Best Practices

Rally 101: How to Write a Strong ‘About’ Section

Welcome back to our Rally 101 series of user tips. This post covers the basics of how to tell a powerful story in the About section of your page.

aboutsection top of post

In the About section you explain to your supporters why you have decided to create a crowdfunding campaign. This is your opportunity to connect to your readers and inspire them to support your Rally and follow the story behind it.

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The Power is Back On. Now What?

At Rally.org we frequently get questions about collecting donations for a personal challenge or tragedy.  With the recent devastation of Superstorm Sandy on our minds, we offer some straightforward advice on raising recovery funds.

 

Q:  Do I have to be a non-profit to take donations?
A:  No.  Anyone can give you funds to help you or your loved ones recover from a disaster.   Futhermore, as long as you are not giving anything in return for the gift, you do not need to pay taxes on it.

Q:  Can my donors get a tax deduction for their donation to me?
A:  No.  Only registered 501(c)(3) organizations can provide a tax deductible receipt for a donation.

Q:  Can I collect donations from credit cards and checks online?
A:  Yes.  Services like Rally.org allow your donors to enter their credit card or checking information to make a donation directly to you.

Q:  Does it cost money to collect donations online?
A:  Yes.  In order to process credit card donations,  services like Rally.org must charge you a small fee.  In Rally’s case, that fee is 5.75% of the amount of each transaction. Rally does not charge other fees besides the per-transaction fee. There are many different services that you can use to collect donations online.  Some of them have a monthly or annual subscription fee, while others don’t.  Some can charge as much as 10% – 15% of each transaction.  Be sure to research fees before you start using a system.

Q:  How hard is it to set up an online donation account?
A:  Services like Rally.org are designed to get small fundraisers up and running very quickly.  You will need a name for your rally – something like “Sandy Relief Fund” to get started.  You will be able to collect your first donation within 5 minutes of starting to create your rally.

Q:  How do I get the word out about my fundraising needs.
A:  Online fundraising tools like Rally.org help you spread the word.  You can “sync” your email account so that some or all your email contacts will get the message about your need.  Rally.org will also connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts so you can spread the word there as well.

Q:  What are some examples of people successfully raising funds for their personal challenges and tragedies?
A:  Rally.org has thousands of customers raising funds for their personal needs.  Here are a few examples.

Q:  How do I get started?
A:  Creating an account with Rally.org is easy.  Just click on the “Join Rally for Free” button at www.rally.org, login with Facebook, and get started.

Photo credit: http://media.nj.com/star-ledger/photo/2012/11/11797648-standard.jpg

Is the Clinton Global Initiative Worth the Hype?

Today’s guest blog post is by Svetha Janumpalli, Founder and CEO of New Incentives. 

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting in New York City. Rather than focusing on grant making like many organizations, CGI brings people together to commit to social good.

I never imagined that I’d have the opportunity to learn about these Commitment to Actions firsthand or to exchange jokes over breakfast with BRAC Founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, let alone discuss tools to help vulnerable households just a few hours later.  As I sat surrounded by leaders spanning various sectors, I realized the expansive brilliance of CGI. Overcoming today’s challenges will take more than consensus. It will take colliding with enough change agents to see that the smallest actions we take today be the leverage points needed to move a solution forward tomorrow.

I received a complimentary membership to attend CGI because of my work with New Incentives which I founded to introduce a tools for poverty alleviation called conditional cash transfers to donors. Our Commitment to Action is called the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies: Safe Motherhood Alliance. This commitment will provide conditional cash transfers to 1,000 ultra-poor pregnant women and 1,000 newborns in Nigeria in exchange for healthy prenatal and postnatal behaviors. Participation in this program will enable these women to earn a monthly stipend conditional upon prenatal checkups, adequate nutrition, antiretroviral adherence and delivery with skilled birth attendants. Through this commitment, pregnant mothers will be able to ensure safe delivery of their children without risking starvation or sacrificing other essential household expenditures.  While only 2% of the world’s population, Nigeria accounts for 30% of the global burden of mother-to-child transmission of HIV making the safe delivery of newborns a critical issue.

I am indebted and forever grateful to the phenomenal support of CGI and Rally staff for helping make this commitment a reality. My experience was a dream come true. I heard about victories I never even thought were possible, and journeys that started with curiosity which now impact the lives of millions of children around the world. I look forward to sharing this knowledge through New Incentive. If you’d like to support New Incentives’ commitment, please check out our Rally page at https://rally.org/newincentives.

This Election Has Gone to the Dogs

With the Republican convention behind us, and the Democrat convention wrapping tonight, campaign season 2012 is in full swing.  Rally has thousands of political candidates using our platform this election cycle – and though we dont talk about them very much, they provide a wealth of analytics about what works in the larger fundraising world.  With that in mind, our own intrepid PR manger Nick Warshaw headed off to the DNC to meet with customers, tell stories, and learn more about what is working.

Nick ran into Hamish McKinzie, a reporter from Pando Daily, and their conversation turned into an interesting piece that was published yesterday.

How does a politician get more people to donate to his campaign?

Pictures of dogs, obviously.

This morning I met in Charlotte with Rally.org spokesman Nick Warshaw, who’s in town to try to sell politicians at the Democratic National Convention on the merits of the startup’s power-of-the-masses donation software. This, remember, is the startup that raised $7.9 million purely on AngelList, chugging back its own crowdsourcing Kool Aid.

Rally is already the donations portal for a “very large percentage” of this year’s election candidates, according to Warshaw. In fact, while San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was delivering his speech last night, visitors to his homepage were accosted with a huge “donate” button powered by Rally.

You can read the rest of the article here and look at some adorable pictures of Bo Obama.

 

Guest Post: Discoveries in Online Fundraising

Today’s guest post is from Jared Polivka.  Jared is co-founder of Victory Framework. Writer of blog posts, short stories and stand up comedy. He recently used Rally for a fundraising project and is newly arrived to San Francisco. 

 

Rally.org, Discoveries in Online Fundraising

 

While browsing the interwebs for a scholarship ticket to Netroots Nation, I stumbled upon Rally’s Raise the Future Competition which gave contestants the opportunity to use the Rally fundraising platform to win a VIP ticket to the conference. How it worked: The top 10 fundraisers with the most donors for their chosen cause win a ticket.

 

I had a couple weeks before the competition deadline so I figured I’d give it a shot. Along the way I learned some lessons in online fundraising and won a scholarship ticket to Netroots Nation. I ended up raising over $400 in 4 hours (20 minutes per day for 12 days) for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) using Rally. Here’s what I learned:

 

Step 1: Hit your “Tight Knit” Network,

 

By “tight knit”, I’m referring to close friends and family. I don’t think it’s smart to begin a fundraising campaign by targeting strangers you follow on Twitter or designers you admire on Dribble. If they aren’t close friends or family, don’t contact them for a donation… yet. Not yet.

 

You want your Rally page to show activity, to have a life of it’s own and if possible, to be entertaining. Friends and family start the forward momentum of your fundraiser. Acquaitenances and strangers will be more likely to donate if they are joining a cause or movement with activity and momentum.

 

Quick Aside: When Contacting Friends and Family…

  • Send a personalized email or Facebook message.
  • Explain the cause you are raising money for.
  • Explain why the cause is important to you and why it’s important to your friends/family
  • In your email, include a call to action to your Rally fundraising page (a url or button if you are using one of those fancy email templates).
  • Ask friends/family to invite their network to donate
  • Follow up. These are your friends and family! Have manners, show your appreciation, call them and thank them.

 

You may find it helpful to give a quick call to your potential donor ahead of time, explaining that you are about to send an email their way with a link to your Rally page and that you are not spamming. I received a few calls from older family members asking if my Rally fundraising page was legit.

 

Grams: “Jerry, am I going to get a virus? Jerry is this one of those Nigerian scams?”

 

By calling ahead I could have put Grams’s identity theft and virus worries to rest.”*note* All old people will call you Jerry if your name is Jared. It’s a natural law or something.

 

Jared: “Nope Grams, this is just a cause that I’m raising money for and that I believe in. I need your help. Please donate on the internets and invite your friends.”

 

Step 2. Mass Message Your Network & Create More Content

 

Once you have some momentum on your Rally page, it’s time to mass message the rest of your network. When composing your email, remember to concisely describe your cause, ask for their donation and include a call to action to your Rally page.

 

Keep updating your Rally page with relevant posts, and links to external but related articles. Constantly thank your donors.

 

Step 3: Reach Out to Strangers with Social Media

 

After you’ve hit your entire network, reach out on Facebook and Twitter to users and organizations that might be interested in your cause. Getting retweeted by large non-profits and thought leaders in your space will spread the word about your Rally page.

 

Effectiveness of this strategy varies. Sometimes it can be difficult to get through the social media noise and to build rapport with people and organizations that you have no connections to. However, you are much more likely to get their attention if your Rally page has activity and momentum. If you have one donation and one post, they won’t take you seriously. 20 donations and a dozen posts in the past couple days? They might listen. They might even lead by example and donate.

 

Step 4: Reward Your Donors

 

It’s important to show appreciation with a thank you. It’s also important to go beyond a thank you to reward your donors in another way (get creative). I’ve listed common-sense ways to say thank you and also a way to digitally reward your donors (meme style).

 

Saying Thanks: 

  • Acknowledge your donor with a sincere thank you on your Rally page.
  • A follow up personal email or personal facebook message is a good idea as it gives a personal touch. This is also a great opportunity to ask for additional support by asking your donor to invite their network or by asking them to become a “fan fundraiser” for your Rally Page.
  • Tweet your thanks. It’s a great way to simultaneously promote your cause and give your donor some exposure on Twitter.

 

Digital Rewards:

 

Connor, my co-founder, suggested that I further reward my top donors by finding animal pics and photoshopping them to be animal memes. In the spirit of I Can Has Cheezeburger, I looked online for photos of wildlife, fired up Photoshop and created personalized thank you’s for the top donors. Several of my donors loved the animal meme’s so much that they showed their friends and family which resulted in further donations.

 

Here are my 3 favorite animal meme’s from my NWF Rally Page:

 

 

Wrap Up

 

I enjoyed using Rally’s fundraising platform to help the National Wildlife Federation and I’m thankful for winning the scholarship ticket to Netroots Nation. Below is a quick recap on my lessons learned in Online Fundraising:

 

I.  Timing is important.

 

With zero momentum, you start by contacting friends and family; with a bit of momentum, you contact your acquaintances; when your Rally page has energy, you reach out to complete strangers on line.

 

2. Go Beyond a Simple Thank You

 

Creatively rewarding donors is fun and results in more donations. I took the animal meme approach and my donors loved it. This may not be applicable for all campaigns, but I’m curious as to how other Rally users have rewarded their donors. Please share.

 

3. What Rally is for Me

 

For me, Rally enables people to fundraise for a cause and reach the maximum number of people online and raise the maximum of funds in minimal time. You don’t have to make fundraising your full time job to further a cause you believe in. A few hours a week should be enough if you’re smart in your execution. I didn’t invest much time in my fundraising campaign; I was able to raise over $400 in approximately four hours. Without Rally as a fundraising framework, I wouldn’t have been nearly as efficient in my fundraising efforts. I’m curious as to how other people have raised money efficiently using Rally; please share your techniques.

 

That about wraps it up. Thanks for reading.

 

 

Seattle Nativity School Takes a Leap of Faith with Rally

The Seattle Nativity School has raised over $5000 so far, for a fund to bring the nationally recognized Nativity Miguel Schools to Seattle. The Nativity schools give economically disadvantaged students a chance to do well from middle school through college. We were inspired by their efforts and recently spoke with Brian Kelly, a former Kiva Fellow, and one of the people responsible for making the Seattle Nativity School a reality.

What is a Nativity Miguel School?

A Nativity School is a faith-based, tuition-free, middle school providing education and counseling to those in greatest need – low income families and families living below poverty line. The 11-month school year includes 10-hour schoolwork days and a committed graduate support director that guides the student from middle school through college. Students of the Nativity Schools have a twenty percent higher rate of graduation than their peers at other schools.

How is Seattle fundraising to build a Seattle Nativity School?

Their key fundraising strategy, Brian explained, was to motivate people to become involved in the start of this school through micro donations. Even though there are larger funds involved in this process, creating a community of supporters is just as important—no matter what your wallet size is, you can be a part of this movement. Every donor receives a photo of the first student whose tuition is crowdfunded. Donors have the chance to form a personal connection to the student and seeing a concrete result of their donation.

Brian told us how his research led him to using Rally -he found it the perfect tool to keep supporters informed about the campaign progress and collect donations online. They started by reaching out to their network of friends and family and colleagues, asking for support. They were surprised with the number of folks that came forward and showed their support with contributions and volunteering their time. Brian and others have been posting regular updates on their Rally Page and continue to send personal emails as well.

“Time is equal to treasure” says Brian. Leveraging volunteer hours to rally the community and boost their fundraising was just as important in their fundraising strategy.

We asked Brian if he had any fundraising advice for other causes. He shared the following:

  1. Writing emails that are genuine and heartfelt is key. If you’re passionate about it, you can’t hide it, and people will realize that!
  2. Get people involved beyond donations -volunteer time is equal to treasure
  3. Constantly keep people engaged. It takes effort but is worth it
  4. You can always find something to share with your supporters. Dig deep. Stay fresh.
  5. Make what you share concrete

 

At Rally we love passionate people and applaud Seattle Nativity for their efforts and fundraising. You can visit their Rally Page here. Well done guys!

Fans with Benefits – The Power of Fan Fundraising!

Call them bundlers, fundraisers, or fans with benefits—volunteers have an important role to play in your fundraising efforts.

 Asking for money generally terrifies people. Asking supporters to become volunteer fundraisers can also be challenging. Recently, some of us at Rally attended “Supporting Volunteer Fundraisers” a presentation organized by the Foundation Center with all-star panelists Jeri Howland, Deb Stallings, Danielle Thomas, and Karen Topakian. Here are three take away strategies for recruiting, empowering and rewarding volunteer fundraisers, or as we call them here at Rally, fan fundraisers.

 

1. Recruit the right Fan Fundraisers

Not every volunteer is a donor, and not every donor is a volunteer.  Finding the most effective fan fundraisers, however, will be a combination of both. Donors who become fundraisers are more likely to be comfortable with ‘the ask’, and can make a far more personal appeal.

Other highly effective fan fundraisers to recruit are board members. They are already donors and volunteers, and generally have strong network and a large address book of people they are comfortable to reach out to. Empowering board members with both a platform to solicit donations and a quota to meet often leads to successful campaigns.

Alternatively, you might consider using volunteer sourcing websites like idealist.org and Volunteermatch. Many people want to help but don’t know where to start. Focus these people on tactical fundraising campaigns and prioritize your volunteers with your immediate goals.

The skills you need to look for in fan fundraisers are passion and engagement. It is better to reject volunteers that are not passionate about your cause than take them on board and put your time and effort into training —only to see them walk away a month later.

2. Empower Fan Fundraisers for success

Fan fundraisers are often self-selected.  Making fan fundraising as easy for them as possible.

Give your volunteers a prep session about collecting donations for your cause so that they are as excited and as comfortable talking about your cause as they are about their favorite book or movie.  Many organizations offer regular training sessions with fundraisers and board members to stay up to date on best fundraising practices and keep everyone motivated.

Build structure around your fan fundraiser program for monitoring, reminders, and check-ins. Ask your fan fundraisers to do something specifically, and give them the option to say they don’t have time so that expectations are all understood.

Most of all, talk about fundraising CONSTANTLY. Everyone needs to realize that without fundraising, all of the other items on your agenda cannot happen. From the moment you meet a new volunteer, want them to understand that being a part of the organization is not just the fun stuff relating to your mission, but relies on fundraising. Remind people that fundraising is on the table all year—even if you are only making official asks twice a year.

3. Reward Fan Fundraisers

Volunteers support your organization for many reasons.  A good cause leader is constantly aware of motivational cues, and learns how to apply rewards and praise to bring out the best in their team. Sincere appreciation is important.  Appreciation from your leadership is desirable.

Even better is appreciation from those who benefit from your cause’s existence. Personal thank you notes can bring meaning to a sometimes thankless task.

Nominate your fundraisers for internal or external rewards, and recognize progress constantly. Many fundraisers respond well to leaderboards and other public displays of effectiveness.

Always communicate regularly what is happening over the course of a campaign, and let fan fundraisers know how they personally have contributed to theprogress.

Effective fan fundraising can mean the difference between success and failure to your cause.  Empower your fan fundraisers to align their motivations, capabilities, and networks of people with your cause, and when it all comes together, great things will happen!

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Did you know you can Fan Fundraise on Rally? Anyone can click “Help Fundraise” on any Rally Page and in minutes be fundraising for your cause.

 

Rally’s 5 Lessons Learned at NTC

Rally Recap of NTC

Rally.org took part in this years 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference and interviewed the speakers from the most prominent and innovative sessions. Hear about the latest trends in nonprofit technologies as some of NTC’s keynote speakers answer some of our questions and recap different conference sessions.

 

Shoutout to the North Pacific String Band for their wonderful music, as well as Ian Micklewright for editing.

 

Before Going Mobile – Takeaways from the Innogive Conference

Svetha JanumpalliGuest blogger Svetha Janumpalli is the Founder & CEO of New Incentives, an organization that enables people to directly invest in individuals and households in the developing world, and then sustain those investments for free over time. Prior to founding New Incentives, Svetha spent time with the Grameen Bank and the Center of Evaluation for Global Action. 

From Text2Give to mobile apps, there are multiple ways non-profits can become involved with mobile technology. As Clam Lorenz of PayPal noted, people are expected to spend over $7 billion from their mobile phones this year alone. What does this mean for non-profits? We have a lot to gain if we approach mobile giving strategically.

Unfortunately, thinking about going mobile is a dwelling task. Thanks to a scholarship from Rally to attend the Innogive mobile giving conference, I found an easy place to start. Most online donations come from clicks through emails. Today, many emails are read on mobile devices. Before diving into mobile apps and text campaigns, non-profits can:

  1. Optimize emails for readability on mobile devices
  2. Ensure emails contain easily visible links to your website
  3. Increase page load speed because mobile users get bored easily
  4. Utilize responsive web design

For great resources on responsive web design, check out the following post by Beth Kanter: http://www.bethkanter.org/mobile-social/. In this post, Kanter also discusses Goodwill, which is a wonderful example of an integrated mobile strategy.

How to Build a Sustainable Fundraising Program

Long Term Planning

 

Too often, small causes and organizations focus only on their short-term fundraising needs. Mike Berkowitz, the co-founder and CEO of Third Plateau Social Impact Strategies, argues that it’s important even for small, new organizations to think about long-term success.

In a recent post on the Foundation Center blog, Mike offers a few ideas on where to start:

  1. Hire the right staff (not just consultants)
  2. Think holistically about your fundraising opportunities (not just about grants)
  3. Create a development plan (be proactive rather than reactive)
  4. Use a donor management system

 

Here at Rally.org, we’ll add one more idea:

  1. Connect your cause’s story to a bigger trend or cultural narrative

 

For example, if your new organization is currently focused on offering computer help to San Francisco seniors, frame your work in the context of America’s rapidly aging population and/or the impact of technology on public health. Share photos, videos, or articles related to those larger themes when you communicate with donors, in addition to telling them about the specific work you’re doing today. That way, even as your organization changes and grows, you have a sustainable narrative that provides continuity for donors.