Struggling to raise money for your local charity? Are your newsletters, outings with the PTA and letter-writing campaigns falling on deaf ears? Our recommendation: channel your inner Tim Ferriss. If you haven’t heard of Tim Ferriss, you should get to know him. In the last four years he has authored two New York Times number one Bestsellers, The 4-Hour Workweek and the 4-Hour Body. Tim does not have a day job….or a traditional 9-5 day job. He runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide, speaks six languages and runs a top 1,000 blog (out of more than 120 million blogs)…and he’s only 33 years old.
You may ask, how does Tim Ferriss apply to our fundraising story? Well, here goes…
Yesterday, my company, Neo@Ogilvy, was fortunate enough to participate in Best Buddies’ Friendship Walk in New York City. Best Buddies is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing friends and jobs for people with intellectual disabilities. Our team was assembled in less than three days, the team page on Best Buddies’ website was created shortly thereafter and we hit the ground running. Problem is we had only 5 full days to fundraise for this walk. We soon realized this was anything but a problem, this was actually beneficial…enter Tim Ferriss’s marketing strategies.
Carpet-Bombing the Internet
When promoting his two New York Times Bestselling books, Tim didn’t believe in long book tours or drawn-out “email drip campaigns.” He subscribes to a narrowly focused, intense period of “noise-making” that garners attention and results without exhausting the very people running the campaign. By circumstance, our team of six was forced into “carpet-bombing” mode. We had five days to raise our goal of $1,200. As a result of this short-time period, each of our messages was crafted with a sense of urgency. Email recipients were presented with an email that stated the non-profit and its mission, the event we were participating in and the call-to-action, all with the understanding that donations had to be submitted by Sunday morning at 10am.
Tweets and Facebook and LinkedIn statuses were updated continuously during this time period to reflect this sense of urgency. Clicks were tracked and traffic to our team page began to trend upwards…
Empower Your “Power-Users”
The 4-Hour Body has become one of Amazon.com’s top 5 bestselling books in 2011 for a few reasons. Chief among these is Ferriss’s involvement of his “power users.” He has created ambassador programs where other companies set-up competitions for his customers. Whichever customer is the best promoter of the product (in this case Tim’s book) gets a dream vacation or a prize from that company. Through this program, Tim gets free promotion throughout the Internet and at the same time gives companies very public exposure that builds each company’s brand equity.
In our case, our power users were our family and close friends. From the non-profit’s perspective, its power-users are the companies and volunteers that are doing the leg-work for them…raising money one donation at a time. Best Buddies, like most non-profits, recognizes that their most valuable asset is their volunteer base. They have created a website that fosters a seamless interaction between volunteers and possible donors to ensure that the conversion of potential donors to actual donors is high…an area where many non-profits fail.
Best Buddies provides volunteers with a team page that is equipped with email capabilities. From this page, our team was able to send up to 30 customized emails at a time. Within this email was an embedded link that led users to a landing page where they had the choice to donate and/or join our team. This page shows visitors how much our team had raised against goal and how many members we recruited against goal (and provided visual representations of the progress against goal). Visitors weren’t blindly donating either…in addition to our customized messages; Best Buddies provides a quick 130 word description of how this money is going to be used to positively affect those in this program.
Bottom-line: to see high conversions on the donor page, the non-profit must provide the visitor with a reason to donate. A poor landing page filled with irrelevant content and poor navigation is just as harmful to a fundraising campaign as a generic email. Best Buddies provided its volunteer teams with an easy-to-use and effective resource to solicit donations, which directly correlated with this organization exceeding its fundraising goal by 12%.
Create Competition amongst Teammates
Through Ferriss’s ambassador programs, he kills two birds with one stone: he empowers “power users” and creates competition amongst his followers. Within our team of six, we did our best to create the same dynamic (albeit on a much smaller scale).
We fostered a culture of competition that helped us raise nearly $1,100 in less than six days. Best Buddies again promoted this competition by providing a running total of how much each team member had raised on the “team page.” Two important takeaways from this:
1. Competition creates a more intense and narrowly focused approach to fundraising and the goals associated with that specific campaign
2. A strong covenant between the charity and fundraising teams is essential to success
As of 11pm on Sunday, Best Buddies had raised $51,549 (and counting). Due in large part to our fundraising efforts, we were able to double our team’s size from 6 team members to 12 in the final two days of campaigning. In just five business days, our team raised $1,075 (still 11% below goal), which represented 2.1% of total donations – a remarkable number considering our limited amount of time to fundraise.
To provide more context around this number: Each of our team members raised an average of $179.17, 66% higher than the average raised by each of the other 469 participants ($107.62).
What tactics have you leveraged to raise a ton of money in a short amount of time for your favorite cause? Do you believe in Ferriss’s tactics? Please share your stories in the comments section below.