Crowdrise has a bunch of tools for sending out appeals using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or plain old email. I ended up posting my own links on Facebook because Crowdrise’s 420-character limit conflicted with my tendency to ramble. For Twitter posts, Crowdrise’s tool would shorten it further to comply with Twitter’s 140-character limit. Those limits do not apply to email, but a test message through Crowdrise’s system ended up in Hotmail’s junk folder. No, thanks.
I encouraged my friends and family to spread the word, even if they weren’t able to give themselves. Many contributions came in that way, as people reposted links on Facebook or got in touch with others through email. I reconnected with a college classmate in the process and saw contributions from a friend’s dad and from someone who used to babysit me as a toddler.
As my direct appeals (read: spamming) faded, I simply added a link to the bottom of my outgoing emails. It’s there as a reminder, but also out of the way.
TRACK YOUR PROGRESS
Donations trickled in following my various appeals. Crowdrise sent me a notification each time and recommended ‘‘dropping everything you’re doing so you can send a personal thank you.’’
From your account, you simply hit a ‘‘Send Thank You’’ link next to each donor’s name. There’s a ‘‘Thank All Donors’’ list, too, if you’re lazy. I preferred the personal touch. In some cases, I sent thanks through email or Facebook instead, though Crowdrise won’t mark those people on your list as already thanked. (FirstGiving and Razoo send automated thank-you notices, though you may personalize those automated messages.)
I initially set a goal of raising $1,285, or $26.22 for each of the 49 marathons I had run (26.22 is the number of miles in a marathon to two decimal points). An orange bar on my fundraising page showed how close I was to the goal. I hit that in four days and increased the goal to $2,622. I returned to the site now and then to check on my progress.
NETWORK AND GIVE
Once I hit that initial goal, I started responding to other appeals on Crowdrise. I gave to one friend’s campaign for the American Red Cross and to another for a Brooklyn group that was trying to recover from the storm in time to serve Thanksgiving meals to the needy.
As I mentioned before, Crowdrise is more than a one-time transaction. It gave me the option of posting a notice about my donation to my Facebook profile, so that friends seeing it might give, too. Receipts I'd need for tax deductions are easily accessible from my account.
And on each fundraising page, including mine, is a huge button inviting donors to raise money for that cause, too.
Crowdrise tries to put the ‘‘fun’’ in fundraising. Getting people to part with their money isn’t easy, particularly for ongoing needs that aren’t revolved around a crisis continually in the news. Two weeks after the storm, many people have moved on. Contributions are slowing.
But Crowdrise does make it easier. I know that I'm more likely to give — and give more — when I'm supporting a friend’s direct appeal. I love seeing that orange goal bar move closer to the 100 percent mark. I can only imagine that it’s influencing others in a similar way.
The catch is that Crowdrise charges a fee on each transaction, at least 5 percent of the donation amount. Other fundraising sites do so as well, and when you’re giving directly to a charity, there are similar amounts taken out for credit card processing and other costs. Crowdrise gives donors the option of paying a separate processing fee — but doing so does nothing to increase the amount going to that particular charity. Rather, the for-profit startup says it keeps the money so that it can reduce fees overall.
That said, I'm reaching out to people who normally might not have given, either because they weren’t thinking about it or didn’t know whom to give to. Others might have given more knowing that I'm supporting the cause. So those extra donations more than cover the transaction fees.
Anick Jesdanun, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, can be reached at njesdanun(at)ap.org.
NYRR Sandy relief: http://crowdrise.com/nyrrsandyrelief
American Red Cross donation page: http://www.redcross.org/charitable-donations
Mayor’s Fund donation page: https://www.nyc.gov/html/fund/html/donate/donate.shtml