Giving Good Poke

Reflections on Socially Networked Personal Fundraising

By Beth Kanter, Beth's Blog

When I entered the America's Giving Challenge on December 13, 2007, one of my motivations (aside for getting $50,000 for a great cause) was personal learning. I wanted to discover what worked and what didn't work about personal, socially networked fundraising, in particular on Facebook. I kept an action learning, reflection in action journal on my blog as part of my documentation. So the daily posts not only served as campaign messaging, but also to help me discover new insights about practice.

When the official results arrived for America's Giving Challenge on February 21, 2008 and our cause captured first place for global causes , it made me and a lot of people feel great. We raised over $93,000 from 1829 donors. This was truly a group effort, no one person could have done this alone. There were many people pulling for our cause - people who donated, asked their friends and networks to donate, spread the word through blogging it or other social media ways, and helped us cross the finish line in first place! A very special thanks to colleague and blogger Michele Martin, who helped lead the charge.

The America’s Giving Challenge was the 5th campaign that I helped championed. Each of the four campaigns leading up to this one was an experiment that tested a strategy or technique that I wrapped into this one. Did not use mass media or opt email marketing. Although, we did message our existing donor list (under 500 emails). There is a lot of reflection in action and refining as the campaign unfolds, but there are definitely some best practices. All of these campaigns have primarily benefited disadvantaged Cambodian children and young people. I used a combination tools, from Twitter to send two Cambodians to college for a year and using widgets to raise money for school uniforms for street kids in Phnom Penh so they could attend school.

Summary by the Numbers

In total, I’ve raised over $200,000, of that $101,000 in prize money from two contests (both first place)
Over 3,000 donors – approximately 30-40% were “new donors” to the charity
Roughly 50-60% have donated more than once to a campaign, these are not just one-time transactions

For details on each campaign and case studies click here.

The Charity: The Sharing Foundation

For the America's Giving Challenge, the organizational recipient was the Sharing Foundation, an all volunteer organization with a mission to care for seriously disadvantaged children in Cambodia. I'm a volunteer and on the board. All money collected went directly to their bank account through an organizational called Global Giving, a conference sponsor.
We raised $43,000 from 1829 donors, plus we received $51,000 in competition prize money.

The Contest

On December 13,, 2007 at 3:00 PM EST, the Case Foundation and Parade Magazine launched America’s Giving Challenge. It was an open, online competition. You could win $50,000 for a charity. $50,000!

  • Any one individual can raise lots of money for charity using new online tools like Facebook Causes, a fundraising
  • Winners would be selected based on the largest number of unique donors
  • 50 day Challenge - marathon versus sprint compared to my other campaigns

Here's the story and what I learned ....

Open the Kimono!

On December 13, 2007 at 3:01 PM, I blogged my initial thinking on strategy and asked for feedback. This was a little scary for me to do because people in my network worked for other nonprofits and they call could be my competition. They could simply read by post and use it to their advantage. On the other hand, being transparent and getting feedback on the strategy is what lead to success in all my other campaigns.

I got a lot of important feedback that ultimately helped us win. It helped identify people in my community/network who would help.

But the first real step was to tell people why I cared about this cause …

Make It Personal

As a personal fundraiser, I ask my friends, readers, etc to help me because I care about this cause. They – the donors – help me out because they care about me directly or we have a relationship or through a shared experience - adopted children, Cambodia, poverty reduction, work in nonprofits, whatever.

Let me share with you how I do it .. (my eight-year old son Harry does it better as you will see in the YouTube video above though)

  • Our family cares about Cambodia, it’s in our hearts because we adopted our children from there ..
  • That’s my son, Harry, and my daughter Sara when they first arrived in the Sharing Foundation’s orphanage ..
  • This is what they look like now. They have all the benefits of growing up here in the US – enough to eat, healthcare, a good education, etc. They are lucky, but I always …
  • But there are many children in Cambodia who do not have this opportunity. Like Sineen who is an orphan and the head of her household supporting two younger sisters. Because of the Sharing Foundation's program, she has attended school and now has a job at the Foundation's sewing school and shop.
  • There is extreme poverty in Cambodia but education and vocational programs can a huge difference for children like Sineen and the others like her.


The Wired Fundraiser Report from Network for Good
People to People Fundraising (read 2-page summary of Network for Good Chapter)

Theory: Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

So, getting input early and making it personal are important principles. Let's talk about strategy


Understand the Ladder of Engagement

The ladder of engagement is a fundraising and advocacy campaign theory
There are different roles and levels of involvement with the personal fundraiser or the cause
Your communication and relationship building strategies must help move people through these different roles.
They don't all move, it isn’t linear, and it’s messy
Very important is the network weaving done by the personal fundraiser who inspires, connects, and motivates people in the campaign.

  • Happy By-Standers: Blog readers, my friends on Facebook, colleagues offline
  • Spreaders: People who are willing to share the information about my cause with other people. Add the widget to their profile, re-tweet, leave a comment on someone's blog, digg my post, bookmark it, forward a video to friends, etc.
  • Donors: Open their wallets
  • Evangelists: Solicit their friends on your behalf
  • Instigators: Create their own version of your cause and why it is meaningful to them

This thinking comes from several sources and is being discussed with nonprofit colleagues in different places noted on this flickr screen capture here.

Concept of Network Weavers in advocacy campaigns
Pyramid of Engagement from Groundwire


Story is a the heart of personal fundraising and why it works – I used this technique in every campaign.

For this campaign, I used three types:
  • Stories that illustrated how one child was given a route out of poverty by the Sharing Foundation's programs

There is research that shows that people are more likely to donate if they hear the story about one child or animal versus statistics or the organization's elevator pitch.

  • Stories about the participants and what they were doing to spread, donate, evangelize

These stories help build momentum, energize, and make the campaign feel like a socially desirable activity because it is successful.

  • Stories that shared learnings how to do this

Since the campaign was unfolding on my blog and my readers interact with me because I write about how to use social media, I wanted to share as much as I could about works and what doesn't.

The Three R-s of Network Weaving

  • Relationship Building
  • Rewards
  • Reciprocity

Take reciprocity for example, as a blogger I often get hit by PR people to write about whatever. I don't ignore when I'm in a campaign. I'm very transparent and say I'll blog it but you must donate and get five other people in your office to donate $10.

Or I participate in the conversation in many different online communities and I share my knowledge or connect people - for free. I try to be helpful. I don't always ask people to do stuff for me or my charity. So, people return that favor.


Why are these Cambodian's Orphans wearing Creative Commons T-Shirts?

Fun, Humor, Easy, Competitive Spirit, Pacing, Urgency, and Passion!

The campaign employed these different styles for communication throughout the 50-day Challenge. These all work! Here's a few examples from The Journal

What's More Fun Than A Birthday Party?

I used Facebook, Twitter, and my blog to organize a mini-campaign around my birthday. My goal was to get 51 people to donate $10 in honor of my 51st birthday. I used a combination of urgency, fun, and humor.

Longer Campaigns Can't Use Urgency All The Time or Risk Donor Fatigue

The mid-point of the campaign did not use a lot of urgency unless it was necessary to energize the campaign. I only used urgency once when we dropped into second place and I organized a "Twitter Re-Tweet" campaign to energize. The other pacing techniques used included traditional grassroots campaign and face-to-face techniques. In addition, I regularly blogged stories that others retold or were cross posted on Facebook or Twitter. Challenges we had is that the third-party software we had to use for the campaign did not have paypal integration and that prevented some people from contributing and some expressed donor fatigue.

Some examples:

Why is this orphan wearing a Creative Commons t-shirt?
How To Use Cell Phone To Bring Web2.0 To Cambodia Schools?
Mon Channy's Story
Why Pharoth Wearing a Foo Camp T Shirt?
Nancy Schwartz: How To Craft a Blog Solicitation Post and Call to Action
Cultural Influences of Online Giving: Dr. Mani's Thoughts

Ed Schipul's Conference Presentation
Dr.Hendrie, Sharing Foundation and Board Members - Traditional Campaign Component

The Generosity of the Twitterverse
Twitter Solicitation Techniques

Lack of Paypal integration
Donor Fatigue

The Last 24 Hours: Competitive Spirit and Urgency

The last 24 hours of the campaign proved to be very challenging. We had been on the top of leaderboard, but dropped to 5th place. I put out this urgent message to the networks and they responded, with 800 donations coming during the last day.

Here's some posts describing some of the more interesting responses:

Dr. Mani's Passion
A Youtube Message of Support from Finland
The Networked Effect on Facebook for this Fundraiser
Peter Deitz's Fundraising Wizard
Noel Hildago Knows $10 Can Do in Cambodia
Teresa Crawford and the Riders Help Me Swim Up Stream
Dave McClure - Only A Few Hours To Get Q2 Lunch With Dave!
Chris Brogan Says Donate $10 Now - Before It's Too Late
Ruby Sinreich Sets Up Facebook Fan Club for Me - Thank you
Can you swear like a pirate and fundraise? F yes from Dave McClure
Help Gmail Cut Me Off for Spamming: I can't Email You A Thank You!
We did it!!! Unofficial First Place
Getting to Lessons Learned
Can You Quantify Love?

Lessons Learned

  • Open the Kimono
  • Make it personal
  • Use the Ladder of Engagement
  • Stories
  • The Three R’s of Network Weaving
  • Fun, Humor, Easy, Urgency, and Competitive Spirit
  • Say thank you in creative ways

Future Questions

  • How to avoid donor fatigue?
  • How to easily and more automatically gather quantitative metrics?
  • How to continue to deepen relationships as it grows and beyond a contest fundraiser?
  • What is the art and science of Network Weaving?
  • How to best integrate with traditional fundraising strategies?
  • What does the flow of networked donations look like?
  • How to better document reflection in action so it isn't a nightmare to create a case study?