4 Simple Questions To Ask Before You Kickstart // Crowdfunding Etiquette

Are you raising dollars?

Disclaimer: In writing this post, I am drawing off of my experience as a fundraiser.  Some of my friends have or currently have crowdfunding campaigns that are ongoing, and this is not meant to be hurtful, discouraging, or critical – I want you to be successful and I hope this will help!

Social media and email are flooded with requests to give to causes on GoFundMe, Kickstarter, IndieGoGo.  These crowdfunding sites (and others) have been around for a while now, but they’re really gaining mass popularity, especially when we hear about fantastic causes that raise $1 million in a single day! So you, like me, are probably thinking about how we could do the same thing (or at least raise a little bit of money)… because after all, who doesn’t have a wish list of things they’d like to do that they can’t fund?

I raise money for a living – I am the Development Director at a non-profit performing arts organization.  I also donate to a variety of causes that are important to me.  In addition, I have given toward good causes on crowdfunding websites, so let me say straight out: I am in support of fundraising and donating!  Giving is one of the most impactful ways that you can make a difference in the world.  In my job, I get to work with the most generous people who give of their wealth, time, energy, and talents.  Every day in a job like mine is inspiring.

The cool thing about crowdfunding is that it empowers the individual with a simple, online means of raising funds.  It gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to find investors they might not otherwise reach, family members to give aid to their loved ones with significant needs, and donors an opportunity to be a part of something they believe in at an affordable level (or lots of causes they believe in!)… this is a GOOD thing and it is being used well by many, many people.  Organizations like mine have even started to embrace crowdfunding as a means to fund projects that might otherwise not be funded – one-time, exciting ideas that they can communicate to a larger audience that they might not otherwise reach.  Most of all, crowdfunding has engaged millennials as donors and THAT is a fundraiser’s biggest challenge, to engage people with no time or money as donors.  Crowdfunding rocks… when done well.

So, before you start that Kickstarter project, I’d like to encourage you to ask yourself a few simple/crazydifficult questions:

  1. Who does this project benefit?

    People don’t actually like to give away their money, but they do like to invest in things/people/ideas they value or they think merit the worth of their hard-earned dollars.  The most successful crowdfunding campaigns have either a large impact (the benefits of the completed project will directly help a large group of people) or they have a deep impact (the benefits of the completed project will greatly change the life of the beneficiary). Unfortunately, your summer program in Europe is actually only going to impact you, and while it will likely be a very special time for you, it’s not going to deeply change the course of your life.  This is the thing you need to get a second job to pay for, not the thing you should ask your friends & family to fund.

  2. Why is the cause worthy?

    Will this campaign actually do what you’re setting out to do?  Can you be sure?  If you can’t, why do you feel that it’s worthy, and why should I also feel that way?  It is crucial that you tell me in a way that doesn’t use vocabulary that is exclusively used by people in your field/position (for those of you in the arts “intrinsic benefit” needs to be cut out of your vocabulary, for those of you in missions, your jargon is “kingdom importance”).  This is the challenge I see my friends who are in missions work face the most, because the spiritual benefit of a missions trip is very difficult to measure, especially in short-term missions.  If you’re raising support for a cause that you can’t answer this question for in 1-2 sentences, and then be able to write for 1-2 pages expanding on that answer, then you need to put the brakes on and figure out this answer immediately.

  3.  Why should anyone give?

    This is the toughie – fundraisers make their career into understanding donor motivations because, the truth is, everyone is a little different.  Successful campaigns in the non-profit world are all about communicating the stories of the people benefitting from the work of the organization.  Crowdfunding has the opposite problem: when you crowdfund, the people who benefit are the most visible, but it is your job to bridge for your donor the gap between the problem you have and the reason it’s their problem to solve.  I recently saw a kickstarter asking for funding for a friend to participate in a professional summer arts program… wait, what?  If it’s professional, shouldn’t you be paid, eliminating the reason for me to give?  And if you’re not, isn’t it the program’s job to raise those funds, not yours?  This particular campaign didn’t even address that fact, and the giving in response was poor.

  4. Does a solution to your problem already exist?

    The thing that turns me off about crowdfunding is that in many cases it is superfluous to the work of nonprofits who already exist, and is ultimately competing for the same funds.  Moreover, in many cases the crowdfunding campaign is the brainchild of a small number, not under the guidance of a team. Our nonprofit works with nearly 400 households who donate annually, under the wisdom and guidance of a board of nearly 25 community and business leaders, with a staff of 12, a corps of 200 volunteers; because of those individuals, our organization is able to impact 48,000 people in our region each year.  There is strength in numbers! So, before you crowdfund, I urge you to do your homework and see if you could pour your energy into and connect your network to a non-profit that already has established a foundation for solving this problem.  If there is, please consider doing so instead of competing against them.


Have your answers?  I think you know what to do – go change the world!  Immediately!

Thanks for reading.


Everybody has an opinion // controversial post

syriaI was inspired by my friend Jim Baker’s blog post earlier today on the etiquette of social media in light of tense times (you should probably check out his blog anyway because it’s one of a very small handful I consistently read and it’s pretty great!)

I have been thinking a lot of my friends who live in Boston and how they might be feeling right now.  Some of them were at the marathon earlier that day.  My husband Mike actually completed his first marathon about a year and a half ago in Erie in right around the same finish time that the bombs went off.  Anytime you can fathom those most important to you being hurt (or worse) causes one to shudder.  This moment is one of those close calls for a lot of people, and a very sad reality for too many.  It is heartbreaking.

So what I’m about to say is in no way intended to diminish the reality of this situation – this is a bad thing and people are justified in feeling upset, scared, angry, and a host of other emotions.

The thing that nags at me is this: we as a country don’t respond to situations like this very well, especially in social media.  It seems like at first, everyone posts heartfelt messages of prayers and thoughts going out to people in a tense situation.  This is a good thing – people need to know in this situation that they’re not alone.  But then within a day or so, it becomes heavily tempered about political points of view, a sudden patriotism for some that seems so artificial or anti-patriotism for others blaming everything on the current leaders.  This is the point where we start to turn ugly.  What comes next, inevitably, are posts/comments treating whatever the tragedy as if it is the single worst thing that has ever happened in the entire world.

I’m bothered by each of these things for different reasons, but probably by the lack of perspective people have for what is going on in our world the most.  Millions of people spend every day in fear of terrorism that encompasses their every single day… and many of those people are living in fear because we are attacking them.

Senator Lists the Death Toll from US Drones at 4,700 People

We have killed THOUSANDS of people, including many, many innocent people.  The title of this article is a little misleading, though, because there isn’t really a count on how many people US drones have killed in the last decade – no one’s keeping track.  “Using the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s count, the U.S. has launched between 416 and 439 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia since the U.S. first successfully weaponized an MQ-1 Predator a decade ago.”

This, in my opinion, is the worst thing in the world.  These attacks are happening and they’re happening as we continue to support them.

I’m really not trying to diminish what’s going on in Boston, or any of the other national tragedies we’ve experienced as of late – they are tragic and terrible and I hate them.  What I am trying to put into perspective is the reality that bombings like this are a regular thing on our planet and we only seem to take notice when it’s on our soil.

People in the Middle East where these attacks are happening spend every day living in a deeper fear than the Bostonians felt today, or than the residents of Newtown felt when school resumed.  But for some reason I’ll never understand, the social media response and the general vibe of our country is, “Who cares!  They’re not our people.”

How You Can Save the Arts in 30 Seconds

Photo by DAN GLEITER, The Patriot-News

Make a difference and help save government funding for the arts without spending any money OR taking more than 30 seconds:
CLICK HERE: Advocate for the Arts

The Problem:

(All Information from Americans for the Arts)

Today, the U.S House of Representatives Appropriations Interior Subcommittee passed its initial FY 2013 funding legislation and proposed a cut of $14 million to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This budget proposal is disappointing. The arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources, but funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $20 million over the past two years, and this additional reduction is counterintuitive to the national call to help grow jobs and fuel the country’s recovery. Americans for the Arts recently released the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV economic impact report, which provides overwhelming proof that the nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity every year and supports 4.13 million FTE jobs annually.

Why is the NEA important?

The NEA contributes to the development and economic growth of communities nationwide.

  • NEA grants to organizations and local arts agencies help them maximize their economic and social contributions to their communities.
  • The nonprofit arts industry generates $166.2 billion annually in economic activity, supports 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs, and returns $12.6 billion to the federal government in income taxes. Measured against direct federal cultural spending of about $1.4 billion, that’s a return of nearly nine to one. (Figures from Americans for the Arts, Arts & Economic Prosperity III study).
  • Nationally, there are 686,076 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts. These businesses employ 2.8 million people, representing 4.20 percent of all businesses and 2.04 percent of all employees, respectively. (Figures from Americans for the Arts, Creative Industries 2009)
  • The arts attract new tourism dollars. Sixty-five percent of U.S. travelers include cultural events on their trips, spending an average of $38.05 per event in addition to the cost of admission on event-related items such as meals, parking, and retail sales.
  • America’s arts and entertainment are leading exports, with estimates of more than $30 billion annually in overseas sales. Public spending on the arts helps position the United States to compete globally.
  • From the work of nonprofit arts agencies to the impact of cultural tourism, the creative sector is important to state economies all across the country. The creative industry in Arkansas, for example, employs nearly 27,000 individuals and generates $927 million in personal income for Arkansas citizens. Creative enterprises are the state’s third largest employer—after transport and logistics and perishable and processed foods. In North Carolina, the wages and income of workers employed by creative industries infused $3.9 billion into the state’s economy in 2006. And in Massachusetts, the 17.6 percent yearly growth of the cultural sector contributed $4.23 billion to the state’s economy (National Governors Association, Arts & the Economy, Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development, 2009).

The NEA supports lifelong learning in the arts, through grants, partnerships, research, and national initiatives.

  • Students with an education rich in the arts have better grade point averages in core academic subjects, score better on standardized tests, and have lower drop-out rates than students without arts education (Critical Evidence,www.aep-arts.org/files/publications/Critical%20Evidence.pdf, published by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies in collaboration with the Arts Education Partnership).
  • NEA grants support a wide range of projects, including educational programs for adults, collaborations between state arts agencies and state education agencies, and K–12 partnerships between arts institutions and educators.
  • The NEA funds school-based and community-based grant programs that help children and youth acquire knowledge and understanding of and skills in the arts. Projects must provide participatory learning and engage students with skilled artists, teachers, and excellent art.

The NEA supports artistic excellence and improves access to the arts by granting funds to nonprofit arts organizations.

  • In FY 2008, the NEA awarded nearly $122 million of appropriated funds through more than 2,200 grants reaching all 435 congressional districts.
  • Forty percent of all NEA program funds—approximately $47.8 million in FY 2008—are re-granted on a formula basis through the state arts agencies, ensuring that federal funding has an even greater reach.
  • Through programs like Challenge America, the NEA supports artistic activities that reach underserved populations.
  • On average, each NEA grant leverages at least seven dollars from other state, local, and private sources, magnifying the impact of the federal investment.
  • With more funding, the NEA’s core programs could better bring the best in the arts to all Americans. Inadequate funding has caused a decrease in programs available to the public.