Fundraising online for conservation

Editor's note: Fellow Ryan Carle recently posted a request on our listserv for advice about crowdsourcing fundraising for conservation. Below is his original post and the responses he received from other Fellows. We are republishing them here because we thought the exchange might be useful to other Fellows in the future.
Original post by Fellow Ryan Carle:
I am looking for advice on crowdsourcing fundraising. My non-profit is currently conducting an active crowdfunding campaign with to raise money for our seabird conservation and science project in California. 

We have had a strong start but have plateaued at around 20% of our fundraising goal after a week. I am wondering if anyone has advice on how to keep the momentum up and on any sharing platforms we haven't thought of. We have done direct emails to project friends, facebook, instagram.   

The campaign page is here:

Response from Fellow Susannah Lerman:

We have found the platform helpful, especially by targeting their periodic matching campaigns; any donor or foundation match might be encouraging. We face similar challenges. If your supporters are mainly local/regional, personal calls from volunteers to those on your mailing list could help. 

Thinking a bit outside the box (based on research that shows that feeling connected to an individual increases the chance of a donation), since you are assisting charismatic fauna, might you offer people the opportunity who donate to receive something that personalizes the experience by making them feel connected to an individual animal or nesting pair--'adopt' an auklet, sponsor & have their name put on a nesting box, gain access to a nest cam/video shorts, or be entered into a drawing to go out to the island with your team, if appropriate?

Response from Fellow Dave Kramer:

Response from Fellow Amy Rogers:

We did an emergency crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to save a 5-year project in Ecuador that EVERYTHING depended on, so I did a fair amount of homework and am happy to encapsulate what we learned in hopes it can help:

We found that advice that the crowdfunding pages themselves provide to be insanely accurate. At first I was very skeptical and believed that our project would not follow the same trends but it was dead on as predicted. So this means:

  1. Creation of a compelling and entertaining video for the campaign page is CRUCIAL. we did it ourselves and got an excellent film professional to edit it for free in lieu of a donation. it was *very* time consuming for a month straight. we essentially copied the style of Annie Leonard's story of stuff to explain a very complex story in a super user friendly way. a link to our video and campaign can be found here:
  2. Nearly ALL of our donations came from friends and family personally familiar with our work until we reached 50% of our target goal. Then, just as predicted, we started to see random donors coming in and this continued through the end of the campaign.
  3. In order to keep donations flowing, it was a HUGE exercise in humility, namely with me posting photos and updates every single day, shamelessly tagging people on Facebook, and asking for more donations over and over again. One strategy we used was to post a cool photo of the wildlife or forest or community benefiting from the money and tag a donor thanking them-- this makes the campaign visible to all of THEIR friends on facebook and gives a formal recognition of their generosity. We also tagged random friends that had not donated but we know well enough to do so-- the logic in tagging people is because whenever they are tagged, the post appears in ALL of their friends feeds. So the more friends they have, the more strategic the tagging. If they are good friends and won't be annoyed by repeated tagging, this can be a good tactic.
  4. We found that giving "perks" in return for donations was also critical. We kept costs way down on this by either using our own businesses or asking friends for reduced rates on things they make themselves (handmade glass lamps from our project's accountant is a great example). A huge huge mistake we made was not requiring the DONORS to pay for postage, which none of them seem to mind to do! Because we failed to state this ahead of time we ended up with a logistical nightmare for shipping perks. "Experience perks" like a visit and/or tour to what is being saved through the campaign are a great idea and can avoid this issue entirely. 

Final response from Fellow Ryan Carle:

Thanks for all the great suggestions. As others suggested, we have so far had our best success by making personal appeals to friends of the project. I don't believe we consulted in person with generosity/indiegogo but they did provide a lot of stats and advice that we used that so far seemed pretty legit, like contacting trusted people just before the campaign starts and asking them to give early to give early momentum.  

I like all the creative ideas about connecting people with the project, we will definitely think about doing some of those. We have been discussing doing an auklet nest cam for education and outreach.

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