5 Steps to get PR for your Crowdfunding Campaign

Hand on Microphone - PR Guide

For your crowdfunding to really take off it’s important to reach past your existing networks. Getting media coverage is a great way to increase awareness about your crowdfunding campaign and access new supporters. With the right research and planning, you can achieve publicity for your crowdfunding campaign and boost your impact.

More important than finding the right journal or newspaper to pitch to, is finding the right person who will be interested to feature your story. Most journalists get hundreds of press releases and email pitches every day — many of which get deleted unopened. So how do you get your story noticed?

Here are some tried and tested steps to getting media coverage for your crowdfunding campaign:

  1. Find the right journalists

Rather than emailing the [email protected] or using the website’s online contact form, find the journalists that have shown an interest in you, your cause or related topics before. These include:

  • Journalists who have featured you or your organisation before (they already know you)
  • Journalists of your Local Press / in the city where you or your organisation are based, or where the project is happening (they want to know what is happening in their local area)
  • Journalists of your National Press who have featured a similar campaign or cause before (journalists who are already talking about issues relating to your cause are the most likely to want to publish your story)

There are some great free tools online to help you access the right journalists and their contact details. An effective way of doing this:

  1. Head to https://news.google.com/
  2. Click on ‘Advanced search’ and fill out the relevant search terms to find at least 5 contacts for each of the 3 categories above and build a list of articles and journalist names, grouping them by journal.
  3. Do a Google Search for ‘Journalist’s Name + contact details’ or go to the contact page of the journal or newspaper to find out the email format the company is using. You can also find example email formats at https://www.email-format.com/. If you really can’t find their details you can also email the editor or use the online contact form, but this should be your last choice.

Limit your search to articles published in the last 1–2 years to make sure it’s still relevant. An example search could be:

Search articles

2. Engage with the journalist before you pitch

Never underestimate the importance of connections — take the time to engage with the journalists on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Get on their radar by liking, commenting on and sharing their posts. Get to know what your key journalists want and how they work by following them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and any other social networks they may have. Get examples of what they’ve written so you can reference them later.

 

Engaging with Journalists

3. Shape the perfect story and turn it into an awesome press release.

Now that you know the needs of your target journalists and their audience, build a story around your campaign with these in mind. Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes and think about what aspects of your story are the most newsworthy for their readers. Emphasize the most human aspects of your story. What makes this story interesting? Is it the cause that drives it, the current affairs that link it, the emotion it brings up, the large amount you have already raised or the fact that something incredible is happening in your local community?

Adjust your story to the best angle for the journalist and their audience and make sure to include the 5 W’s of journalism:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why

Also make sure you include clear links to your Chuffed.org crowdfunding campaign. Mention Chuffed.org in the text so we get notified when your story gets featured and we can help spread the word with our networks too.

For more tips you can follow the guidelines of our press release template here.

A great example:

Media Release Example

Some more great Chuffed.org story examples :

4. Write a compelling pitch email

Your subject line is crucial in drawing the journalist’s attention. There are 2 types of subject lines that work particularly well:

  1. Label it as ‘STORY IDEA’ or ‘PITCH’, followed by a concise heading that summarizes your story in no more than ten words. (They know what to expect when they open the email, and gets them interested to learn more)
  2. Refer to their previous article in the subject line. For example: ‘Following up on [Previous Article Title]’ (They will recognise their own Article Subject line and will like that you are following up on something they wrote)

Make sure you refer to the journalist by name, and get straight to the point in the first couple of lines. Explain who you are, the topic of the press release and why you thought it would be of interest to them (refer to one of their previous related articles) but don’t go into too much detail — a few lines is enough.

Leave a clear link to your crowdfunding campaign and either attach your press release or copy-paste the press release at the bottom of the email. Also make sure to include clear contact details and make sure you are available to respond and help them meet their deadlines.

An example email could look like this:

Pitch email

5. Follow Up

After sending your pitch, give it at least 1–2 days before taking more action. If you hear back straight away — you’re in luck. Make sure to respond to any questions as soon as possible. Journalists are working towards tight deadlines and whether or not they can feature your story will depend on how fast they can put it together for the next edition of their journal or newspaper.

If you don’t hear back, the next step is a phone call. When you call, introduce yourself, mention your earlier email and state that you wanted to follow up with a photo opportunity or to double check they don’t miss out on the story. Be ready to explain why your story should be of interest to them. If they decide it isn’t, accept defeat, but ask for some positive feedback, so you can take it to your next journalist target. If you can’t get hold of them via phone, give it a few days before you send a polite follow-up email, letting them know about any updates on your campaign and asking if they have any questions related to your previous email. Don’t follow up more than once, you don’t want to come across as pushy or impatient.

Journalists work towards very tight publishing deadlines and have only limited time available to explore new stories. Usually it takes a few days for them to respond, so don’t worry if you don’t hear back immediately. They may even feature your story without responding to your email. You will usually get a 10–20% success rate when contacting the right journalists with a relevant story, so the more you research, the better your chances!

When is the best time to contact Journalists?

We recommend contacting journalists either:

  1. Before your campaign launches — to let them know the campaign is coming up and with a link to the pre-launch page (make them feel special about getting a preview and let them be the first to publish your story — you can send a follow-up email once the campaign is live).
  2. When you’ve raised a considerable amount of your target in the first week (>30%) or are getting closer to your target towards the end of the campaign (>70%). Journalists are more likely to feature successful campaigns than a campaign that just launched and is sitting at $0.
  3. When your campaign is completed and you raised 100% of your target. You may not need to raise further funds, but it will help you raise more awareness of your cause and may help you get potential future support and funding. The journalist is able to feature a positive and successful story, and you have a new journalist on your list for your next campaign.

What if your story gets featured?

If your crowdfunding campaign gets publicity, make sure to thank the journalist for their time and effort and show their support is appreciated. If the journalist features your story, they’re more likely to cover you again in the future, so make sure you keep them in the loop as you hit milestones throughout your crowdfunding campaign.

Also make sure to the article amongst your social networks as well as on your campaign page to keep the momentum going. You can also share this in your email to other journalists to show the story is newsworthy and give them an example of where else the story has been featured.

Other websites and tools:

We’d love to see your coverage — share it with us as well!

Feeling inspired? Start your own campaign today.

 

Crowdfunding for Legal Action – Australia for Dolphins Case Study

Team AFD

Australia for Dolphins (AFD) is a not-for-profit dolphin protection organisation with just two full time staff members. Even though they’re a small team, they pack a powerful punch.

In 2015, they brought legal action against the world’s peak zoo body, resulting in more than 60 Japanese aquariums being forced to stop buying dolphins from the violent Taiji hunts. They also successfully sued the notorious Whale Museum in Taiji, the centre of the bloody dolphin hunts.

In 2017, they had their sights focused on an Australian marine park, who still held dolphins in captivity. The team decided that they were going to sue the park for false advertising – their ads that said dolphins were happy and healthy, they just aren’t true. 

Here’s how they did it:

Team AFD

Tactic 1. To tackle a global issue, focus on one story

The global dolphin captivity industry is such a large scale global issue that it can be overwhelming and lacks an emotional hook.

Rather than focus on the industry issue, AFD focused their story on one particular dolphin at Dolphin Marine Magic.

“We realised that the best way to raise awareness about this complicated issue and drive the campaign forward was to give it a singular narrative. We focused the story on one particular dolphin, called Ji, to give people a better idea of what the bigger picture is about. The title, video, the name of the legal action were all focused on this one dolphin, Ji.”

AFD campaign image

Tactic 2. Get to new audiences by leveraging your existing ones

For AFD, whenever they run a crowdfunding campaign, they focus on using it to reach new audiences. How?

Two ways:

1. Ask their existing audiences (people who they know are passionate about the cause, including people who had previously signed petitions or signed up to their newsletter) to share their campaigns with their family, friends and networks

“We have a number of supporters that already donate to us on a regular basis, and others that have donated substantial amounts in the past. We don’t want to ask them for more funds and will often exclude them from our other fundraising asks and campaigns. We will, however, keep them updated on what we’re doing: send them an email to let them know we’ve launched a new campaign and to thank them for helping us get this far (we treat them as if they’ve already supported our campaign, because in all honesty, they’re the ones who’ve gotten us this far already!). We may still ask them to like and share our posts on Facebook, so they can help us reach more people.”

2. Run Paid Facebook Ads: Advertising petitions and crowdfunding campaigns on Facebook to selected targeted audiences. They focus on people who are interested in animal welfare or specific dolphin captivity issues.

Here’s an example of a Facebook Ad they promoted during the campaign:

This segmented approach to communications, making their core supporters feel valued and included while focusing on reaching new audiences, is a powerful strategy that has allowed AFD to grow their audience to a strong community of over 200,000 people passionate about dolphin welfare over the past few years.

“Before each campaign we benchmark our database numbers. When we advertise our petitions and advocacy campaigns – we don’t want people who’ve already signed to sign it again – so we exclude them from our email communications to make sure that all the people we are getting involved are new. With this particular campaign (which was a combination of petitions and the crowdfunding campaign), we got 20,000 new people on board, which was really great.“

 

Tactic 3. Get PR and media on board

The fact that AFD found an avenue of Consumer Law that allowed them to sue the marine park for misleading people to believe that their dolphins were happy and healthy was not only incredibly innovative, but also newsworthy. They knew the story had a good media hook and could get a lot of PR attention.

“A national TV show called The Project produced an exclusive segment explaining the pending legal action and the underlying issue of dolphin captivity. So, when we launched the legal action there was already interest surrounding the case.”

By having all the PR contacts and press releases lined up before launch, and letting journalists know beforehand, they were able to generate awareness during their campaign which they could then use to contact their supporters again and raise more funds.

For more tips on how to get PR on board, check out ‘5 steps to get PR for your Crowdfunding Campaign‘.

Tactic 4. Secure match funding as the ultimate incentive for giving

Perks and rewards are a great way of incentivising supporters to support your campaign or to give more than they usually would. However, because of the nature of their campaign, AFD decided that getting matched funding instead could be the ultimate reward for people to support their campaign:

“Prior to this campaign, we had run a Chuffed.org campaign to put up billboards in Tokyo to blast real images of the dolphin hunts. Each dollar raised during that campaign was matched by EthicalJobs.com.au. This time, however, the nature of what we were fundraising for was quite different and we felt we had to come up with more engaging content. We realised we had to come up with a good video and spent some time on that. But we also thought about prizes and rewards. Because matched funding had worked well in our previous campaign and the nature of the campaign, and the need to keep admin costs low prohibited us from creating fancy perks, we decided to look for match funding instead of prizes.”

This is how the match funding on their first campaign was communicated:

AFD Ethical jobs

“We’re a really small charity, there’s only 2 full-time staff and although that has its challenges, it allows us to take a very personal approach to our donors. We’ll personally call everyone who gives more than $250 and will meet as many of them in person if we can. We’re in touch with them all the time and really build personal relationships with them. Almost like a community of people. Because we build a great relationship with donors, we find out what they’re passionate about (ie. Taiji or captivity issues). When something comes up that we think they might be interested in, we get in touch with them and see if they want to get involved. Keep them updated throughout – make them feel very involved.”

This is how they communicated the match donation to their supporters on the campaign page:

Match donation info

Small change, big impact

Although the crowdfunding campaign was focused on one particular marine park, the success of the case could have wide ramifications.

“This will send a very loud warning bell to big marine parks like SeaWorld. It will also set a precedent, which we hope will bolster global efforts to end dolphin captivity and help convince politicians this cruel practice has to end.” – Jordan Sosnowski

To learn more about AFD and their Crowdfunding campaigns on Chuffed.org, here are their campaigns:

https://chuffed.org/project/support-legal-action-to-expose-captive-dolphin-cruelty

https://chuffed.org/project/ethicaljobs-australia-for-dolphins-matched-donation

To support AFD’s legal action, sign their petition: https://enddolphincaptivity.afd.org.au/sign

If you are a charity, nonprofit, community group or a caring individual who wants to use crowdfunding to tackle a global issue or a local one, reach out to us at [email protected]. We’re here to help.

How to Run a Campaign so Successful You Hit Two Stretch Goals

Case Study Campaign Artwork

Do you wish you could share your passion with the world?

That’s exactly how Nat Panzarino and Fer Wicker felt. Both knew the struggles of greyhounds, and wanted to spread the message they lived out by volunteering for local greyhound rescue.

To do so, they decided to collaborate on a children’s book called Pointy Pembleton—written by Nat and illustrated by Fer—raising awareness about greyhounds in an appealing way. They’d also donate a portion of the book’s sales to greyhound rescue.

Their campaign required $15,000 to get the book to market, and it took off quickly. Once they noticed the success, Nat and Fer extended the goal to $20,000—then met it. They set a stretch goal of $25,000—and met it as well.

By the end of the campaign, they had raised $28,871 for the Pointy Pembleton campaign—almost twice as much as their original target.

Pointy Pembleton Campaign Page

But of course, the magic was behind the scenes.

Nat and Fer used three specific techniques to garner interest in the project and draw support.

Let’s jump in!

Tactic 1: Use videos to engage supporters

Throughout the entire campaign, Nat and Fer used videos to inform and rally supporters. The videos were vital to the campaign’s success, and really made it stand apart and develop relationships with readers.

To succeed with this medium, Nat and Fer followed a few principles.

  1. They kept the videos positive and encouraging. Instead of including startling images of abused dogs, they chose to tell the story through uplifting stories of rescued greyhounds and Fer’s illustrations from the book. In the videos, they specifically asked people to share the project with friends to help the dogs.
  2. They provided plenty of background information. To Nat and Fer’s surprise, they learned that many people didn’t know the background of abandoned greyhounds. The campaign explained everything in simple, concise language. “You don’t want to leave people with questions at the end,” Nat says, “so you want to try and answer all of their questions right there.”
  3. They made the videos personal and informal. While the main promotional videos have a high production value, most of the videos Nat and Fer created for the campaign were casual, smartphone-filmed snippets of them and their dogs. Nat calls the videos she posted on Facebook groups “overly cheesy,” and some of the more popular video showed them working behind the scenes.

Tactic 2: Consistent communication

Nat and Fer were strategic with how they communicated to supporters, and it paid off big time.

Here’s how they succeeded.

  1. They chose channels that already worked for them. Nat knew that Twitter wasn’t a strength for her and wasn’t as popular in Australia, so she focused just on Facebook and Instagram. A month before the launch, Nat and Fer created a Facebook page for Pointy Pembleton, and focused most of the promotion there.
  2. They posted regularly. They posted a minimum of one time per day on Facebook and Instagram. But these weren’t all just requests for support—they gave behind-the-scenes detail and entertained followers with humorous and interesting videos.
  3. They reached out to influencers. Every day, Nat spent about an hour messaging and posting to Facebook groups and pages to related organisations in the dog rescue and children’s book spaces. Only about one out of every 100 influencers responded, but those that did shared it themselves or encouraged her to promote to their followers.

You can check out all of their Facebook posts and videos here:

Pointy Pembleton Facebook Page

Tactic 3: Leverage your connections

One of the biggest factors leading to the success of the campaign was the large body of support Nat and Fer had before beginning.

Here are a few of the ways they rallied support with those who had already expressed interest before the campaign.

  1. Enlisted volunteers to help. They already had 100 volunteer connections, and weren’t afraid to leverage them to join the cause. These volunteers helped spread the word and helped with some of the manual labor required to get the campaign going.
  2. They used their follower’s content in their campaign. Nat created a guide for other to create their own videos for the campaign, and included those videos in the promotion. This built up a community and encouraged others to participate.
  3. They encouraged existing followers to join the cause. Nat and Fer chose to not be shy about their request from support with their followers. After launching their Facebook page, they encouraged their existing 20,000 social media followers on the Greyhound Rescue page to like Pointy Pembleton. Nat also personally messaged her friends asking them to share the campaign.
  4. They didn’t underestimate the funding of their existing supporters. Instead of expecting funding to come exclusively from others new to the campaign, Nat and Fer reached out to those who had closer ties to the campaign in the same way as those new to it—and it paid off! The biggest donor was an existing volunteer, and the second-biggest donor was Nat’s father-in-law.

Volunteer Video

Lessons learned…

Along the way, Nat and Fer also learned a number of strategies they weren’t expecting.

  1. You don’t need experience to succeed at crowdfunding. Despite being brand-new to the crowdfunding space, Nat carefully studied the Chuffed.org campaign strategy videos. “I probably watched them like a half a dozen times,” Nat says.
  2. Build as large a team as you can. Even with the sizeable number of volunteers helping them, Nat and Fer would have built an even bigger team in hindsight. Once the campaign started, they could have used even more volunteers to manage the huge volume of communications.
  3. Promote to influencers early. Most of the bloggers and influencers Nat emailed didn’t get back to her for 2-3 weeks. “If I had to do it all over again,” Nat says, “I should have started attacking sooner and got them kind of on board before we wanted to launch.”

Nat and Fer learned a lot in the campaign process, and inspired countless others to their cause of helping rescue greyhounds.

With a strategic use of video, powerful communication, and an effective use of their connection, Nat and Fer led a project that surpassed all expectations.


Start your campaign on Chuffed.org today. We provide free mentoring and support for anyone looking to crowdfund a social cause project.

Pointy Pembleton is now available for pre-order. Head to their website for more information. 

5 Team Crowdfunding Campaigns That Blasted Through Their Targets

Crowdfunding is a team sport. Our new Team Crowdfunding feature takes it that extra step further.

A whole new way to crowdfund!

Each of your champions (the core bunch of people most passionate about your project) can take their passion for your cause that extra mile by creating their own crowdfunding page that’s connected with your main campaign page. The team pages inherit any perks from the main campaign and can be customised by each champion.

Check out some of our top picks for campaigns that have taken their crowdfunding to the next level by joining forces with their champions and setting individual targets.

1. Great Ocean Walk with PROJECT FUTURES



2. Small Change Big Impact



3. Climate for Change



4. Toss the Boss 2.0



5. Macquarie Mad Dash



We’re always on the lookout for new ways we can support campaigns in raising more funds, and this feature will do just this.

This is how: Team Crowdfunding lets you set up a normal crowdfunding campaign with several sub-campaigns for each of your team members below it. Everyone on the team gets their own page, which all sum up to the total on the main page.

We think Team Crowdfunding’s perfect for not-for-profits and social enterprises who:

  • Are worried that they don’t have a big enough audience to launch a crowdfunding campaign
  • Want to leverage their supporters’ audiences to get noticed
  • Are keen to be innovative with their fundraising

Interested in reaping the benefits of Team Crowdfunding? Just start drafting a campaign here.

The future of regular giving is rockbands

After delivering a pretty good social cause event in Brighton (if I do say so myself), we were approached by a guest who was quite concerned about this whole “crowdfunding” thing.

“Crowdfunding is all well and good,” he said, “but nonprofits should really be focusing on more regular forms of income, like regular giving. It gives them certainty, rather than just fundraising for projects.”

In the first evolution of charity crowdfunding, this was a fair criticism. But in the current state of play, some innovative campaigners are using crowdfunding to create an even better version of regular giving. First, while regular giving is often seen as a goldmine for charities, it’s normally an average experience for donors. You’re ‘acquired’ by street fundraisers, door knockers, telemarketers; sent your welcome pack and signed up to the newsletter until you make the new year’s resolution of inbox zero and choose to unsubscribe or cancel over the phone and are then passed on to the recovery team.

The main complaint that donors have isn’t the sales tactics, it’s the lack of clarity they have around how their particular donation is being used.

Compare that to what one of our campaigners does.

Forever Friends Animal Rescue has a queue of animals who’ve come into their care that they feature on Chuffed.org. On 9th April 2016, it was Jacko, the sweet Jack Russell Terrier who had sadly been hit by a car. They needed to raise $2,800 for Jacko’s surgery: everyone could see exactly how much they’d raised at any point in time, how much they needed to raise, and who else has donated. In less than a month, twenty-two supporters came together and funded the surgery.

Forever Friends

On 29th May, Shannon from Forever Friends reported back about the surgery to all the donors.

First UpdateImage Update

Then on 5th July, donors received this update. Jack found a forever home!

Campaign UpdateThe forever home

For the next month, Forever Friends introduced us to the sweet two year old Staffy mix named Nugget. Once again donors raised the funds because they knew that their donations were going to have an impact.

This kind of transparency is infinitely more inspiring than X% of my donation going to the cause and that’s what keeps them coming back to give again and again and again.

All of Forever Friend's Campaigns

Now of course, it’s not the exact same individuals funding each campaign – donors dip in and out. Rather than causing ‘donor fatigue’, it has the opposite effect, with every cycle the donor base grows. The fanbase expands as supporters share the campaign and refer their friends – I like to think of it like a rock band.

Rock bands put on a concert and their fans turn up. But then their fans go away and tell their friends about how great a band this is, so next time there’s a concert, they bring their friends, and the band’s fanbase grows. Of course, not every fan comes to every show, but overtime, they build a following that gives them a regular income.

That’s what the future of regular giving looks like – a rock band.

What we’ve learnt from over 100,000 donations on Chuffed.org

In December 2012, when we first pitched the idea of Chuffed.org to the Telstra Foundation, our Big Hairy Audacious Goal was to raise $10 Million across our first five years of operation. I remember writing it in our presentation and thinking it was so outrageously large as to be unbelievable. At the time, we had no product, no traction and no customers.

Today, less than three years since we launched, this happened:

The path to $10M

We are so proud of the thousands of campaigners who’ve chosen to use Chuffed.org to do everything from reuniting a refugee family who’d been separated for 23 years to helping stop coal seam gas exploration across Australia to getting a ban put on greyhound racing.

To celebrate, we decided to do something decidely geeky and delve into those 100,000+ donations to see what they could tell us about donors who give to crowdfunding campaigns.

Here’s our five fun (and sometimes surprising facts):

 

Fact 1. Women give more than men

As a man writing this, I find this both highly unsurprising, but also a tiny bit disappointing for my gender. I’ve had so many debates about why this gender split happens, but if you’ve got any theories, drop them into the comments.

Women donate more than men

 

Fact 2: Online giving isn’t a young person’s thing

I hear far too often that the growth in crowdfunding is because millenials are all moving online and charities need to adapt so that they don’t miss out on this next generation of donors. As it turns out, that’s not quite true. Charities need to learn how to crowdfund because the majority of their middle age and older donors prefer it.

 

Fact 3: People anywhere in the world are happy to give to your campaign

Ok, so we’re not holding our breath on North Korean donors flooding onto Chuffed.org, but hey, maybe one day. We’ve only run campaigns in 20 countries, yet donors have come from 152. The fact that your campaign can be based out of a country town and get donors from dozens of countries around the world – that’s what excites us.

 

Fact 4: Thursday’s the day for giving

Alright, we’re opening this one up for conspiracy theories. Maybe more people get paid on Thursday, maybe it’s because it’s nearly Friday, maybe it’s the day I most like surfing for crowdfunding campaigns on the internet, but well, there’s something noticeably more generous about Thursdays.

Day of the week for donations

 

Fact 5: People love a bit of pre-bedtime donating

This is probably my favourite. Right before bed, people pull out their phones, and well, donate. We suspect that they saw it at work when they got in – the 9am peak, check before they go to bed, notice that the donation total has jumped up, get FOMO, and grab their credit card.

People are most likely to donate at 9pm

Thank you again from all of us here at Chuffed.org. We can’t thank you enough for believing in the dream and trusting us with your projects. Can’t wait for the next ten million.

– Prashan, Seb, Dave, Bec and the Chuffed.org family

 

PS, if you have better theories on these donor behaviour stats, tell us in the comments below

 

[Podcast] – Episode 2: Home STREAT Home

Summary

In Episode 2 of the Home STREAT Home podcast series we dig into STREAT’s second crowdfunding campaign as they battle through that perennial non-profit question: how much information do donors really want?

The full transcript is below, but here are top 3 highlights:

1. STREAT CEO, Bec Scott on why earnestness sucks in charity fundraising:

“Yeah I hate earnestness. I really, really hate it. If the only way we ever got you to become involved in something was just to make you feel so god damn guilty about living in a house or having your own home, that would be crazy”

2. Naomi from STREAT on why philanthropists should trust charities more:

“I feel like that pisses me off in general about philanthropy that donors want to say, “Well, here’s some money and I’d like you to do this with it,” rather than saying, “You know what, charity? You do great work. Here’s some money and I trust you to make a good decision about what to do with it ’cause you know much better than I do, how to use that money effectively.”

3. Ian from STREAT on the cheapest rent in Melbourne, ever:

“We were fortunate enough to have someone buy the property and gift us use of the property so that’s $2.5 million property that we’re able to use for the next 50 years for $5 a year”

 

Listen to the podcast here (17 min):

 

 

Here’s a lightly edited transcript

If you walk down Cromwell St in Collingwood, Melbourne, it feels like you’re walking past light industrial brick façade after light industrial brick façade. There’s a stream of roller doors that gives you the sense  you’re in a loading bay for a printing shop. But if you go far enough, there is one building that stands out.

Naomi: So the front of the building is actually an old manor house. I think it was built in the 1800s or maybe the early 1900s. But this is beautiful old manor house that was actually the largest brothel in Collingwood. And they’ve retained the entire facade and I think parts of the side of the building as well but a lot of the inside has been gutted.

Prashan: What does the front of the brothel look like?

Naomi: You would never guess it’s a brothel.

Prashan: Right now, as we record, the old manor house looks like the middle of a construction site, because, super-excitedly, it’s the site of STREAT’s newest and biggest venture – their brand new site, their Home STREAT Home. There’s a café, there’s a bakery, there’s a roaster, there’s all their offices, their training space – it’s the dream site that STREAT’s always wanted to build and it’s hard to understand just how big the site is.

How STREAT ended up with this  site is the stuff of non-profit fairy tales. Someone reads a media piece, calls them up, gets to know them, and then decides to buythem a $2.5M property to turn into a youth training academy. . Ok, I’m sure it was a bit more complicated than that, but that actually happened.

Here’s Ian from STREAT.

Ian: We were fortunate enough to have someone buy the property and gift us use of the property so that’s $2.5 million property that we’re able to use for the next 50 years for $5 a year. So that’s the first big win and that came purely from a media story. And the gentleman read that story and engaged with us the next week and has been our major backer and supporter since.

Prashan: Yup. now,  we could create a whole episode about that, but that’s not what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to talk about what happened next.

As it turns out, getting gifted the use of a site for 50 years is great, but then there’s a whole heap of other expenses. When they first got the site, the whole place was still set up as a brothel. It was like they were getting ready for a night of action, and then everyone just hurriedly had to leave, leaving their leather, their poles and everything else you’d imagine in a brothel right there in place.

So STREAT had to knock down stuff, build new stuff, make sure other stuff stood up – which is all expensive. And so they managed to fundraise $1.5M in grants from trusts and foundations and raised another $2.5M in debt from NAB and Social Ventures Australia – making the grand total somewhere near $4M.

Now STREAT wants to run a new crowdfunding campaign to raise $100k for the final stage of the site – which, well, is hard because, as Ian so eloquently puts it:

Ian: A lot of people may well assume, “Well gosh, they’ve got the land, they’ve got the loan, they’ve built the place, they really don’t need the money,”

Prashan: So, how do you sell a $100k campaign for a $4M site? Today on Episode 2 of the Home STREAT Home podcast, we delve into exactly that question as we follow STREAT trying to figure it out. I’m Prashan from Chuffed.org, if you haven’t listened to Episode 1 of this podcast series, head to chuffed.org/podcasts and check it out first. Otherwise, stay tuned.

STREAT’s been thinking about this second crowdfunding campaign for a long time – remember their last one was four years ago.

Rebecca: We’ve known we’re going do a campaign for probably a year and half, so we always said, right near the very end of the build project, we wanna find a way that we can raise a lot of it will be for the money, but also just let everyone know that, “Hey, after years, and years, and years of hearing about this thing, it’s finally here,”

Prashan: Of course, things get in the way, money takes longer to raise, but in early January STREAT seconded in Naomi Barson whom you heard at the top of the episode to help them run the campaign.

Unlike the first campaign, where it was very clear what the money was going to build, this one was a lot more complicated, because well they could’ve chosen anything. They needed money for vans, they needed money for the bakery, they needed money for programs, for the fitout, for the café – the list was endless.

Naomi: We’re blessed that we got many, many options as to ways we could take that, be it bakery, be it focusing on trainees, be it impact, whatever it was. And it was really just nutting out what’s the one core idea we want to hinge this story on, and the rest will fall out from there.

Prashan: The quest was on, to find that one story. And there was a lot to choose from. Step one though was deciding whether they should be selling the higher-level vision, something like this:

Naomi:. Conscious consumerism, so the concept of changing lives through meals, which is Quarter STREAT. A fair go for all, highlighting that some people through no fault of their own start on the back foot and STREAT’s here to give them a fair go at education, a career, a life. Looking at hopelessness and youth homelessness, compassion, so again looking at poverty and disadvantage and something that STREAT can have a shot at remedying. Looking at inclusion, so everyone deserving to be included and STREAT contributing to the community in that way. About education and training and hospitality and giving them job-readiness skills and on the job training. Collective impact,

Prashan: … Or should they be selling the practical laundry list of what the money was going to buy:

Ian: I look through the entire construction activity and thought, “Maybe it could’ve been the solar panels, maybe it could be this, maybe it could be that.” So we went through those things. I’ve listed all, in general terms, all the things that we need to get it up and running. And there’s $100,000 or more where it could’ve been the two vehicles that we need. We need two second hand delivery vehicles, one refrigerated and one not, so it can deliver coffee and catering and bread and those sorts of things.

Prashan: Anyone who’s ever pitched a social good project knows this dilemma – do donors want to know exactly what their money is actually buying, line item by line item, or do they want to be part of a bigger vision of what those things actually sum up to  create?

The big picture vision camp normally argue that people want the emotional engagement, that sense of connection that a laundry list doesn’t provide. And that if you want the organization to create that vision, the best way is to just trust them to do it.

Naomi: And I feel like that pisses me off in general about philanthropy that donors want to say, “Well, here’s some money and I’d like you to do this with it,” rather than saying, “You know what, charity? You do great work. Here’s some money and I trust you to make a good decision about what to do with it ’cause you know much better than I do, how to use that money effectively.” And I feel like that, for people to genuinely give and genuinely be philanthropic, unless they’re involved in the sector they should just trust the charities to get on with their work. It’s like when you buy shares in a company, I guess you get a bit of a say, but you trust the way the CEO’s guiding the ship and you trust the board. And you hopefully trust the decisions they’re making. That’s why you invest.

Prashan: The other camp, the show me the budget people, argue that you have to give people transparency – you have to show them what their money is going towards.

Ian:. I’m more the practical side. I want people to know that what we’re doing here, the money’s going to go directly to purchasing and building some things which are really important.

Prashan: For the record, I think the tension is a good thing to have in an organization. Unsurprisingly, people need both, for slightly different reasons.

Donors get inspired by the big vision; that you’re doing something bold.  They want to be part of doing something aspirational. That’s why new shiny things sell better than things that are derivative or the same as something I’ve already seen a hundred times before. And probably, more importantly, I’m way more likely to tell my friends about something big and bold than I am about something unambitious and dull.

Once you’ve got the vision in place, the line-by-line budget-level transparency is great to establish credibility. It says to people, ‘hey we’ve thought this through, we know we can achieve what we’re saying. In fact, we’re so confident that we’re going to tell you exactly what we’re going to spend the money on’. If I can see the line between what you’re spending money on and achieving that big bold vision, that’s when everyone’s happy.

So big bold vision to inspire everyone, the line-by-line budget to add credibility. To get to the line-by-line though, you have to start with the big vision – and everyone seems to have a different way of getting there.

There’s the start broad with as many ideas as possible approach:

Naomi: so when I go into meetings, I come up with a whole bunch of ideas just to be devil’s advocate, some of them, but just to present as many options, that’s clearly not exhaustive, but to prompt the discussion and debate around what feels right and what doesn’t feel right, so… Yeah, again, just playing with a lot of copy, there was “Help STREAT Build a Home,” “There’s No Place Like Home,” “We’re Moving to Cromwell STREAT,” that’s crap isn’t it, and “Help Us Build Cromwell STREAT,” as in S-T-R-E-A-T.

Prashan: And then there’s the deep dive into one concept approach.  Basically the thinking is that it’s hard to have a real response to multiple high-level concepts – they all sound good – you get a  much better understanding of what your gut instinctively likes and dislikes by deep diving into one concept and seeing how you react.

One of the deep dives that STREAT took was on a ‘Bake a difference’ concept. The bakery was the new thing that STREAT was doing and because people like funding shiny, new things, it seemed kind of logical.

While the concept could have worked, by deep diving into it, STREAT’s collective gut felt a bit uncomfortable about it. Here’s Bec again.

Rebecca: So, all of that, I think, could have really worked. But it’s only one part of, it’s one-fifth of that new big amazing building. So, we didn’t want you to feel like… Actually, it’s one thing and then you turn up on site and you’re just expecting a bakery and then there’s kind of surprise. So, trying to make sure it was bigger than any one part.

Naomi: To me, it was focusing on the bricks and mortar element of what we’re doing, rather than the emotional themes about what a home encompasses, so belonging and safety and somewhere that provides community. I didn’t feel that a bakery was broad enough to include all of that. And don’t get me wrong, I feel like it could have worked. Like it was more, “Let’s move down this other path and see if we come up with something else that resonates more.” It was more of a “You know what, that doesn’t feel really right, right now. Let’s explore this home idea a bit more. If we get back there, great. If not, let’s see where else we get to.”

Prashan: After 2 long workshops over a good fortnight of debates, the team started to coalesce around a vision.

Rebecca: Yeah, we probably threw around two or three or maybe even four concepts. We started throwing them around in meetings and just said, “What about this? And what about if we did that?” And just keeping the ideas really open, and I don’t even know where the idea of kind of a housewarming came from. I’m not quite it was about that particular idea that had just kinda stuck in my mind. But there’s something, no matter how many times we kinda think of new ideas, in my mind I always come back to what our young people don’t have. They have an absolute lack of some where that’s safe and they belong and somewhat… Yeah, that sense of belonging. So what I didn’t want, is I didn’t wanna do a campaign that was kind of cute and had a cute theme around it. We were missing an opportunity if we didn’t give people a chance to belong as part of the very process of the campaign.

Naomi: it was actually Bec that came up with Home STREAT Home, she illustrated it on the board and Bec’s very creative and is forever drawing. But she illustrated it as a home and then STREAT, the word and then home and talking about our trainees come from a home that’s generally not somewhere they feel safe or belong or particularly want to be. They come to STREAT in the middle of their day and spend their day training with us, and that’s where they’ve actually for the first time in their lives felt like that they have that sense of community and support and love, and all that great stuff.

Naomi: And then they go home at the end of the day, so it was almost this STREAT book-ended by homes.

Prashan: Once they had agreed on ‘Home STREAT Home’ as their overarching vision, things started to fall into place. They ordered coffee cups with the Home STREAT Home branding. They created a pitch about how STREAT was creating a new home and recorded a video to match.

Then came the perks. Now the perks in a crowdfunding campaign are normally seen as auxiliary – an additional way for donors to give to a campaign. I might get a t-shirt if I donate $25, or to get my name on part of the project for $500.

Prashan: What struck me when I was listening to Ian and Bec talk about the perks was that for them, the campaign was in many ways defined by the perks. The campaign wasn’t just  about “asking for money”. It was also about telling customers that their new site was there, and training them to be, well, customers.

Prashan: Here’s Bec.

Rebecca: We’re trying to get people across into that new site. So, it’s a way about kind of priming a customer-base and getting them enthused about this new project. So, even though when the campaign comes to an end, it won’t be the following day they can walk straight into that site and buy something from there. But it won’t be too long after

Prashan: If you remember back to their previous campaign, Ian was trying to do the same thing:

Ian: One of the main reasons I wanted to run the crowdfunding campaign was to start the customer behaviors that we really wanted. Up until then, STREAT had been a couple mobile carts and you would go up to Federation Square or Melbourne Central and Melbourne Union and buy a coffee from us. This was the first time you could actually go to a café and have a meal, take coffee home, start to get some catering. I wanted people to start purchasing in the way that our business was heading. We started some of those behaviors which continue on now

Prashan: By framing it around creating more customers for their new sites, STREAT wasn’t just tapping into people’s spending purse, instead of their philanthropic one, they were also taking a much longer term view about where the value of the campaign is. They were hooking people in via the campaign, not just for the money they get today, but for the hundreds of coffees someone will buy in the future.

There was one more thing that was really important to Bec. This – I should say – is probably my favourite 30 seconds of interview across this entire podcast series and I think captures the secret of why some campaigns succeed online and others don’t. Ready? Here we go.

Rebecca: Yeah I hate earnestness. I really, really hate it. If the only way we ever got you to become involved in something was just to make you feel so god damn guilty about living in a house or having your own home, that would be crazy. So I want you to feel so positive about being part of this campaign, that it’s something that you look forward to, it’s fun, or it can give you a laugh. It’s not just this dry topic that’s gonna make you feel like the world’s about to end and there’s nothing you can do about it. Actually, there’s a heap of things that you can do to help us stop homelessness and we can have a heap of fun along the way as well.

Prashan: That’s the secret to a great campaign. Make stopping homelessness fun.

[Podcast] – Episode 1: Home STREAT Home

In our first podcast series at Chuffed.org, we’re looking at social enterprise, STREAT’s first crowdfunding campaign, where they took a $4,000 donation, made it into an $80,000 campaign and built a $160,000 cafe. As this is our first go at podcasts, we’d love your feedback in the Facebook comments below. Enjoy!


TRANSCRIPT

Rebecca: This woman came to us really, really early. I think it was 2011. She just popped up in the middle of nowhere. She was doing her own cookbook. It was on different cafés and restaurants that were in Melbourne. It was called Flavours of Melbourne. And she saw our little food cart at Federation Square and she said, “I’d really like to feature you guys in there and put just a little forward to you and telling people about who you are.” So, even though her cookbook was featuring all these really high end restaurants and cafés, she put this story about us in that cookbook and then did a fundraiser for us at the launch of that cookbook. And that fundraiser raised $4,000. So, at the end of it, she came to me and said, “I’ve got $4,000 for you. It would be fantastic if we could make that money stretch even further. Imagine if we worked with you now to make your own cookbook. Because then, if you made your own cookbook, we could turn that $4,000 into lots more than that.”

So, the $4,000 in producing a cookbook doesn’t go very far. It’s a really expensive process. So yes, she was going to use it against the printing costs but we still had to come up with tens of thousands of dollars which we just didn’t have.

Prashan: For most of us, the idea of turning $4,000 into tens of thousands of dollars in the space of a few months sounds impossible. But when you’re on a mission, like Bec Scott was – what’s possible doesn’t really come into play. Today, the story of how Bec and her team turned that $4,000 into not ten, not twenty but eighty, thousand dollars – and how they created one of Australia’s most loved cafes in the process. I’m Prashan Paramanathan. This is our first podcast at Chuffed.org. Stay tuned.

In the early 2000s, Bec Scott found herself in Hanoi, Vietnam. She sat down at a café and ordered a quintessential Vietnamese dish – rice paper rolls with tamarind sauce. And as she waited for her rice paper rolls to come out, she noticed a postcard on her table about the café. Now most cafes find creative ways of describing themselves but this one used a phrase that Bec hadn’t really come across before – remember this is early 2000s – the café described itself as a ‘social enterprise’ working with homeless young people.

The next time the waiter came by, Bec struck up a conversation. The café she was in was called KOTO – an acronym for ‘Know One Teach One’  – and was founded by a Vietnamese-Australian, Jimmy Pham. Jimmy grew up in Australia but returned to his native Vietnam for the first time as a 24 year old. He was struck by the thousands of street kids – the ‘dust of life’  in Vietnamese – and like many of us, he wanted to do something to help. Instead of building an orphanage or starting a charity, Jimmy did something else – he asked the kids what they wanted out of life. Their reply – ‘we need skills so we can find stable jobs’.  So Jimmy started up what ended up as KOTO – a hospitality training program, housed inside a café/restaurant – where street kids could get trained in hospitality skills, work in the café and then graduate into a hospitality career.

As Bec was eating her rice paper rolls, the power of the model struck her – her rolls were training up a street kid and getting them out of poverty.

In 2004, Bec spent two years volunteering at that café in Vietnam – KOTO with her partner Kate Barelle. And then, in 2009, Bec and Kate landed in Melbourne Australia, took what they had learnt from KOTO, merged it with their love of South-East Asian hawker food and started STREAT.

It was humble beginnings back then – they just had two little coffee carts in Melbourne’s Federation Square. Actually, maybe ‘little’s the wrong word to use.

Ian: We had Coffee carts, so big stainless steel barbecues, basically, that were supposed to be mobile, but would take four guys or a truck to really shift.

Prashan: That’s Ian, who runs STREAT’s marketing team.

Prashan: So two ‘big’ coffee carts. Plonked out in the middle of an open square.  In the sun. In the rain. Fun times. After 6 months of that– a property group, GPT, offered STREAT an indoor location for another cart – in Melbourne Central. And they jumped at it. It was 2011, and STREAT was hitting a growth spurt. Then, in 2012, STREAT doubled in size, almost overnight. In one of Australia’s first social enterprise on social enterprise acquisition, STREAT bought two cafes and a roasting company. But that was just the start of it.

Rebecca: We, at that stage, had just moved beyond having two little food carts. And we’d just done an acquisition of a couple of bigger businesses. But we were still quite fledgling. We knew that we wanted to grow some more and we had, essentially, one of our landlords at one of our sites come and say to us, “You’ve been here on month-to-month lease since 2010. Please, we’d love you to sign up to a five-year lease.” But we just had no cash in the bank. We’ve never had any cash in the bank since we started, and so it wasn’t like we could just go, “Right, we need a couple hundred thousand dollars.” We just re-developed a site. We knew that we were going to need some extra money to be able to make that possible.

Prashan: The landlord that Bec’s talking about was the same one that had got them out of the sun and rain at Federation Square. Their indoor cart at Melbourne Central had gone well – their landlord was happy and wanted them to upgrade.  Instead of renting a space for their temporary cart, why didn’t they sign up for 5-years and build a café?

So it’s now early 2012, they want to start up this new café, they want to publish a cookbook, and they have $4,000 to do both.

You know that point in a story where someone makes an offhand comment, that changes everything – well, that happened.

One of STREAT’s early investors, Danny Almagor floated the idea of ‘trying crowdfunding’.

Rebecca: And I think he said it kind of as a throw-away line, and said, “Oh, well, if you decide to do one, we’ll chip in a little bit.” And I’d never really considered it before then but it made sense. It felt like we had written a lot of grant applications and it wasn’t like it felt like there was new grant money available. But the other thing is, as well, is that to get grant money takes a long lead time normally. We can wait up to six or nine months before submitting a grant application and then knowing at the other end if you’ve got the money. We just didn’t have the lead time on some of that stuff that we wanted. Yeah, we just started to think really creatively, and the more I thought about it, it just kind of made sense.

Ian: And Rebecca and I had a look, and thought, “Okay, maybe we could do something and try and raise five or 10,000.” Then I looked at it, I thought, “Wow, there’s a lot of work in that.” You really to have to run the campaign actively, day in, day out, for the campaign period. And I said to her, “Look, if we’re going to do this, I’m not going to do it unless we’re trying to raise 20 or 40 grand, or something like that.”

Prashan: So they had a target. Now they just needed a campaign for it. Should they go for funding for the cookbook? Or should they try and fund the café? Bec and Ian’s approach was of course: I wonder if we could do both?

Ian:  So I came up with this campaign, that basically, “How do we turn a cookbook into a café?” And that was essentially the one-liner that captures our crowdfunding campaign: “How do we turn this cookbook into a café?” At that stage, we didn’t have a cookbook, nor did we sort of have a café.

Prashan: the idea was pretty simple. Sell the cookbooks on a crowdfunding campaign and use the proceeds to fund the café.  That way, they get a cookbook and they get a café.

It was their first campaign, and they weren’t going to leave anything to chance. $40,000 is a big target. And they were running an all-or-nothing campaign. If they didn’t hit that $40,000, they’d get nothing. So instead of waiting until the campaign started, Ian did something that at first seems a little sneaky, but actually is really smart.

Ian: I wasn’t going to do it unless I knew I was really going to get to the 40,000. So I pre-sold 700 or 800 cookbooks to a number of corporates to underwrite the campaign. Basically, I had 20 or $25,000 worth of orders of cookbooks that I could feed into the crowdfunding campaign to make sure we got to our $40,000 target.

Prashan: What did that conversation go like?

Ian: The conversation with the corporates?

Prashan: Yeah.

Ian: It’s like selling something you don’t have. So imagine that this is a cookbook in my hand Prashan, and your Chuffed logo is going to be on the front and your page about Chuffed is going to be on the inside. And, it’ll have Poe, and it will have recipes from our students but essentially I had a few PDF pictures of some recipes but that’s about all.

Prashan: The cookbooks that Ian was preselling weren’t just ordinary copies that you could get off the shelf. Ian had a very specific use in mind.

Ian: I designed them as a corporate Christmas gift. So if you were Westpac, or Red Cat, or Small Giants, or GPT, it was the perfect Christmas gift. They are actually real partners with STREAT, so then it’s very easy for them, and it’s very correct and true for them to give that book to one of their staff, customers, clients, and say well we support STREAT, and these are our Christmas gifts to you.

Prashan: With twenty- to twenty five grand under their belt, the task seemed more manageable, but STREAT had one more trick up their sleeve.

During the conversations with their landlord, GPT – the one that was trying to encourage them to sign up to a 5 year lease – Bec had managed to negotiate a little sweetener. I asked Bec to describe what that meeting was like:

Rebecca: So, what we were doing is sitting down as two partners, rather than sitting down as just a landlord and a tenant. They were wanting to make the relationship deeper because they already knew that we were adding a huge amount of value to their business.

So, we could have the conversation and say, “Well, what else are we bringing to the relationship? This is not just a lease agreement. If you are asking us to sign up for five years here, what are we doing together?

Prashan: GPT’s response? You know that crowdfunding campaign you’re running – if you hit your $40,000 target, we’ll give you another $40,000. That’s $80,000. Enough to get their café. Now all they needed to do was to sell enough cookbooks.

Now – we’ve run thousands of campaigns on Chuffed.org – and $40,000 is a big target in Australia. Go back a few years, when crowdfunding wasn’t really a thing – and $40,000 in social cause land was unheard of.

Plus, STREAT were running an All-or-Nothing campaign, which meant if they didn’t hit that $40,000 target, they’d get nothing. No money. No cookbook. No café.

So they originally had the idea for the campaign in mid 2012, they spent all of July and August getting all the recipes and photos and creating the cookbook. And on the 30th August 2012, they switched on their campaign. After all this prep, I asked Bec what Day 1 was like:

Rebecca: Yeah, it was quite nerve-wracking actually because we’d decided to go for a three-month campaign. And that’s a long time. Like that’s a really, really long amount of time to sustain a sense of immediacy and urgency. And what we knew is that you don’t just kind of launch and then kind of cross your fingers. That you’ve really got to be feeding the campaign, you got to give it content. You got to be saying thank you to people. You got to keep a momentum. And that momentum, it’s easy to watch a campaign and assume that somehow it just starts fuelling itself along the way but you’ve got to keep fuelling that fire as well. So I remember the amount of work that we were doing on social media or things just to keep it going. I remember having a shot at trying to get some celebrities involved by tweeting them and saying, “Hey, such and such. Have you heard about this? Can you re-tweet it?” But we didn’t get any of those celebrity endorsements stuff. I think at the time, from memory, I even tried some, I think actually Kevin Rudd was really big and being the social media hussy that he always was.

Rebecca: So like imagine if we could get Kevin Rudd to support it? But that never materialized so we certainly wouldn’t have built a campaign around the hope of that, even though we were holding at right to the end, thinking that someone might, some big celeb might get it. But we’d done a lot of pre-work to just try and make sure that it can get to that $40,000.

Prashan: Despite the social media hussies not getting on board, STREAT were doing ok by the middle of the campaign, but they were by no means home.

Rebecca: I still remember being weeks out, and thinking, “Holy crap, I hope we make it.” Even with that pre-work, we were still working hard to the end.

Prashan: And then, that magical day. The day they got to 40,000.

Rebecca: Oh, my god. So it wasn’t far from the end of the campaign and I just remember the immense relief like, “Oh, my god. I was relieved.” And I remember writing an email out straight away to everyone. Just everyone that we’d ever spoken to before and everyone on our database, and just thanking them, and saying, “We’ve done it.” There were a lot of office high five-ing. Yeah, it was a really good feeling. But then we just had to get on and build the damn site. So the campaign may have been successful, but then, all the hard work of actually building the site was starting. So it really was just chapter one of what was going to be a couple of the other big chapters as well.

Prashan: That campaign was now over three years ago – and in many ways it set the precedent that every social enterprise crowdfunding campaign would follow. It’s now completely normal to use a campaign to pre-sell product to pay for your setup cost – it’s what nearly every social enterprise crowdfunding campaign does. But being at the forefront of anything is tiring. I was curious, now that it had been three years, what Bec had took from  the whole experience? Did the highs and lows of the campaign turn her off crowdfunding?

Rebecca: As the chief fund raiser for the organization, I think I’ve got a pretty acute understanding of how hard it is to get every dollar. And so, it wasn’t like we got to the end and I thought, “Geez, let’s do heaps more of them and because they’re a lot of work.” But, so is selling a million coffees to make money, so is writing masses and masses of grant applications. So, what it probably did is just give me in my little tool belt of understanding of how different types of capital work, it just gave me another little tool in that tool belt to understand, “Oh, so that’s how that type of money behaves.” All the things that you’ve got to do to get that, to make something like that work.

Rebecca:. The other thing that was really positive though about it was, I think I had underestimated how much a crowdfunding campaign could give you visibility as an organization. So, it wasn’t just about the dollars that were coming at the other end. What you were doing is, you were creating a story and an energy around your organization. So I think, what happened is not only did we end up at the end with a new café, but they were a whole bunch of people who, even if they didn’t donate to the campaign, because we got some really good media about it, they saw us. They heard about us. And if you’re thinking about the average person is probably going to need to hear about you five to seven times before they actually open their wallets. It’s one more of those times that might be the first time they hear it but they’re hearing it in a way that’s got lots of energy around it. So for me, it’s about getting the story really clear, but knowing that there’s a lot of people that are going to see it that I aren’t going to support it, but they are just part of planting seeds. All of them may, over time, become supporters. They’re invisible now to you, but if you know that you got to keep planting a lot of seeds for any of those people to start to convert. Well, then, this is a really big way you can do that. The other thing is too that crowdfunding does. What it does is, it potentially starts to build a customer-base that might not have been there. So in our case, people that only ever had food with us they now had a cookbook that was going to sit on their shelves. All of our food’s got a very short shelf life but the thing that we were creating had a really long shelf life. So, I’m interested when I go in to places. I’ve been into people’s homes and seen our STREAT cookbook on their bookshelf, that’s all stuff that’s just there and visible. And I think about once again, it’s just about planting seeds, that it’s about creating an overall awareness of your organization in the campaign. A campaign can equally do that as it can bring about some funding, as well.

– FIN –

3 Top Tips from Edgar’s Mission’s $162,458 Crowfunding Campaign

In 2014, a small sanctuary for rescued farm animals in country Australia – Edgar’s Mission – launched a record breaking crowdfunding campaign raising $162,458 – their original target was $50,000. Together with the Edgar’s Mission team, we dissected what made their campaign successful and what you can do to replicate their success. These are our top three tips:

 

1. Build your online audience, before your campaign

If you like Edgar’s Mission’s Facebook page, it will become very clear, very quickly why people have such a strong emotional bond with them. Instead of taking the usual path of animal welfare organisations – focusing on the negative, shocking imagery of people mistreating animals – Edgar’s has taken a different tact. They focus on the positive stories of the animals that they clearly love. Their posts are personal, beautiful and uplifting.

This strategy has paid off as they’ve created a social media presence, where people enjoy interacting with them, which has allowed them to build up a sizeable, engaged audience. This audience, whether it’s on Facebook, email or Twitter can make the difference between a successful campaign or one that goes nowhere.

Also, it doesn’t necessarily take a few years to do this – and you don’t need cute animal pictures. The important thing is to focus on content that people enjoy, rather than on what you want to tell them.

2. Choose the right project and market test ideas with potential donors

Like for most public fundraising, discreet, exciting, new projects work best for crowdfunding. The key in choosing the right project is to think about the audience that already loves you, and figure out what project will get them excited enough to tell their friends – in the online and offline world. If you can’t imagine one of your supporters excitedly telling one of their friends about it over dinner, it’s probably not the right framing of your project.

The other key thing that Edgar’s did was to test their ideas with potential supporters. This process ensures that you do create something that your supporters will enjoy and often results in creating some of your best advocates for your campaign.

3. Give, don’t take

What’s clear in everything that Edgar’s communicated to their donors was that they loved what they do and wanted to share some of that with their donors.

Rather than seeing the process as fundraising first, then reporting back later, Edgar’s continuously involved their audience with what can only be described as beautiful content – including photos, videos and stories of their residents, first-person narratives about what’s happening on the farm and their raw reactions to the support that their donors provided.

This continuous process of giving value to their audience, transformed the campaign from being about them needing something to being about them wanting to share something with people that they knew would enjoy it. The fundraising wasn’t merely ‘asking’ , it was a true ‘value-exchange’.

What’s clear from the comments on their Chuffed.org page was that their donors got as much, if not more, out of the experience of the campaign as Edgar’s did.

“Edgar’s Mission is one of the best programs I am aware of on this planet. They have influenced my life for the better and have given me much peace knowing they exist.”

– Deborah, a donor to the campaign 24/05/2014


Now Here’s The Full Story

 

Background

In 2003, Pam Ahern started up Edgar’s Mission, a not-for-profit sanctuary for rescued farmed animals located 70 km outside of Melbourne in Willowmavin, Victoria. Over the next decade, more and more animals found a home at Edgar’s until in 2013, it became clear that the 300 plus residents needed more space.

It was time to move.

Over the course of 2013, we searched out a new, bigger home and we also began our fundraising campaign. In April 2013, we launched our ‘Kindness Challenge’ – a community fundraising appeal where we asked our supporters and volunteers to fundraise on our behalf to support us to buy the new farm. These community fundraisers ended up raising about $150,000 – a good start in purchasing the farm, but not enough to fit it out.

By February 2014, we were able to enter into negotiations to purchase what would become the new Edgar’s Mission. At that point, we decided to change our fundraising strategy, to really involve people in the exciting part of the move. Our fundraising objective was clear – to raise funds to start setting up the infrastructure for the sanctuary to start moving the residents over as soon as possible. In addition we wanted to increase our donor base to help with the costs of running a new and larger sanctuary to make it financially sustainable in the longer term.

This was when we started thinking about crowdfunding.

1. The History – building up an online audience

Over the last 2 years, we had made a deliberate investment in building up our social media audience.

Our approach to Facebook was quite simple – try several different types of posts and see what worked. We told the animals’ stories; tried competitions; had theme days like #ThankGoatItsFriday and slowly did more of what people liked and enjoyed and less of what they didn’t.

The key for us was to keep it positive, not focusing on the pain, agony and mistreatment of the animals but on the joy, hope and fun that they brought to everyone. This approach applied with concerted, consistent effort started to pay dividends.

At the start of 2012, we had 5,500 likes on our Facebook page. By the start of 2013, that had leapt to 16,500. By the start of 2014, we were at 41,000 and by mid-2014, we were over 80,000. This audience – plus the email database we had started to build – would be the keys to our crowdfunding success.

2. Why crowdfunding and how we constructed our campaign

While there are more traditional ways to raise funds for capital projects, we decided on crowdfunding as it was the best way to raise funds quickly as well as actively involve our donors. Other ways of fundraising were very mono-directional, but crowdfunding allowed us to have an intimate relationship with our supporters during and after our campaign.

Our first choice was to decide which crowdfunding platform to go with. After looking at different crowdfunding platforms we decided to go with Chuffed.org because they were a social enterprise that was set up to run and assist non profits to fundraise.  There were no fees and credit card costs were the smallest compared to other platforms.

In terms of the design of our campaign:

  • We decided on a 60 day campaign, which is slightly longer than the average campaign length of 30-40 days, as we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time in case things didn’t go to plan
  • We wanted to use perks as a way to allow our supporters to participate in the new Edgar’s. In order to design perks that people would actually want, we held a meeting with 10 core volunteers to expand on our ideas for the campaign as well as perk ideas. We grouped individual ideas by theme then selected a specific number and matched them with perk values. This was extremely beneficial as many of the perk ideas stemmed from this meeting and a number of this group donated significant amounts early on in the campaign.
  • We were fortunate that one of our staff members, Kyle, was able to film and edit a campaign video which used our Founder, Pam, to tell the story of the campaign. We used video updates as a simple way to help connect our supporters up with our team and the campaign.
  • We decided on a ‘Keep what you raise’ style of campaign, rather than an ‘All or nothing’ campaign as we didn’t know how well we would do at that stage.

 

An example of a perk:

Edgar's Mission Perk

3. Launching and what do to do when things don’t go to plan

To make sure we were prepared, we had mapped out a rough timeline of different photos, videos and stories we could share to keep the campaign momentum alive but this plan had to change quite quickly as things didn’t quite go to plan.

On the morning of 26th March, we launched our campaign by sending out an email to our supporters with a link to the video and the campaign and later in the afternoon, posting on Facebook.

The response was astronomical. In the space of 3 days, 272 supporters contributed to our campaign, and we hit our initial target of $50,000, 57 days ahead of schedule. We were faced with one of those problems that fundraisers love to have – what do we do now?

Talking to the Chuffed.org team, we decided to set a new stretch target of $100,000 but were conscious to explain to supporters explicitly what the extra funds would allow us to do. We framed the stretch goal as allowing us to build the Edgar’s Mission that we dreamed of and that the animals deserved, which included building a goat mountain, an animal hospital and a magical duck pond.

4. Keeping momentum going

When we hit our first target, we sent out a second email thanking everyone for the amazing response. This email and the subsequent celebratory Facebook post spurred another wave of donations. By the end of our first week we had raised $66,000.

At this point, we decided to lie low for the middle of the campaign and push all our content in the last 2 weeks, instead of evenly pacing it out. The reason for that was that the momentum of crowdfunding campaigns is such that most donations come in the first 10 days and the last 10 days, so it made more sense to concentrate our effort and the break gave our supporters some breathing space from receiving campaign-specific content.

During the last 2 weeks of the campaign we launched a video of Edgar’s Mission Ambassador and Australian Cricketer Peter Siddle with his partner Anna Weatherlake at Edgar’s Mission promoting the crowdfunding campaign and in the last week of the campaign we launched the Polly Pig $10 Facebook challenge.

We have a very active Facebook page with many people following our animals stories and we wanted to give people an opportunity be part of the new sanctuary knowing that not everyone had the funds to sponsor a fence ($1000) or a shelter ($2500) – two of our high-value, highly-sought-after perks.

The Polly Pig $10 challenge was a Facebook-only offer, so that for a donation of $10 your name would be listed on a plaque on a structure at the farm. The more money that was raised (in total) the bigger the structure that would be sponsored. In the space of a few days, 438 people donated $10 and the renewed momentum prompted many higher value donations as well.

By the 14th May, 49 days into our 60 day campaign, we crossed the $100,000 mark. At this point, we decided against increasing our target again, as we thought it would lead to confusing messaging to our supporters.

Edgar's Mission Crowdfunding Campaign

The last few days were very exciting as we passed $150,000 and finished with a grand total of $162,458 with 1,787 supporters from over 14 countries making this the largest Australian non-profit crowdfunding campaign on any major platform, as far as we can tell.

What’s even better, nearly half of those who donated were first time donors to Edgar’s Mission.


Key Campaign Statistics

  • Total raised: $162,458
  • Number of donations: 1,787
  • Number of new donors: 800
  • Number of countries that donors came from: 14
  • Average donation size: $91
  • Largest single donation: $10,000

 

How Crowdfunding Saved The Sawtell Cinema

In July 2015, a small community group in regional Australia raised over $142,500 to save their local cinema. In this case study, campaign manager, Stephanie Ney, takes you through:

  • How they designed their ‘sponsor a seat’ campaign
  • How they used Facebook and networking to build a launch list
  • How they leverage offline channels for their online campaign

 

Background: The end of an era and a new hope

Seventy-Four years ago in a small town on Australia’s east coast, Doris and Alan Brissett purchased the local Community Hall with a grand plan to create the town’s first cinema. They added some wooden tiered seating, a projection room and the Sawtell Cinema was born. For three generations the Sawtell Cinema remained in the Brissett Family.

In that time, the cinema has faced many disasters. In 1955 the original building was destroyed by a mini-cyclone. In 1989 and again in 2009, floods damaged the cinema. Each time, the community stepped forward to support their local icon. But then digital projection arrived, and the cost to switch over was too much. The Brissett family put the cinema on the market in March 2012 and when no buyer came forward, in December 2012, the cinema closed.

Sawtell Cinema - the original building

For two years Sawtell Cinema waited for the community to show their support yet again. In January 2015, a group of local patrons stepped forward and purchased the original building with a grand plan to transform it into a 21st century cinema, but retain its quaint, historic feel.

The refurbishment would cost $1.4M. While most of that was raised privately, the patrons wanted to find a way to involve the local community in the saving of the cinema and to help them feel like they, too, were part of history-making.

They decided to run a crowdfunding campaign. In just over two months, the Sawtell Cinema blasted through its initial $75,000 target and ended up raising $142,500.

What follows is a step by step account of what they did, told by Stephanie Ney, who ran the campaign with Stephanie Hunt.

 

Preparation: Setting the stage

We started preparing for the campaign in January 2015, with the aim to do a soft launch of the campaign in June and an official event-based launch on 4 July.

The right campaign

The first step for the team was deciding what type of campaign we’d run. While we could have run a “capital appeal” type of campaign, and gone after pure donations, we found in our research, that the successful theatres/cinema campaigns used a ‘name a seat’ type program. For $X, donors got the perk of naming rights or sponsorship of a seat.

We wanted the perks to acknowledge people’s contribution and make them feel like they owned a part of their local cinema. As a bonus, we also designed rewards as a way to get the word out (through bumper stickers/t-shirts) and to get people into the cinema once it re-opened.

The Sawtell Cinema rewards and perks

Here’s what we chose:

  • $25: Join the “I Saved Sawtell Cinema” fraternity with the bumper sticker/choc top reward – redeemable when cinema re-opened;
  • $75: A t-shirt package, so people could see you were a supporter;
  • $150: double tickets to a screening at the cinema with David Stratton;
  • $500: A ‘name a seat’ plaque in the big cinema;
  • $750: A ‘name a seat’ plaque in boutique cinema;
  • $1,000: Dinner for two plus movie screening with David Stratton;
  • $2,500: Your silhouette painted onto the cinema’s ‘wall of fame’;
  • $5,000: A private screening/party for 40 of your closest friends in boutique cinema.

In addition, everyone who donated above $500 also got their name on the Honour Board in the foyer, under exclusive headings such as ‘A-listers’, ‘Directors’, ‘Cameos’, ‘Executive Producers’, ‘Producers’, ‘Patrons’.

A celebrity ambassador

One of our favourite ‘name a seat’ campaigns was for the Isaac Theatre in Christchurch, which had Sir Ian McKillen as its patron. We wanted our own, local patron.

Through an Armidale contact, we had a connection to David Stratton, and approached him to be the campaign Patron and he generously agreed. We leveraged David everywhere – he was the centrepiece of the video and he was in our perks. This not only helped broaden our media appeal, it helped with branding of what Sawtell Cinema is all about; regional, independent, quality films, and a community’s cinema.

The video

No crowdfunding campaign would be complete without an awesome crowdfunding video and we were lucky enough to have some seriously creative locals (Zakpage.com) film not just one, but a series of videos that showed how ‘cinema is part of everyday life’ featuring locals and our campaign patron, David Stratton

We released the primary 90 second video on Facebook in the lead up to the campaign and a new video each week of the campaign. We got Screenwave – an outdoor cinema company – to show 30 second versions before their Cinematinee screenings and we put up a longer 4-minute version on our website. Having locals star in the videos turned out to be just as important as having a celebrity – not only does everyone want to share a video that has them or someone they know in it, the video created a sense of pride and community.

Building a list

When we first started planning, we read How to Raise $15,000 in 50 hours by Rob Caslick which is a great starting point. It emphasised the importance of names and lists and developing an ‘inner circle’ of people to champion the campaign with you.

This is what we did to establish a list. We set up a Mailchimp account and decided that we’d focus on growing that database.

The first natural list of supporters to leverage was the old ‘Friends of Sawtell Cinema’, a group of passionate locals who banded together back in 2009 when the cinema flooded. Through the ex-President of the campaign, we contacted the 300 people on the list and invited them to join our mailing list (by clicking through on the email).

Other groups had formed since the gap was left in the marketplace when Sawtell Cinema closed, like the Coffs Harbour City Council who ran Coffs Movie Club and Screenwave, who were running fortnightly ‘Cinematinee’ screenings at the local theatre. We promoted our campaign to these groups, and they were issued with invitations to join our mailing list and be kept up to date with all the latest on Sawtell Cinema.

Next, we started a Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/savesawtellcinema. We were planning to keep it on the down low until we had prepared our database/mailing system, but it accidentally got shared and within 3 days we had over 3,000 likes.

We then had to convert the Facebook audience to our email list which we did by posting links to our email signup page regularly on Facebook. This is important because it’s a lot easier to miss a Facebook post than it is to miss an email.

We quickly set up our website at www.sawtellcinema.com.au and again, put more links there to join the mailing list. We also directed people to our website via Faceboook in its first couple of months.

Stars

At the same time, we developed our own ‘Inner Circle’ of people who would be our ‘stars’ and frontline in promoting our work (what Rob Caslick referred to as his ‘foot soldiers’ in this Chuffed.org Case Study). We selected people who were passionate about the cinema, culture and the arts and were well-connected in the community – the movers and shakers and key influencers of the Coffs Coast if you like. Their email connections with various groups helped build the loyal groups of supporters of the campaign and reach people who had the means and the commitment to donate.

 

Showtime: The launch that kept on going

The Unofficial Launch

Our official launch date was set on the 4th July 2015. A week prior, we opened up the campaign in a “pre-launch”. We sent out an email only to supporters who had signed up to our mailing list, and as a special reward, they got first dibbs on all rewards – important as the number of seats to be sponsored were limited. This was a great way to not only thank people who had signed up with us, but it also meant that when the official launch happened, we already had money on the total.

Facebook

Facebook is also the ideal platform to unveil something like the refurbishment as it happens and give our followers a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look.

To drive our social media campaign and assist with the workload, we set up a communications steering committee.

Our first Facebook strategy was to take photos of locals and ask them to share their favourite Sawtell Cinema memory or tell us why the Cinema was important to them. We posted these on Facebook – along the vein of the ‘Humans of New York’. This was not only easy, as everyone had a story they wanted to tell, it was very sharable. People love seeing themselves online – and this again assisted with building community.

We also shared photos of the old cinema and had a ‘Sawtell Saturday’ section sharing beautiful nature photos from our community. As a bonus, people started sharing their own special photos of Sawtell Cinema, which were easy to repost.

Media/PR

Media support was very important, particularly for those not on Facebook. We established a number of media partnerships, including community and commercial radio stations, ABC Coffs Coast and Arts Mid North Coast, the local paper, Coffs Coast Advocate, plus sent regular media releases to a range of newspapers, radio and television stations.

Community radio station 2AIR FM were particularly supportive, and in the lead-up to the crowd funding campaign gave regular hour-long interviews with various people involved in the campaign, including the architects, designers, steering committee members and crowd funding campaign team.

Offline

The week leading up to the launch, we decided to accommodate offline donations so people could pay by either cash or cheque on the day, as many of our audience are not web-savvy and don’t feel comfortable making online contributions.

The mechanics around this meant preparing forms at the last minute for each reward level and having to manually enter donations to the ‘back-end’ of Chuffed.org during the day. This was important as many of our rewards were limited, and so it would have been disastrous to sell one offline that had already sold out online. On launch day people also requested to make electronic funds transfer directly to our bank, so we had to quickly set up a system to accommodate this as well.

These tools then let us do a number of things offline.

We went out to various social groups and networks and gave live presentations on what we were trying to achieve. With the Chair of the Investor Group, we spoke at breakfasts, lunches and dinners with Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, Probus, social groups, business networks – encouraging them to support the campaign.

We had our local Post Office take offline donations across the counter throughout the campaign and this greatly assisted particularly the older market who deeply loved the cinema take part in the campaign. Over $10,000 was raised through the Post Office alone.

In May the Investors held an Auction to sell some of the old equipment and features of the cinema that would not be used in the refurbishment – including all the old seating. We decided to open the cinema the day before the auction as a Community Day so people could come in and have one last look at the cinema before the renovations began. The Auction also gave locals the chance to pick up a piece of Sawtell Cinema history – and we ended up raising $10,000 towards the refurbishment, plus saved money in removing, relocating or ‘dumping’ the old fixtures. It all added to the inclusivity. This event by itself got broad media coverage on radio, print and television.

More broadly, we thought it was important to have a visible presence around the community, so we produced some marketing posters and flyers that were distributed to cafes and retail outlets across the region. Huge movie size posters were framed in the display windows on the outside of the cinema, promoting key events such as the Auction, the Facebook campaign and the crowd funding campaigns and rewards.

Without a doubt, all these offline strategies paid off. Of the $142,500 raised, $57,800 came from offline donations.

The Official Launch Event

We decided to do a live launch event on 4 July during the annual Sawtell Chilli Festival which attracts up to 10,000 visitors to the main street of Sawtell. We thought this would assist with media interest plus give us an opportunity to physically sign people up to donate to the campaign on the day. We opened the doors to the cinema foyer one more time and a group of our ‘Stars’ volunteered on the day, all modelling the limited edition ‘I Saved Sawtell Cinema’ t-shirt.

Local computer business, Coffs Computing, provided iPads so our volunteers could assist people with making donations. We fitted out the Box Office as a photo booth and photographed and interviewed people after they made their donation for Facebook content. The architects, g2 architects, provided a live computer aided design walk-through of the new cinema so people could see the vision and understand what they were signing up to support. The result – we ended up having a motza of a day, making $22,000 in donations on just that one day.

Once the campaign started, we sent regular updates to the Inner Circle; had a regular spot on 2CHFM updating progress and encouraging support; almost fortnightly interviews on ABC Coffs Coast; and many features in the local paper. The Facebook campaign started thanking our supporters, including individuals, groups and businesses, and giving milestone updates which were widely shared. And we made the local news a couple of times.

 

The Results

The Sawtell Cinema Crowdfunding Campaign results

We could never have guessed the success of the campaign. We thought it would be fabulous to reach $50,000 in total and yet, in four weeks, we reached our target of $75,000. We re-set the target to $125,000, which meant we would be able to buy the new screens & curtains as well as the seats, but again, I didn’t actually think we would make it. But make it we did. In the last 10 days or so of the campaign, we pulled in $30,000 – taking the final amount raised to $142,500.

Maybe even more extraordinary was how far the story spread – we ended up with donations not only from across Australia but also from around the world, as far afield as Turkey, France, Japan, UK and LA. In total, 480 people donated to our campaign. And our story was picked up by the Sunday Telegraph, and many online arts and film hubs, such as Regional Arts NSW, Arts NSW, ScreenNSW, Create Australia and Inside Film.