Fundraise Your Way to Empire!

By: Anya Magnuson

First, the bad news: Hundreds of strangers will not randomly or entirely fund your trip to Empire. The good news? Relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers are often willing to lend a hand — and crowd-funding web sites can make it feasible. If your team still has a bit of money to raise for Empire, crowd funding is something you and your coaches might consider.

Practically every team needs to raise a significant amount of money to travel to Empire. But this year, our team had to raise all of it ourselves; due to budget issues, our school wasn’t able to help. So, along with significant contributions from each family, we were going to need to raise $5,000 — and ideally closer to $8,000.

It was incredibly daunting, with the distinct possibility that we would not be able to make the trip. So we began the season frantically brainstorming ideas. We contemplated singing on street corners, setting up a collection box, and going to law firms and crying at their doors. At one point and for one brief moment, a bikini car wash was even on the table. In the end, we tried lots of things. One of the earliest and most successful fund-raisers was a mega-garage sale. We all cleaned out our attics, and were able to raise about $2,400. Then we did a candy sale, a used uniform sale, and contacted law firms — though we never did end up crying on their doorsteps.

But we were still short of our goal. That’s when we tried crowd-funding. Crowd-funding is basically getting a lot of money from many small donations. It allows contributions to be made by relatives, family friends, and if you’re really lucky, strangers. So our team created a GoFundMe page titled “Send Nova Mock Trial to Compete in NYC” (http://www.gofundme.com/novaempire).

Although we found that it’s difficult to get strangers to throw money at you, it turns out that grandparents, friends, and co-workers near and far thought contributing through GoFundMe was convenient and engaging, as the site allows you to track your progress.

Some things to keep in mind when using crowd-funding sites:

● Fees vary but often take about 5-8% of contributions. We were lucky to have a parent pledge to cover fees so all the contributions went to the team.

● Looks matter: Write a compelling story about your goal. Use a professional looking photo. Make the headline interesting.

● It can be fun to provide “rewards” for various contribution levels. Ours include thank- you notes, Vine videos, Nova stress balls and photos from the trip.

● Having your friends and family “like” the page on Facebook is an effective way to publicize the site.

● Reach out to family and friends online, or even in letters. Some team members asked relatives to skip birthday, Christmas, or graduation gifts and to contribute here instead.

● You can log “offline donations” on GoFundMe, which lets you track the real total.

In the end, GoFundMe gave us the financial boost we needed when we were running out of ideas and short of time. With a couple weeks left before the trip, our fund-raising has topped $7,000, which means we won’t have to go hungry in New York City.

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