Professional Development

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Crowdfunding for Afterschool

Crowdfunding has become a popular way for individuals to raise money for many good causes. Sometimes crowdfunding is used for relatively small amounts of money, but that's not always the case. Some crowdfunding projects raise tens of thousands of dollars.

As budgets tighten, programs often find themselves looking for additional fundraising ideas. Many have had success with crowdfunding programs such as Classwish and DonorsChoose. Some have had high success with crowdfunding, raising thousands of dollars for projects such as gyms and other high-dollar causes.

Below are a few helpful tips for your crowdfunding needs:

1. Be specific. Identify the exact need you are raising money for. People like to know where their money is going. For example: If you're fundraising for the materials to create a library for your programs, say so. Don't say you're "fundraising for X program," but "raising money to create a library for library for X program."

2. Consider the fees involved with fundraising sites. Look at sites like Plumfund that offer free fundraising.

3. Don't overwhelm your readers. Break a large project up into smaller projects and limit the amount of time you run them to a month or two.

4. Good marketing is KING. Use high-quality pictures and add videos. Ensure content is easy to read and to the point. Make it friendly and inviting. Put effort into a class A presentation. Create a marketing group to get the word out. Use avenues such as:

• Social media
• E-mail lists (think PTA, alumni, staff, student groups, et cetera)
• Blogs
• Newsletters
• Local media (public service type things, local papers, places of businesses)

5. Target your audience. Don't concentrate on only one group of donors. Target business owners, citizens in the community, parents and associates. Offer various options for payment. Make it easy for donors to contribute.

6. Set reasonable goals. Do your homework and know how much you need for a specific project. If you need $5,000 to create the program library, set your goal to $5,000 and provide transparent information to show donors how you arrived at that figure. You will soon figure out what works and what does not. Keep up with the trends that were successful, for future projects.

7. Thank your donors! No matter how large or how small a contribution is, it deserves a thank you. Don't use a blanket statement to thank contributors. Acknowledge that they chose you to share their money with you. They chose your cause, instead of many others, as being important to them. If you want people to come back for your next fundraiser, thank them!

8. Tell your story. Why is this project so important? What's unique about it? How does it contribute to the community above and beyond what's required? People want to know. If the library is the place where children are kept in an afterschool program to assist them with learning difficulties, say so. If the library is in need of computers so those children can advance, say so. Include people in more than just the dropping of the coins. Allow them to see the whole picture and make them proud to be part of the solution.

Take your time to get familiar with the many tools crowdfunding offers. Don't rush to get your project online. When you're ready to launch, make sure you're prepared. Your first impression is a lasting impression. When people feel good about working with you, it shows on your bottom line.

Wendy Dessler is a super-connector with OutreachMama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition. Follow on Twitter: @outreachmama.

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