Late this past Fall, the Nelson Waldorf school chose to use Circle Fund to launch and manage their first ever crowdfunding campaign. The Nelson Waldorf School is a registered charity and has operated as a nonprofit for over 27 years. The school is situated on the site of an old ski hill, with a 35 acre campus that is home to over 150 students and a dozen teachers. There are many aging buildings on site including a full sized gymnasium, large round eurythmy hall (for dance/movement) and a number of separate classroom buildings including a Kinderhouse and administration wing with parent, staff and meeting rooms.
After 27 years, some of the buildings have started to show their age, and many of the classroom roofs are in dire need of replacement. The main building roof in particular which covers Classes 1 through 3 was in the most urgent need of fixing. The estimated cost was quoted at $17,500 including building and materials. Since the school relies on government grants and donations, it was agreed that a crowdfunding campaign was needed immediately to raise the funds before the end of the tax year.
A school marketing committee was formed, which included the school’s Community Development Director and Business Manager as well as a Board Member. A teacher was also involved to lead the creation of the video, and an alumni volunteer offered to help with narration and editing. Other parent volunteers were involved during the process, handing out flyers at the Winter Faire, putting up posters and sharing e-mails with prospective donors.
It was agreed that since parents are already asked frequently to donate time and funds to the school on a regular basis, they should not be the focus of the fundraising ask. Instead, the committee decided that the fundraising campaign would target Waldorf School alumni and the extended families, particularly grandparents. These groups had never been asked in the past for donations, and so a crowdfunding campaign was chosen to be the best way to reach them. It was also decided that donation amounts should be very specific to the need. For example, a donation of $25 would afford to pay for a single roof shingle. Donation buttons were customized to pay for specified $25 multiples of shingles; $25, $50, $100, $250 and $500. A custom donation amount option was also provided and resulted in a number of $1,000 donations! It was also decided to leverage the December 31st tax deadline for charitable receipts for the 2017 tax year. As much as 30% of donations occur in December for charities in Canada, with up to 10% happening in the last 3 days of the year.
Circle Fund was exactly what our school needed for this past year’s fundraiser – the crowdfunding feature is easy to set up, the layout is clear to understand, and the platform is very user friendly. Downloading donor data is easy to do at any time, instant creation and distribution of tax receipts is a real time saver, and integration with Quickbooks online makes tracking funds simple.
In order to tell a compelling story and make a more emotional connection to the alumni and extended families, it was agreed that a short video was needed. The video was narrated by an alumni, directed by a teacher and themed to tell a story of how water can shape the lives of children and all of us. It also can make roofs leak, and destroy water colour paintings! See the video below which is featured on the main crowdfunding page here.
In an effort to involve the local community and add some incentive for donations, prize perks were added to the crowdfunding campaign. Many students buy school supplies at the local Cowans store, and so the school approached them for donations. They offered up four $25 gift certificates. Also, two locally branded Kootenay Ski Jackets were offered at no charge, keeping in the ski themed history of the Waldorf Campus. The perks were made available to anyone who donated $25 or more. They were then awarded by a random draw of confirmed donors.
In order to get the word out, various communications were made to the extended families of parents and alumni. In order to “seed” the donations, we first shared the crowdfunding page with members of the Board and family and friends of the Marketing Commitee. By logging into the Circle Fund admin area, a CSV file of all donor information was downloaded in order to facilitate e-mails and phone calls for thank yous.
Specifically, marketing communications included;
- A feature on NelsonWaldorf.org website
- Regular weekly posts on the Nelson Facebook Page
- Internal school e-mail newsletter & bulletin
- School flyers that went home with children (see right)
- Postering and flyers at the Waldorf Winter Faire
- Media coverage in the local newspaper (The Nelson Star)
- Direct e-mails to past alumni
- Phone calls to alumni and grandparents
The Crowdfunding Page
The crowdfunding page used for the campaign is found at gocirclefund.com/waldorf. This page was optimized for mobile devices, especially since as many as half of donations are made using phones or tablets. The donation buttons and payment process was also optimized in the top left corner of the screen to be highly visible and clear as the priority for user action. Donor comments, although optional, are a highly effective way to increase interest and add social proof for donations. Donors could choose to hide the amount, their name or both. Canadian and US compliant tax receipts are issued immediately after donations are made via e-mail. All credit card information and payments were sent directly to the Nelson Waldorf registered charity bank account. No credit card information was stored or seen by the Circle Fund server. All donor information is limited to name, email, address, and phone numbers stored only for the purposes of tax receipting and follow-up thank yous.
The crowdfunding campaign so far was deemed a huge success, especially since no fundraising has ever been done before like this by the school. By the tax deadline of December 31st, $8,950 was collected from donors, which was 51% of the goal. Social networks including Facebook and other networks provided 483 additional shares. An average of $157 dollars was collected across 57 donors over a period of 4 weeks. Although the crowdfunding page was ready in a day, the entire campaign development process took about 3 weeks of preparation.
After prizes winners were chosen, they were contacted and awarded their jackets and gift certificates. During the campaign, all donors also automatically received government compliant tax receipts through the Circle Fund auto-receipting system. Thank you e-mails were sent out to all donors, providing an update on the campaign total and next steps. Since they reached just over 50% of the goal before the tax deadline, a Part 2 to the campaign will occur in the Spring with the addition of incentives / perks for every donor. Adding incentives with a wider appeal to the local market will help extend the reach of the crowdfunding program beyond school alumni and families. The school will consider also involving team leaders for managing volunteer groups to approach the local community and businesses for sponsorships and donations.
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