What do Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” have in common? They can both be spruced up with a bit of effectively organized crowdfunding, a fundraising method built on reeling in a large number of small donations over a short period of time.
During their session, “How to Run a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign” at Fundraising Day in New York 2017, Lara Koch, associate director of digital philanthropy at The Smithsonian Institution, and Elizabeth J. Wilson, assistant director of advancement for annual giving and operations at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, recapped their own successes in crowdfunding and provided tips to successful campaigns.
The #RebootTheSuit campaign to refurbish and display Neil Armstrong’s space suit was launched on July 20, 2015 and reached the $500,000 goal in five days, after which a stretch goal of an additional $200,000 to refurbish Alan Shepard’s suit was launched. The campaign grabbed national headlines and resulted in $719,779 in donations from 9,477 supporters. That’s an average of $76 per donation. The vast majority of supporters (95 percent) were new to file.
#KeepThemRuby, an effort to conserve and display Dorothy’s ruby slippers, launched about a year later and hit the $300,000 goal in five days, stretching to an additional $85,000 to conserve the Scarecrow’s costume. Like #RebootTheSuit, #KeepThemRuby drew national press and resulted in $349,026 from 6,451 donors, an average donation of $54. The majority (88 percent) were new to file. Among donations from on-file donors, 63 percent had given to #RebootTheSuit.
Crowdfunding is an opportunity to not only raise money for a project but to grab media buzz, cultivate new donors, and involve and educate current donors, according to the panelists. Campaign timelines typically start four to six months in advance with leadership buy-in, major donor engagement, and media and marketing strategy followed by a campaign — no longer than 30 days — dedicated to multi-channel digital marketing, special announcements such as celebrity involvement, and project updates.
After the campaign, steps are generally taken to survey supporters, migrate data, and provide ongoing updates until the funded project is completed.
- Features of a quality crowdfunding project include a tangible result such as a piece of art that will result from the campaign, popular appeal or a niche that will attract eyeballs, and something easily spreadable by word of mouth and social media. Key means of turning a quality project into a successful one include:
- Video. Produce a two-to-three-minute video that is funny, compelling, and worth sharing;
- A catchy hashtag or project name doesn’t hurt, either. Something like #RebootTheSuit worked because it was short, memorable, and searchable online;
- Develop rewards. Maybe perks such as private tours or rewards can be associated with increasingly larger donations. Target between seven and 12 donation tiers;
- Have a clear ask. Can you say in 10 words or less what your project hopes to do? Good. Stick with that;
- Make sure that your campaign’s homepage has the who, what, when, where, and why of the campaign. The ask and hashtag are punchy, the homepage should be detailed and compelling; and,
- Know that communication isn’t a one-way street. Have your team ready to answer questions and manage concerns on both social media and the campaign page.