Note from Beth: What if your organization embarked on its first ever crowd funding campaign with a goal of raising $50,000 and only raised $10,000? Would you stop doing crowd funding, social media infused fundraising and revert back to traditional methods of fundraising? Or would you learn, pivot, and improve? That’s exactly what the Latino Community Foundation did. Masha Chernyak, Director of Programs and Policy, answered a few questions about how they used learning and pivoting to get better results.
1. Tell us briefly about the mission of the Latino Community Foundation (purpose, staffing/budget size, and fundraising history)
The Latino Community Foundation (LCF) is the premier Latino fund in California. LCF annually raises all of its operating and grant-making dollars and is currently, a $1.2M Foundation with 4 core staff members.
LCF inspires philanthropy from the Latino community and invests in community driven solution lead by Latino-based organizations. LCF is a champion and advocate for the Latino community. It unites diverse advocates, allies, and inspires philanthropists to work together to build a better California. LCF has built a dynamic network of Latino nonprofit leaders through its advocacy platform, the California Latino Agenda and has engaged a powerful group of female donors through the Latina Giving Circle.
2. Why did you decide to do a crowd-funding campaign in 2012? What were your results? What did you do to get those results?
In 2012, President Obama responded to the activism, passion, and residency of the Dreamers, by issuing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to protect them from deportation and provided them with temporary work visas. LCF was inspired by the potential impact of this policy and wanted to ensure that all Latino families that could, would take advantage of this new policy. LCF launched its first crowd-funding campaign to raise the visibility of the policy and to help Latino students pay for the application fee and receive affordable legal services to apply for DACA. The Bay Area alone had roughly 50,000 eligible individuals and the application free was $465.00 per person. For a low-income family with two children, the application fee adds up.
We used a crowd-funding online platform to run a campaign and kicked it off with a live event with Latino employee resource groups, Latinos in Finance, and LAM, a social network of Latino professionals. We initially thought we’d get them to commit to raising $456, but we experienced glitches with the platform, our champions were confused about the process, and very few had reached their goal. So, we did a pivot and focused on seeking individual contributions from our base. Our initial goal was to raise $50,000. In 6 weeks, we raised $10,000 and made mini-grants to three Latino based organizations.
To read more about the first campaign: http://latinocf.org/united-we-dream-campaign.html
3. What did you learn and how did you pivot?
We learned that it takes thoughtful planning and smart execution to support a crowd funding campaign. You need to inspire key champions from the initial planning process and provide people with a sense of ownership over the success of the campaign.
We also discovered that the choice of a platform is key important and it has to be user-friendly for your donors to navigate and use. Also, just because people like all your Facebook posts and know about the campaign- that won’t necessarily turn into donations. More than 90% of all of our donations came when people made personal appeals to their friends and family.
We did do a few things right with our first campaign! We used powerful images and our timing was great. We quickly responded to DACA, the new policy and we adjusted the strategy as necessary. We were able to engage 133 donors, most of whom had never given to LCF before. That was a big win for us!
4. What was the goal of your campaign in 2013? Your strategies?
Although we didn’t reach our fundraising goal in 2012, we were really inspired by the potential of this new vehicle to raise funds and what we learned. We decided to switch platforms and went with the most visually appealing platform. Now that we had a benchmark from our first year and chose a more realistic goal of $15,000. By the second week, we had already surpassed our initial goal. Our strategies were working. We continued to promote the match and promoted a new goal of $25,000. After 6 weeks, we raised a $34,500 from 110 individual donors – only 15 donors were gave to both campaigns.
- Focus on a clear, positive, and inspirational message – “Unleash Great Minds” instead of something like, “Help low-income Latino children”.
- Diversify the “ask” strategies: Personal and informal appeals, Social Media, & inspirational Newsletters.
- We created a communication strategy for the whole campaign and adjust as needed.
- We continued to use powerful images and videos and focused on the power of technology (do you have a specific link to a visual or video)
- We worked with individual Board members to help send personal appeals- this was key to our success!
- Promote CETF match, employer match, and a tangible ask – each donation goes to purchase a computer.
- We engaged with our networks on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, without overwhelming readers with asks.
For more information about the “Unleash Great Minds” campaign please visit: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/unleash-great-minds
5. What’s your advice about doing crowd funding campaigns?
Champions Are Key, Rally Your Base First: We learned that selecting and inspiring key champions is the most important part of a crowd-funding campaign. We realized that more than 90% our donations came from staff and Board champions. The more people you engage in the initial idea and planning process, the better. Just because you have a solid message and a good crowd-funding site, it does not mean that it is going to go viral by itself. You need people to inspire and ask others to join your campaign and share the link!
A champion strategy can be highly effective, but it doesn’t happen on its own –requires planning and staff support, especially a cheerleading role. Also, make sure that all of your champions are comfortable with asking for money; taping into each person’s network is key to success.
Involving your Board will yield more than just Donations: Our Board of Trustees helped us raise more than 73% of the funds for the “Unleash Great Minds” campaign. Not only did they leverage their networks, they were energized and became even more invested in the mission of the organization.
Make it Easy for your Donors to Give: Make sure that your message is clear and that your appeals are simple and inspirational. If you host a kick-off event – you must make it easy for your donors to give. Set up computers and have volunteers ask people to donate on the spot. If you don’t have an event, make sure your appeals all have links to the donation page.
Don’t Set Minimum Gift Levels Too Low: In 2012, the levels were much lower and the donations ended up being much smaller. This year, our first level started at $100 and went up to $1,000 vs. last year where we started at $25. This year we had 13 people that gave a $1,000 or larger donation! We later added a $2,500 level and in retrospect should have done it sooner.