CrowdFunding Charity

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https://milaap.org/campaigns/soulfree

I recently raised 2200$ for a charity through a crowdfunding on Milaap campaign for an NGO called SoulFree. The goal of this campaign was to help collect money for buying wheelchairs for differently abled people. As a part of the campaign, I swam 5k at Swim Miami. I managed to make everything happen thanks to the support from my friends and family. I am very grateful to everyone who made it happen. This was my first experience crowdfunding, I tried a lot of different experiments. A lot of my experiments failed but I was tracking my progress so it helped me be efficient in the process. There were more failures in this campaign than success, I persevered and got lucky in the end.

When I started this project, I had no idea how to start. I had less social media clout because I had been inactive for more than a year. I am an introvert and I hardly speak to people so I have some personal inhibitions. I wasn’t sure how to approach my friends regarding a donation as I hadn’t done this before. Finally, not many people knew about spinal cord injuries in my circles. In spite of everything, I had good intentions so them to good use.

I have broken down this post into categories based on social media,

  1. Pilot: Where I talk about my initial experiments
  2. Email: Where I talk about my marketing email
  3. Whatsapp: A brief para because it didn’t work well
  4. Facebook: A list of failures at facebook and pitfalls
  5. Distribution: How the donations are distributed based on contribution
  6. Conclusion: A summary of the post with a list of insights and some reflection

I have also highlighted lessons and pitfalls I have derived along the way and


Pilot

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Low engagement on twitter

I conducted early experiments through Buffer by sharing useful links to measure my social media clout. You share an article or link on Buffer and it shares your links at peak traffic hours during the day and  gives you some basic statistics of your engagement. I noticed that facebook was slightly better than twitter but my overall social media looked bleak. Given the initial problems, I looked at them as challenges and proceeded to address them individually. I made a few assumptions based on my initial conditions and target which helped me proceed in an organized manner.

  • I reasoned that I needed 50 people to donate provided they gave 40$ on an average to complete the campaign. (40 people donated)
  • Individual emails work better than social media (Email > WhatsApp> facebook)
  • My close friends and family would contribute (Friends > Family)
  • There would be an even distribution of funds of 40$ average (wrong)

So I was ideally looking for 50 generous people. Assuming 50% hit rate, I would need to reach 100 people interested in helping me. I started out by making a list of people who would most probably donate to my cause. These were my close friends and family, the people whom you can always count on. I then added mutual friends who were sort of close or the people I meet often. Lastly, I added good friends who were well off financially but I hadn’t spoken to in a while. The list came up to 45 people and I proceeded to email them individually. Sometimes, I would speak to them over phone and tell them the whole story. I shared the link through Bitly and I was able to track the clicks.

Click distribution
Click distribution on bitly

I shared the link through Bitly and I was able to track the clicks and their sources. Milaap sends an email when a person donates and since I was sending emails individually, I knew who contributed and when. Most of the conversions from my emails or WhatsApp messages that I shared with my friends.

Asking for money or favor online is similar to asking people in person, you need to form a connection through the cause or in person. Since this involves a little more than liking a page, it becomes important to have that in the campaign. It is known that people are less likely to perform a task if you send it to a group as a whole, they will assume someone else will get it done. Keeping this in mind I sent a very personalized email and made it short and sweet. A personalized email is equivalent to going to your house and knocking for help. It is hard to say NO when a friend is standing there asking for your support.


EMAIL

Source of intimation
Most contributors gained the most through email

Here is a draft of my email


SUBJECT: Help me raise money for a good cause

Hi <friend>,

<Introductory personal note>

I need a small favour from you. My friend Preethi is disabled and has found an organization called Soulfree to help other people like her. I honestly admire her determination and felt I should do something to help her. We are experimenting with an online campaign for crowdfunding wheelchairs. 

<Mutual Friend> contributed initially and with some help from friends and family we have reached 60% of our goal.  We have made it simple so it takes you only a minute to help us out. People have contributed anywhere from 20-200$, any small contribution helps 🙂  

Please contribute this link http://bit.ly/<>
 

P.S. It would also greatly help if you can spread our campaign by clicking on the links below.

  

The email tells you a few things under the hood. I start off by asking money in the subject of the email. I have put the most important criteria in the first paragraph followed by optional items at the bottom. I tracked clicks and links through AddThis giving me insight into each aspect of the puzzle. I improved the draft after interactions and feedback from people.
I need a small favour from you. My friend Preethi is disabled and has found an organization called Soulfree to help other people like her. I admire her determination and felt I should do something to help her. We are experimenting with an online campaign for crowdfunding wheelchairs.
Useful content in the first para
  • Preethi is my friend and I trust here
  • Her inspiring story (Could have been written better)
  • The problem (Wheelchairs)
  • The solution (Crowdfunding)
 <Mutual Friend> contributed initially and with some help from friends and family we have reached 60% of our goal.  We have made it simple so it takes you only a minute to help us out. People have contributed anywhere from 20-200$, any small contribution helps 🙂  

Less important but useful content in the last para

  • Another friend has helped so this system is trustworthy
  • We are making progress as we have reached 60%
  • It takes very little effort to help
  • An estimate of what we need.

P.S. It would also greatly help if you can spread our campaign by clicking on the links below.

  
Alternative in the end
  • Used this sequence because facebook > twitter > impersonal email

LESSON: Send a personalized email: The more people are able to connect with your cause, the more likely they are able to donate to it.

elephant-1092508_960_720

The Alpha elephant hesitating at the waterhole

People like animals hang out groups. I sent out emails, keeping this in mind. It becomes easy to convince people in the group once a member contributes. In the picture on the right, the elephants are afraid to cross because they have never faced this obstacle before. The playful baby elephant gets into the water and starts playing around, seeing this a few brave ones follow one after the other and eventually the leader steps in and the rest of the heard follows. I used this model and sent it to groups like my undergrad, cousins, friends, roommates, and masters cohort.

LESSON: Target people in groups: It’s easier for a person to donate when they know that a friend has trusted you.

I donated 100 because you are running this campaign 🙂

Another interesting factor was my relationships. I have a guy next door kind of attitude, I do my best to help my friends and family when they need me. According to me, it’s not about keeping scores or doing favors but being yourself. When people receive my mail (even if it has typos) they can relate to what I mean to do and help me out. It’s their support that helped me make a difference. I think relationships are very important to do great things.

LESSON: Build a relationship with your audience: Good relationships helps create strong connections which help

WhatsApp

We got about 15% contribution through WhatsApp mainly because of my dad’s circles. I also didn’t share it with a lot of people, I used it as a medium to remind people. It is known that people are less likely to conduct an external transaction through their mobile device. Ideally, people will share


Facebook

For facebook, I tried lot of different things and I failed miserably. I have mentioned the pitfalls and hope to learn from them.

1. Link Sharing

Sharing on facebook
My initial links on facebook got a lot of shares

I got a few shares but they did not prove useful in the end as there were no donations.

2. Paid Campaign on a page

I did this towards the end  of the campaign when I had run out of ideas.I got a total of 12 clicks (tracked separately) and a lot of likes. I even googled the most populated cities in the world assuming Indians there would donate. I also added Indian cities hoping people would be able to donate by relating to the cause by geography.

Paid Campaign for 10$
Paid Campaign for 10$ was a fail as

PITFALL: Sharing as an image with a link. People end up seeing the image rather than clicking the link. I saw in analytics that people were viewing it through mobile devices.

3.Achievements and links 

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PITFALL: Too many things going on. Miami?, 5k?, Medal? Vikram Kamath is a person?. People were bombarded with unecessary information even though I did this to share the link.

4. The pretty girl and the hot guy effect. (Satire)

I hate showing my face on social media, you can see that I usually have a K. I shared a photo with my family which my dad accidently shared it with my relatives. I got upset and changed my profile picture posing as a hot dude I am (assume it’s true). People commented on my body more than clicking links. Although I got a large number of clicks that day, we got little contributions.

I then asked my friend who happens to have a nice profile picture to share it on her wall. When she shared it on facebook, we were near the end of the campaign so we got some contributions from her friends.

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My friend’s post which worked

LESSON: Keep the link you share short and sweet. Show your vested interest and tag the person if she/he is not in your active circles.

Notice the text is supportive and concise which is a clear indicator to the call to action i.e the link. It also gives an opportunity to check the background of the person. Since I had a normal pic, I guess strangers were more open to donating than to a person with an image of K.

Why is facebook so inefficient?

  1. Most people browse facebook through their phones so they are less likely to make donations even when they do.
  2. Facebook friends who are not always close friends so they cannot relate to the cause. (This need not apply to everybody)
  3. People are less likely to leave Facebook and visit a separate site so sharing is not efficient.

Donation Distribution

Histogram of donations
Histogram of donations similar to Pareto distributions

Since I live in the US, we got more funds from here about 60%. There were only 12 donations from India and it also included the highest which was ~400$ from my friend. The distribution of money follows the pattern of Pareto distribution which is how cities are populated or wealth is distributed. We had 31 donations below 100 dollars, 4 donations which were approximately 100$ and 2 which were 200$ and the large big fish which was the 400$ contribution. The (200$) buckets had a very strong relationship to me or Preethi, they were my mentors and had financial stability. The 100$ group were the set who were genuinely nice people by character. They would help others in need intrinsically and were also my close friends.

LESSON: Intrinsic motivation fuels more contribution Put more effort to ask friends who are nice in general to contribute.

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Distribution based on buckets

Let’s look at the efficiency of these buckets. The four people 100$ buckets reached almost 20% while 31 people in the smaller groups generated 44% of the donations. The 3 people in the larger buckets collectively gave that much money to the group. So what does this tell me? I see that we must aim for the big fish. Ideally, you can get that through corporates or sub-campaigns.

LESSON: Aim for the big fishes. The most contribution happens from larger contributions like corporations or volunteers who conduct a sub campaign.


Conclusion

144omk

I started this big problem by breaking it into baby steps. The image is related to the idea of modeling people as an elephant herd. This campaign was successful because of other people’s generosity. My work at TeliportMe and courses at CMU helped me think deeply about problems which led me to analyze the problem better. There were more failures in this campaign than success, I just kept trying and got lucky in the end.


Summary

  1. Start with a pilot study
  2. Send a personalized message
  3. Make it simple to donate by clicking a few links
  4. Target people in groups
  5. Build a relationship with your audience:
  6. Keep the link you share on social media short and sweet.
  7. Aim for the big fishes either through corporations or sub-campaigns
  8. Intrinsic motivation fuels more contribution

Thanks for reading so far, I have summarized my trip to my Miami in a personal post if you are interested. https://kmarkiv.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/the-salt-of-the-earth/

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