Campaign Planning

I did a little planning before I launched this campaign. Here's a summary of the conversations and thinking that went into the campaign.

The Internal Conversation

While the Sharing Foundation has an operating budget of approximately $350,000, its only paid staff members are those in Cambodia who run the programs. All the fundraising is done here in the United States by a dedicated group of volunteers, using mostly grassroots techniques, direct mail, foundation proposals, and a limited amount of online fundraising techniques via the organization's web site and email as well as online donation portals such as the Catalogue for Philanthropy , Network for Good, and GlobalGiving.

The Sharing Foundation has a very active fundraising committee comprised of people with experience working with nonprofits and fundraising. As an organization, we appreciate the potential for online fundraising, but often our capacity is limited by lack of paid staff. In November, I presented a proposal to implement a small, modest personal fundraising campaign using the ChipIn widget on my blogs, Beth's Blog, a nonprofit technology blog, and Cambodia4Kids, a blog about Cambodian culture. I decided to focus the campaign on raising the funds needed to support Leng Sopharath's sophmore year at college. The board agreed.

The Blogosphere Strategy Session

Since personal fundraising via a blog was uncharted territory for me, let alone for the Sharing Foundation, I needed advice. Furthermore, since I'm a vetern blogger it was natural for me to blog my plea for advice. (I also thought this might be a good low-key way to fundraise from professional colleagues and my blog readers for my campaign.) At the same time, Katya Andresen recruited me to write a guest post on her blog. So I invited my blog readers to join me in a strategy conversation where I shared my questions, my draft pitch, and some initial ideas. I received some excellent advice that I subsequently incorporated into my campaign activities. Many of my blog readers and colleagues not only supported my campaign by blogging about it, but also contributed dollars. Involving supporters in the design of the campaign turned out to be a useful strategy for leveraging support.

Getting Organized

It takes a degree of pre-planning and organization to launch your personal fundraising campaign. You don't want to do this thinking "on the fly" while setting up for your ChipIn account and fundraising widget. Configuring and using ChipIn tool is the easiest step of all, but it won't be very effective unless you give your campaign purpose, goal, message, and strategy some thought before you launch.

You'll need to know the following information before you can set up your widget, devise a strategy, and create materials to launch your campaign:

1. Purpose

What are you raising the money for? As you think about your campaign purpose, make sure it has the following qualities:

Authentic: Select a cause, organization, or organization's program that you are really personally passionate about! You will need to create campaign messaging (discussed in detail in the next section) that speaks from your heart, so select something that is meaningful to you. For my campaign, selecting Leng Sopharath was a no brainer.

Specific: The purpose should be as concrete as possible. You should be able to describe what your project is in a one sentence tagline. That's important because a one-sentence tagline can be used as the subject header for email messages or titles for blog posts.

I used this formula:
Help me raise money to do X activity for Y outcome
Help me sponsor Leng Sopharath's college education so she can make a better life for herself

The ChipIn widget has a "I am raising money for" field. For my campaign, I included the organization's name. I included the organization's name because I wanted to make it clear that the money was being contributed to a nonprofit.

Realistic: Don't go for vague or pie in the sky purpose. You should identify something to find that is tangible and will result in a realistic outcome.

2. Dollar Amount

The ChipIn widget gives you the option of including a specific dollar amount for your campaign or leaving it open-ended. Having a specific dollar amount for your campaign helps you build momentum through your campaign messaging as you get closer to your goal. Campaigns with specific target amounts also tend to be more successful. In addition, the ChipIn widget also lets you edit the dollar amount once you've implemented your campaign, so you can adjust it upward or downward, if need be.

How much? To be honest, I had no idea how much I could realistically raise. I decided on a modest amount because I wanted to be successful! Sponsorship of a college student in Cambodia through the Sharing Foundation's educational programs can be done for a donation of approximately $1,100 annually. Our family had already donated $350 which left us with a gap of $750. So, that's the dollar goal I decided to use.

3. Timeline

The ChipIn Widget requires that you set a deadline for your campaign, the default is 30 days. I decided on a year-end deadline of December 31, 2006 or a campaign timeline of approximately 7 weeks. If you do not have outside pressure on when the money is needed, a campaign should probably be no shorter than 3-4 weeeks, depending on your dollar amount goal, how many people you are soliciting, and campaign messaging and activity time table.

4. Collection Method

The ChipIn Widget gives you the ability to collect funds via your PayPal account or ChipIn's ACH (Automated Clearing House), a secure, government-regulated option for directly depositing funds into bank accounts. The new nonprofit version, recently launched, integrates the ability for the nonprofit to use their current donation infrastructure whether it be in-house or third-party donation portal. Check the ChipIn FAQ on transactions to determine the best method for your circumstances.

In my campaign, the Sharing Foundation did not have a PayPal account and I wanted to the check to be transferred directly into the organization's bank account, so I selected ACH. Currently, ChipIn does not charge any fees to contributors or campaign organizers, although if you use a PayPal account your organization may be subject to fees.