Remember the days when trick-or-treaters would go door-to-door in your neighborhood with little orange boxes to collect donations for UNICEF? Well, just as the little orange box has gone digital, so has “peer-to-peer” fundraising—soliciting friends, neighbors, and family for contributions to your favorite cause.

The good news is that schlepping door-to-door has given way to a myriad of fun online tools such as Razoo, Kickstarter, CauseVox, Six Degrees, or ChipIn that enable individuals to create personalized fundraising pages for a cause with relative ease. Then, they direct their legions of contacts to their fundraising web page and ask friends to donate there.  Processing fees range from 2.7% of each transaction.

Millenials, it turns out, love giving online. According to the 2012 Millennial Impact Report, young donors overwhelmingly prefer to donate  to nonprofits through the web, and 70% made an online gift last year (39% said they were compelled to contribute after receiving a request from someone they knew.)

There’s a load of online fundraising out there now that is driven by individuals; some campaigns flop and some shine.

If your fundraising campaign was a slam dunk, I’ll bet you did most of these things right:

1.  You got personal. 

There is NOTHING (nothing!) more important than telling a personal story about why the cause is dear to your heart.

I love this example from Cate Cameron’s fundraising page on GoFundMe. She includes a photo and brief story of two girls she met while traveling in Kenya, the human rights abuses the girls endured, and why Cate was moved to raise money to get young Kenyan girls an education.


2. You added an inspiring photo or video to make the project come alive.

Here’s a video posted on the Razoo page of Adam Guzewicz. He’s trying to raise $7,000 in support of Rebuild Africa:

Razoo Rebuild Africa Video

3.  Your message was urgent.

Deadlines and goals communicate urgency, and all the friend-to-friend fundraising tools will allow you to create a personal fundraising page with clear, unambiguous goals. Spell them out, and your friends will get the message to contribute NOW.

4. You told potential donors how their gift would make a difference.

Donors want to know how their dollars changed a life for the better. Show them and tell them in the most direct, compelling way you can. You won’t get much better than this from the Seva Foundation’s Causes fundraising page:

Restore Sight

5. You used a compelling subject line for your email and/or fundraising campaign.

Don’t let your friends come across a generic plea for money in an email from you and hit ‘delete’ without even seeing your fundraising page. Give them a reason to open your email, starting with a strong subject line.

Here’s a favorite title from Jessica Avizinis who set up a page on Razoo for pledges for her run to benefit the Somaly Mam Foundation: “I hate running, but I hate human trafficking more.”

Or this title from Simon Griffith’s page on  “Who Gives a Crap– Toilet paper that builds toilets”. (Fundraising for a new brand of toilet paper that uses 50% of its profits to build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world).

6. You thanked donors after the last time they gave you money.

For goodness sake, say thanks. And say it promptly, sincerely, profusely, and personally. Even though your donors will always receive an automated thank-you email from the software you use, say thanks anyway. My mom used to hand write thank-you notes to all the neighbors who wrote a check for my UNICEF box. It went a long way towards who plunked more dollars in my box the following year.

7.  You didn’t ask for too much money.

Last year, 58% of philanthropic giving by Millennials was for $100 or less. The lesson? Don’t shoot for the moon—start with a low, realistic goal.

8. The online giving experience was easy.

Nothing’s worse than donation software that loses a donor in a complicated maze. There are dozens of “friend-to-friend” or crowdsourcing vendors out there, and all have unique features and fees. Choose a vendor that enables a seamless giving experience for donors. Idealware has a terrific review, A Few Good Tools for Friend-to-Friend Fundraising, to help you choose the best one for you.

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Yesterday, I headed over to Hartford for my morning coffee and bagels and a talk on “Mastering Your Message: The Enduring Art of the Sound Byte” by PR pros Dick Pirozzollo, Barry Nolan, and Mike Salius.  (If you haven’t been to any of these monthly events sponsored by the Connecticut Valley Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, it’s time to sign up.)

Here’s some of their nuggets of wisdom for communications folks prepping the boss for the big interview:

1. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.  Coach your spokespeople as a regular part of your job so they are always ready for an interview. Set up a camera and walk through a mock interview together, using a flip chart to remind the speaker of the key points to use. Make sure they can say them in 10-15 seconds, leading with the strongest point. Take 3-5 of the most feared questions and practice answering them.

2. Remember it’s all about real people’s lives. Talk about human beings. Stay away from stats, jargon, and technical terms.

3. Be disciplined with your message. Don’t let a reporter bait you with false choices. When responding, pivot back to your key points.

4. Set the stage. If a reporter is meeting you on your turf, set up a well-lit, quiet space that exudes a warm feel (use potted plants, etc) for the interview, rather than a cold, sterile hallway. Identify (and coach!) in advance any other employees or volunteers that a reporter may need to interview.

5.  Control the moment. Stay calm, even in the face of an aggressive reporter or an emergency situation.  Spokespeople can’t allow themselves to be provoked into an angry outburst on-camera (it will surely make the top of the evening news).

6.  Don’t hesitate to correct erroneous information that a reporter may provide on-air during the interview.

7.  Help the reporter— provide them a package of key information to get the story done. You get big points for providing multi-media such as B-roll that could enhance their story.

8.  Prepare in advance for communications emergencies. Organizational crises will happen, so be ready for them. Make sure all staff have cell phone numbers where key spokespeople can be reached at any time– weekends included.


Photo by Big D2112,  12/23/10, Flikr Creative Commons Attribution- Share-Alike 2.o Generic License.

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