This article was originally written and published on The Huffington Post by John Symonds, the creator of FreeFunder.
Every day, millions of dollars are raised on personal crowd funding platforms to help people through emergency situations, pay for medical treatment, fund volunteer trips, and more. The huge amount of money that is donated every single day can make it seem easy. It’s a common misconception about crowd funding that if you just ask, and your need is great enough or your cause is worthy enough, people will find your fundraiser and donate. That’s simply not the case.
What many people fail to realize is that crowd funding is just another kind of fundraiser. It’s very effective because it only takes a small donation from several people to add up to something larger, but you still need the several people in order for that to work! Those people don’t come out of nowhere, and they are almost never strangers. So let’s break down the common misconceptions and point out the most effective ways to use crowd funding for personal causes.
1. If I Have A Great Need, People Will Donate
Wrong. No matter how badly you need the money, the need itself will never be enough for people to come out of nowhere and donate to your campaign. There are many, many people struggling and in need of money, and even though there are lots of kindhearted people who would love to help, browsing the internet and looking for people to help is simply not something that happens. There would be no end to the worthy causes someone could support. So what does that mean? It means people only support something to which they have a real connection. That connection might be that they know you personally, or it might be that your particular struggle is one that they have dealt with personally, or it might be that you are a good friend of one of their good friends. The connection to your situation is what compels someone to donate, not just the seriousness of your need.
2. If I’m On The Biggest Platform, I’ll Get More Visitors
Actually, almost the opposite is true. A large personal crowd funding platform like GoFundMe might get millions of visits in a day, but they’re not going to find your campaign because it’s buried beneath hundreds of thousands of other campaigns! And the visitors themselves are coming to the site through links that those other campaigns have shared, which benefits those other campaigns but not yours. All of the visitors to your specific fundraising page will come from your own promotion of that page and your friends’ promotion of that page. Social sharing is amazing, but the platform itself isn’t going to do that for you. No matter which crowd funding platform you’re on, you and your supporters will need to do all the legwork to get visitors and donations. That means your choice of crowd funding platform should not be based on the size or volume of the site, but rather the features and benefits of the site and how they relate to your specific campaign.
For example: FreeFunder is a personal crowd funding platform that not only does not charge a platform fee (GoFundMe charges 5% of every donation, FreeFunder charges 0%), but will also donate directly to your campaign based on sharing. FreeFunder will donate up to $70 to your campaign just because you and your friends share the page on social media. The number of visitors to your page depend completely on you, but the benefits of choosing one platform over another can be huge.
3. If I Share My Campaign A Lot, It Will Be Successful
This can be true, but isn’t always true. Yes, in order for your campaign to be successful you will need it to be shared a lot, but that is not enough in and of itself. Sharing a fundraising page that isn’t set up well won’t be effective, and neither will sharing the page with a lot of people who don’t know you. In order for the sharing to work, you need to start with your closest circle of friends. Don’t start with social media - send a personal email to at least ten of your closest friends and family. Let them know why you’re running this fundraiser, let them know you need their help, and that sharing your campaign with their friends along with a personal message would help you a lot.
You should also write the description for your fundraiser as if you’re talking to your friends and family, not talking to strangers. Don’t go into great detail about who you are. For personal crowd funding campaigns you should write as if you’re speaking directly to the people who already know who you are, and who just need to understand your situation and why their help is needed. Don’t be general about what you need, be specific. Your goal amount should make sense, and it might be a good idea to explain how you came up with that number. If the situation is time-sensitive, be sure to say that. Don’t be too general or list a whole bunch of bills or issues - let people get on board with one specific, urgent, time-sensitive need so that they can experience the sense of progress and satisfaction when the specific need is met. Once that specific need is clearly defined, reach out to your core group first.
This goes back to the personal connection to your situation - get a strong base of support to start, that way when the social media sharing gets going and people start visiting your page they will see that there’s already momentum, there are already people who are supporting you, and it will make it easier for them to make that decision. People don’t like to be the first one to donate to something because we are naturally skeptical - get your close friends and family to get the ball rolling and you’ll have more success.
The Best Approach
Avoid the common errors mentioned above and give yourself the best chance of running a successful personal crowdfunding campaign.
When Nancy Dear hit some rough times and needed help in order to pay her rent (both personal and for her hair salon), she set up a FreeFunder campaign as a last resort. Friends and community members starting pitching in immediately. Nancy needed $2,500 in order to get caught up, and after donations came in from 59 people in only 2 weeks, she ended up raising $2,655.
"Yesterday was particularly rough, but I made it through, got a hefty pile of sleep, and woke up this morning to the beautiful miracle of community support! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! You have saved my business baby, saved my home, saved me. I LOVE YOU. HAIRPARTY LOVES YOU. YOU ARE AMAZING. " - Nancy Dear