Crowdfunding Success Stories Include $35,000 for Sock Monkeys and $2,000 for a Dry Composting Toilet

Social entrepreneurs of all varieties are turning to crowdfunding to launch or expand their social efforts; recently I’ve connected with five who have shared their stories of how they raised up to $100,000 each.

Do Good Bus Tour, Las Vegas Rescue Mission

Rebecca Pontius led the effort for an organization called the Do Good Bus to raise $100,000 on StartSomeGood to show people how to volunteer by taking them on a bus to volunteer all around the country. She said, “A friend and I had been volunteering in LA for the past ten years at a couple different organizations and consistently had friends ask, ‘How do you know where to volunteer? How do you get involved?’ So we decided to put all those questioning friends on a bus and SHOW them exactly how to volunteer.”


Martha Griffin raised $31,763 on Kickstarter to publish a children’s book called Sam’s Birthmark. “When our son Barron was born with a port wine stain on his face,” she says, she was inspired to write the book. “Every child in the world is unique and special in their own way, and certain special characteristics make them shine as an individual. We want to show this message through a book with the child having a birthmark.”

SMAC! Sock MonkeySMAC! Sock Monkey

Jennifer Windrum raised $35,000 on StartSomeGood for SMAC—Sock Monkeys Against Cancer. “My Mom, Leslie Lehrman, is the inspiration behind the creation of SMAC! She lived more than 1,200 miles away, making her appointments, tests, scan results and treatments that much harder for both of us. I wanted to give her something she could have, hold and touch when I couldn’t be with her. I created SMAC! to give Mom a “buddy” she could hug to remind her that I am with her,” she says.

Kristopher Young, head of PROViDE, which provides care for people in Haiti, raised over $2,000 on StartSomeGood for a dry composting toilet. “We reached our goal plus with very little effort,” he says.

Brad Hurvitz, founder of Trek to Teach, raised $2,910 on StartSomeGood.  “I had an opportunity to teach in a boarding school in Rajasthan, India through a connection of my brother.  The challenge of going to an extremely foreign country and the opportunity of giving back was a perfect combination for me to satisfy the desire I had within.  While there, I taught English to grades 4, 5, and 6.  I was the soccer coach, photography teacher, taught kids how to swim, trained students for a marathon, helped market the boarding school and I directed the school’s first play, Pygmalion.  I will never forget the expressions upon the faces of my students and had never felt such true gratification in my life,” he says.

These successful social entrepreneurs have offered some insights from their successes that are relevant for anyone wishing to raise money through crowdfunding.

Jennifer Windrum, a PR/social media strategist (turned activist) created a full marketing strategy for her campaign. “As a one-man band,” she says, “I had to continually re-prioritize aspects of the strategy, as I couldn’t possibly tackle all that I wanted to. I needed to build an army. So, part of that strategy included building a private group of ambassadors on Facebook who could follow, and be an active part of the campaign from the very beginning, such as watching the making of the prototypes, trying to find a manufacturer – all the details it took to bring the SMAC! monkeys and the campaign to launch. Once the campaign kicked-off, this group had a very vested interest, an emotional connection, to these little monkeys and worked to help make them a reality.”

She adds, “While this was primarily an online campaign, I also took it offline, where those who aren’t plugged into the social media world could participate by holding SMAC!-downs. A SMAC!-down is basically a girl’s night out with a social good twist. I livestreamed a SMAC!-down at my house to officially kick off the campaign. I set up laptops where people could pledge right then and there, while they ate, drank and mingled. I provided language and directions on how others across the country could host SMAC!-downs…and they did.”

Her strategy paid off, she says, “According to StartStomeGood, the SMAC! campaign opened with the highest-earning first day in the history of the crowdfunding platform, raising over $5,000 within 24 hours.”

Brad Hurvitz noted, “Alex (Budak of StartSomeGood) and I had a discussion about the most effective fundraising strategy using their crowdfunding platform.  He told me that the video was the most important part.  Organize it like an essay: intro, body and conclusion.  He told me to clearly communicate my mission and ASK for support and not to make it longer than 3 minutes!” He then recruited a professional video editor to help with the video on a pro bono basis.

Kristopher Young advised, “In my experience, having specific goals, funding amounts, and a timeline are integral parts to crowdfunding successes.” He added, “Our entire campaign was focused on the Facebook community and a small list of donors in our email contact database.  We set our goal amount, an ending date for the campaign, and posted reminders occasionally on Facebook and sent two emails to everyone in our database during a 3-week campaign.”

Rebecca Pontius says, “We raised just over $100,000 on StartSomeGood to take the Do Good Bus on tour with the band Foster The People.” She adds, “It took consistent monitoring, posts on Twitter and Facebook, personal begging emails to friends and support from the band to raise the money in time.” She also observed that choosing the right platform is key. She originally launched her campaign on Kickstarter but was “booted” because the project wasn’t a creative project; she quickly switched to StartSomeGood where she was successful.

Martha Griffin reported, “Our goal was $25,000 and we raised $31,763 on Kickstarter to publish a children’s book called Sam’s Birthmark.  We sent numerous e-mail campaigns to our friends, family and our entire network.  We also heavily targeted friends of friends and the Vascular Birthmark community through Facebook.”

Comparing notes across these efforts, it is fair to conclude that raising money for social entrepreneurship is like raising money for almost anything else. It is easy to raise a bit of money and an organized, concerted effort and a large existing network, community or fan base is required to raise a lot of money through crowdfunding.

As I continue my research into crowdfunding, I invite you to share your crowdfunding success stories with me here.

Please help me continue this conversation by commenting below, on Twitter at @devindthorpe and on FacebookGoogle+ and my personal website


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