A few weeks ago, we witnessed a peculiar occurrence in the antagonistic world of sports. On two different occasions, fans spontaneously donated to charities belonging to players from opposing teams. It was a bizarre display of sportsmanship and fandom that demonstrated the unique capabilities of crowdfunding to unite and promote smaller organizations. It also provided us with a case study for how organizations should go about their own crowdfunding campaigns.
In the first instance, Andy Dalton, the Cincinnati Bengals’ orange haired quarterback saw close to 350,000 dollars transferred to the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation in a matter of days. The massive influx of cash came from Buffalo fans whose team was sent to the playoffs on the back of Dalton’s pass in the waning moments of his game against Baltimore. Most fans, who organized themselves on social media, donated $17 in honor of Buffalo’s 17 years since their last playoff experience. Once the donations started coming in, Dalton smartly tweeted numerous “thank you”s helping to get national media coverage and creating more awareness about the viral campaign.
In the other instance, Minnesota fans donated to New Orleans kicker Thomas Morstead’s What You Give Will Grow Charity after a Reddit poster commended him on his toughness for playing with a broken rib (New Orleans lost their playoff game to Minnesota in heartbreaking fashion). Once again, fans rallied around a lesser known charity and gathered almost $200,000 in a few days.
The media coverage received by these spontaneous campaigns was overwhelmingly positive and provided the charities with free advertising. The campaigns demonstrated all the advantages of crowdfunding over traditional fundraising. Crowdfunding engages a wide audience, instills positive feelings for the organization and can grant charities access to media coverage.
That said, we must recognize that these charities had the benefit of being headed by professionals playing in a sport that is broadcasted nationally and has become a sort of secular religion in the States. What can “normal” organizations learn from the success of these football players?
While multiple crowdfunding strategies exist, they all start with readying an initial audience. In the case of the NFL players, their audience was provided to them by being on television. In the case of the average organization, creating an excel sheet with your organization’s reliable contacts who would be willing to participate in and share your campaign can give the campaign an initial boost such as the one provided by the Minnesota Reddit poster.
In addition, such as was the case with the football players, make sure your campaign has a relevant face, date or event that can be attached. Campaigns need context! Now, for the football players that came easier as the last week of the season meant that people were paying attention. For organizations, that means making sure that the public relations for your campaign includes faces, symbols and ideas that are meaningful to your target audience.
Finally, as Dalton and Moorehouse both did, once the campaign is underway, make sure to send out acknowledgements using emails and social media platforms. In addition, check with local media contacts to see if your campaign may be worthy of a story. These measures will increase the chances of your campaign going viral.
There is no replacement for playing in the NFLwhen it comes to crowdfunding. However, organizations can leverage the same concepts that we observed in these successful campaigns to take their fundraising to the masses.