Events are a cornerstone fundraising strategy for many community groups, nonprofit organizations, and grassroots initiatives.
It’s easy to understand why. Who isn’t tempted by a beautiful bake sale? Who hasn’t heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? There are even charity runs for couch potatoes now!
As fun and effective as events like these can be, raising money with ioby tends to look a little different, and often brings in more than just money.
[An event for supporters and members of the Saint Paul Tool Library.]
Crowdfunding the ioby way invites dialogue, knowledge-sharing, and a sense of joint responsibility for a project’s success. Unlike the bake sale model, it’s not a one-for-one, give-to-get trade where the attraction is an essentially unrelated event. The flow of crowd-resourcing dictates that donors give directly to the change they want to see. Cutting out the middleman promotes transparency, strengthens the bond between leaders and participants, and keeps everyone’s eyes on the prize: a better neighborhood for all.
Does that mean we think events have no place in community crowdfunding? Absolutely not! In fact, there are some big ways organizing the right kind of event can help your fundraising campaign succeed. Here are three of our favorites.
Three ways events can help you crowdfund
1) Events can help you raise money by creating–and capitalizing on–urgency
One of our main recommendations to grassroots leaders is to always illustrate the sense of urgency around their projects. It’s important to address not only why what you’re doing is worth funding, but also why people should make a donation to help you with it now.
A decisive funding deadline, a budget that depicts your needs, and a personal story are all great vehicles for communicating that time is of the essence. A fun event that involves people in the “now” of your project can be the icing on this urgent cake (sorry—bake sales are on the brain!). Here’s Minnesota resident John Bailey, who organized a launch event to help him raise over $13,000 to open the Saint Paul Tool Library:
“We did a crowdfunding launch at a brewery in town, which was great for getting press, and we made a fair amount of money there. You’re almost by definition going to get supporters at an event like that. It’s good to get people to give when they’re excited in the moment, rather than give them time to think about it when they get home. We had iPads circulating around and encouraged people to just do it then, when they were surrounded by it—and enjoying a beer.”
Pro-tip: Short on extra iPads? You can make the rounds with a single laptop. Also, if you’re using ioby as your fiscal sponsor, your supporters can write a check to us and put your campaign’s name in the memo.
2) Events can help you raise interest and excitement by showing–not telling–what your project is all about
Creating an ioby campaign page that explains your project clearly, employing high quality photos that illustrate what you’re doing, and sending social media updates that keep your networks in the know are all effective ways to get your goals across and report on your progress.
But in community fundraising as in the rest of life, there’s no substitute for the real thing. When you invite people to experience what you’re doing, live and in real time, they can understand and appreciate your project much more easily and much more fully than they can through a computer screen. Just ask Elizabeth Chitester, who lead a successful ioby campaign to support the Pittsburgh Liberty Interfaith Choir in Pennsylvania. She told us her first fundraising effort “went off the rails” for about eight months while she tried to persuade enough people that it was possible:
“Then I got into discussion at Pittsburgh Mennonite Church, where the choirs rehearse, and we did a pop-up concert there. When 20-plus attendees showed up who weren’t formally connected to us, that hit a chord with our board—that showed them that other people out there really were interested. Miriam [ioby’s Pittsburgh Action Strategist] told me to do that! She told me to do something tangible that could show people something and get them excited. That was a very sound piece of advice.”
Pro-tip: Elizabeth, like many ioby Leaders, also found that organizing an event was a good team-building activity for her fundraising team.
[The Pittsburgh Liberty Interfaith Choir, following a successful performance that shored up support among their backers.]
3) Events can help you realize your project’s full potential by keeping up–not dropping–the momentum once the goal is met
It can be easy—and understandable—to put all your energy into meeting your fundraising goal. You built out a budget, set a schedule, and fixed your eyes on the deadline. Good work! But what happens the day after the deadline, and the month after that, and the year afterward? Will your supporters still have your project in mind? Will they know what’s happening with it? Will they know you remain grateful for their support?
Throwing a fun thank-you event or recurring anniversary events after you meet your crowdfunding goal can not only help you stay in touch with your donors for the next time you crowdfund, it can also help you grow your network and make new connections. What’s more, staying in the loop with your community can help you shape your project as it grows, or come up with new ideas to improve your shared lot. How will you know what your neighbors are on board with if you don’t get to talk with them? Here’s Coloradan Aylene McCallum, who led the charge to bring a protected bike lane to downtown Denver:
“Any fundraising campaign is a great opportunity to build community. Build that aspect into your strategies. Think about how you’ll be able to tap into community energy—not just money—in the future to accomplish other goals. Don’t think of your campaign as ‘one and done.’ You want to be able to leverage the success you achieved here in your next project, not let it go cold. Fully capitalize on your project’s success.”
Pro-tip: Follow-up events can be as casual as a backyard barbeque or as formal as a ribbon cutting. Consider what types of gatherings would suit your project and your community.
Your turn! We want to hear how we can help you bring your good idea to life—with an ioby campaign, and hopefully a great event or two. Drop us a line at ioby.org/idea and tell us what you have in mind.