Help us in our quest to help
April 17, 2010 8:55 PM   Subscribe

How can I raise money online for a good cause?

I have recently, finally, become involved in a cause that may be the only real thing I’ve ever I truly cared about. I have learned a lot about the existing situation in the past few months, and I've been volunteering, but I am desperate to do more. (I've also learned that I'm not alone in feeling that way.)

Apathy and underfunding are the two main culprits – they always are, but this is one of those “issues” where they are the only problems, as this is not a subject that polarises people regarding what the right thing is. It is also not an issue where there are a lot of people profiteering from the situation created by general, pervasive apathy. So there isn’t any lobbying or movement against it; wrong solutions are usually adopted out of wrong-headedness (and left in place out of general disregard).

Also, this is all happening in what used to be referred to as the Third World – although last time I checked, we were the “Global South” – in a very crowded, thoroughly urban area. There isn’t much community, let alone community organizing, and not many practical resources for how to go about fund-raising for a problem that is so pervasive and voiceless that it goes on daily, all over the city, right in our streets, and is not even seen as a problem.

It isn’t even as unfixable as that would make it seem.

So I (and 3 other young people) are thinking about how to raise some awareness and money. Between us, we have professional skills in writing, film-making and drawing/design. We (one of us) also know as much about social media as you can know without actually being in the business of it. What this can enable us to do, potentially, is get some interest online and appeal first to people who don’t even know that this is going on (the Global North) and can easily afford to care just a little bit. With that we can afford better instruments of education here, or even simply funnel it into the cause itself.

But as soon as it starts getting into specifics, we are all a bit lost. It’s not a matter of enthusiasm, but rather of any real experience in this field. Should we fund a documentary about the situation and hope it gets enough eyeballs on YouTube? Should we tag all our Facebook friends into a heartfelt note or instigate a desperate chain e-mail? (The ideas get stupider.) How much should we expect from what we put in, financially - what is the internet’s charity conversion ratio?

So basically we don’t have a plan. Please help us in the name of goodness, and make any suggestions you can think of. We’re not even looking for expert advice – tell us what has worked for you when deciding to donate to a (possibly foreign) cause, or how you would execute your Dream Charity Fundraising Drive.

Thank you in advance.
posted by mondaygreens to Society & Culture (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you a part of a registered charity (in the US, that would be a 501(c)3 nonprofit; other countries have other ways of designating charities)? If not, you're going to have a lot of trouble raising money, both because of legal restrictions and because many individual donors are going to be skeptical of giving money to a charitable cause that hasn't gone through the usual vetting processes.

It sounds as though this may be you and your friends rather than an established organization. If I'm right about that, the first step is to either find a reputable organization to take on your cause, or begin the process of founding your own charitable organization. That will give you the imprimatur that many donors look for, and it'll give you a sense of the legal framework in which you operate.
posted by decathecting at 9:25 PM on April 17, 2010

There is a registered NGO (non-governmental organization) that we volunteer with, and were we to raise any actual money they would receive it . We are definitely planning to work with/under the existing organization - it will be much easier that way.
posted by mondaygreens at 9:39 PM on April 17, 2010

Hi! I have led a microloan campaign on Metafilter, which might be a good starting point for you to see how a passive community can be mobilized. It's a lot of work to market a non-profit online. I recommend that you not market your non-profit online but instead focus on cause in this stepped process:

1. Cause introduction.
2. Campaign goal.
3. Campaign update.
4. Personal appeals.
5. Stewardship to community and individuals.

The truth with online fundraising is it's all about framing and mentally connecting the appeal to a need. You should set a timeline and don't let the website or your messaging get static. The goal is to not goad people into giving money but ask them to take a look at what you are doing and judge for themselves if it's something they will commit to. Often (and I have been guilty of this) we'll decide it will be easier to tell people to give money. You can never tell! You can only ask and then if you don't get a yes you will at least be in a position to negotiate.

Above all you need to remember this mantra in any kind of fundraising you do: "It's not about me!" It isn't about your own prestige. It's about communicating the cause and how much more important the cause is to your ownership of a campaign to raise awareness of it. Be sure to post it to projects!
posted by parmanparman at 10:02 PM on April 17, 2010

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