500% Boost in Fundraising Outreach on this Contest Strategy

Check out these 4 simple steps to setting up a fundraising outreach contest to boost your crowd campaign or fundraising idea.

We’ve all been there. You want to boost your crowdfunding campaign or fundraising outreach and you grudgingly accept the idea of doing a contest. Grudgingly because it seems counter-intuitive that you have to give something away in order to get pledges.

You spend days setting up the contest and hundreds to give away the newest tech gadget from Apple.

You roll out your campaign and by the time you’ve closed out the month you’ve got little to show for your effort other than the wasted time and lost money. Then again, that’s still better than the alternative where you get tons of new subscribers only to see them all disappear after the contest.

What happened and how can you make your next fundraising outreach contest a success?

Contests for Fundraising Outreach

Contests for Fundraising Outreach

Why Most Fundraising Outreach Contests Flop

Running a contest was one of the ideas offered in our mega-resource from 33 experts and their #1 tips to boost fundraising ideas and crowd campaigns. Unfortunately, contests can be a lot of hard work and many don’t turn out as expected. There are two very important reasons why many contests don’t work or end up costing more than they’re worth.

First, while everyone may salivate over the new iPhone or tech gadget, is it really relevant to your crowdfunding campaign or fundraising idea? Thousands of new email subscribers are going to do little good if they haven’t a care in the world for what you’re doing.

Offering something that is valuable AND relevant to your campaign will go a long way to attracting the right kind of people. I’d rather have 10 highly-targeted subscribers than 100 that are only there for the freebies.

The other reason why most contests fail is because the organization goes overboard with prizes. Make your prizes relevant to your audience and they’ll have more value. You won’t need expensive tech gadgets or vacation giveaways to attract your best audience. Offering a few smaller rewards also increases your chances of offering something that will really speak to someone.

Boosting Fundraising Outreach with a Contest…without Going Broke

What’s the best kind of prize for your crowdfunding or fundraising contest, besides something that your target audience will love? A prize that’s free!

Reach out to your existing donors or through your pre-launch crowdfunding to ask for donated prizes for your contest. Your existing fundraising network is going to be the best resource to ask because they know what is valuable to the people you’re trying to reach.

Start with businesses and others in your network that will have something to gain. While you’ll get a free prize for your fundraising outreach contest, they’ll get free promotion as the prize donor. They also get something to offer their own audience by passing on the link to the contest.

The only thing to watch out here is that you shouldn’t offer to share your subscriber email list with the people donating the prizes. At best, it’s a quick way to lose your followers and at worst it’s a violation of trust and privacy.

4 Simple Steps to Setting up Your Fundraising Outreach Contest

The most popular type of contest for boosting crowdfunding or fundraising outreach is the random draw, so we’ll talk about that one. There’s also the “best entry” contest where people submit a reason they should win or another type of entry and the “best” is chosen by impartial judges. The random draw contest is easier and less prone to calls of manipulation so preferred by most.

1) Set up a special subscriber list for your fundraising outreach contest

I use MailChimp for my subscription services and contests but you can use just about any of the other providers like Aweber and Constant Contact. You will need to create a separate list from your regular mailing list but can merge the two lists after the contest.

Once your list is created, click on “Signup Forms” and “Embedded Forms” to create the html code you will put on your website.

Fundraising Outreach Contest Forms

Fundraising Outreach Contest Forms

The code you will need is in the box under “copy/paste onto your site”

2) Create a page just for your fundraising outreach contest

You’ll want to create a page on your website instead of a post. A page will be more permanent and won’t get buried in subsequent posts. If you’re unsure how to create a page, check out our very detailed guide in How to Start a Crowdfunding Campaign Blog.

Your landing page should be visually attractive and simple. I like the one below for London Drugs’ Fall Contest. Text is limited to a few large-print callouts and some (necessary) rules. Once you’ve got your page laid out how you like it, click over to the “text” editor to insert the html code for your signup form.

Contest Page Fundraising Outreach

Contest Page Fundraising Outreach

3) Create a process and special message for your contest subscribers

Back on MailChimp, you will need to customize the sign-up process for your contest subscribers. Back in the List menu, you will click on “Sign-up Forms” and select “General Forms.”

Under “Create Forms” you will see a drop-down menu that has different forms you can create. You will need to change the “Opt-in confirmation e-mail” and the “Confirmation thank you page”

Design Forms for your Fundraising Outreach Contest

Design Forms for your Fundraising Outreach Contest

Subscribers to your fundraising outreach contest will see these two emails to confirm and then thanking them for subscribing. You can change the text in the standard MailChimp-generated forms to thank people for entering the contest and point them to helpful posts. I like to highlight and link some of my strongest articles in these emails to show people that the website is more than just a contest.

You will also want to include a way that subscribers can share the contest with others in their network. I like ClicktoTweet for creating a link that people can share. Include your twitter handle and the landing page URL for your fundraising outreach contest. By clicking “Generate New Link” you will get another html code to add to your subscriber thank-you page that will create a button for people to tweet out to their network.

Fundraising Outreach Contest ClicktoTweet

Fundraising Outreach Contest ClicktoTweet

4) Convert fundraising outreach subscribers into donors and backers

Don’t forget to promote the contest on your blog and with your current fundraising outreach subscribers. Let them know that they are automatically entered and ask them to pass the word on to their friends. The people that donated prizes should be active in the promotion as well. Build the contest into your social media sharing strategy to help spread the word.

Once you have everything set up and rolled out, don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Reach out personally, first by email and then by phone, to connect with new subscribers. Asking a question in your introductory email can be a great way to open up the conversation and get ideas for what your subscribers care about most.

Of course, you will want to talk about your crowdfunding or fundraising goals and why they are so important to the community as well.

How this simple fundraising outreach process led to 500% more monthly subscribers

Not only is the process above extremely easy to manage, it can lead to a big jump in email subscribers. By getting subscribers to tweet out the contest to their network, you open it up to a huge audience.

This is exactly the process used by the Riverview Society of New York, a non-profit nature organization. The group got donations of nature books, guided tours of state parks, bug collecting toys for the kids and even a camping package for its contest. Not only did the amount of new subscribers jump to 320 during the month of the contest, from the typical 60 subscribers a month, but donations more than doubled that month and more than covered contest expenses.

About Joseph Hogue

An investment analyst by profession, I run two blogs (Crowd101 and PeerFinance101) in personal finance, peer lending and crowdfunding. I've been on both sides of the table as a lender and a borrower and am excited to be a part of the peer movement. With the power of the internet, people are helping other people manage debt and raise money in ways never before possible.

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