hiring us.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Facebooking for the greater good; how to raise thousands of dollars online

Do you Facebook for the greater good? Or just for fun?

If you happen to be one of my followers or friends, no one is spared from seeing pleas for funds, donation requests for support, or dogs in need of homes. I support the causes I believe in wholeheartedly. I figure there's an unfriend button and an unfollow option.


But let's be frank for a moment, my clients aren't interested in seeing my sometimes expletive-filled, usually emotionally-loaded, VagueBooking ecards that I write when I'm having a rough day.  You may have dozens of friends from grade, middle or high school that you're not really in close touch with whom you don't really want to share your "complicated" relationship status updates. Nor do you want your teenage son or daughter, nor their teachers, seeing your post on the six best sex positions.


Think about it:
1. Are the images you post constantly being reported for content?
2. Has your profile been banned from commenting?
3. Are you trying to raise funds, urgently, but are frustrated by the effort?
4. Do you know how to use the "ban" feature on your pages?
5. Do you monitor comments?
6. Do you study your insights?
7. Are you on social networking to network? To be social?  Or because everybody else is doing it?
This is where we leave your profile and decide how interested you are in each of your friends on your friends' list.

This is a lot of work if you have 941 friends but if you do this as you realize that you might not want to see that your cousin really loves the Back Street Boys, just uncheck the "Music and Videos" option. Or if you just can't stomach graphic images of dogs that need donations but you don't want to delete that friend because your heart tells you to contribute, uncheck "Photos."  Easy.


Nothing like an election year to find out your friends' opinions. I have admittedly unchecked a whole lot of friends "types of updates" and posts on my news feed cause, well, you know.... I am fascinated by the massive, never-before-seen social experiment called Facebook and the psychology behind our fears which lead to chain-letter like status updates burdening your friends with the responsibility of your privacy. If you don't know how to manage your own privacy, you don't get to determine that, they do.

You are more limited in your options for fan pages, but you do have the ability to "like" a page without seeing their updates. 



Perhaps you want the group to know you support them but don't necessarily want to see how many homeless pit bulls will die today throughout your feed wall when you really want just to see the photos of your newest, baby niece of your brother in Nebraska, just uncheck "Show in News Feed." Voila!  Isn't baby Grace just darling and growing SOO fast?!
If YOU have something to hide from a select group of people, there are many options for postings and I utilize nearly all of them on my personal profile but I already covered that that in "Post sexually explicit status updates and graphic images without getting banned" which has nothing to do with sex, just so you're not disappointed when you get there.

Frankly, I use Facebook for networking purposes as I am a firm believer in the 80s Faberge Organics Shampoo commercial "And they'll tell two friends- and so on, and so on..."  
If you're a celebrity, sure this might work. Otherwise...
I watch carefully what others do and how they engage their followers.  Beating them up cause they're not forking over ten bucks is not a successful attempt.  Posting frustrated, expletive filled rants about how the graphic images are putting their account on lock-down is not the correct approach.  Posting graphic images directly to your pages because "that's the only photo you have" to show your potential supports will only get you banned, unfollowed or unliked, because it IS offensive.  

There are solutions to all of these problems. I know them, I use them. You can too.

Between the days of MySpace and Facebook, I can comfortably estimate that I have personally raised (with help of volunteers, friends, followers and supporters) hundreds of thousands of dollars for animals in need in the past seven-eight years. How do I do it?  Well, I can't give away ALL of my trade secrets. But with options like events, polls, crowd-funding, and interest groups, I have no doubt that people can raise the funds they need for their cause.

Only individuals who sign up, login, post, "like" and "share" can answer the questions above for themselves. If you find yourself not being sure how to answer these or you can answer but have no idea where to begin, we can help.

You should be engaging, not offensive.  You should inspire, not insult.  You should be positive, not pessimistic. You should be inviting, not accusatory.


What's YOUR purpose on social media?